Domesticity and Intimacy – 11/29

On pages xxiv – xxvi, Bale points our attention to the relationship between Kempe and Christ. He ends this section by asking, “Is a life lived through divine communication sacred or profane?” (xxvi). What do you make of Kempe’s relationship, devotion, and marriage to Christ (Chapters 35 and 36). Has Kempe’s religious devotion crossed the line and become profane? If you think that this kind of relationship with Christ is still sacred then why the need for such intimacy?

5 thoughts on “Domesticity and Intimacy – 11/29

  1. This is a very interesting and pertinent point. I think Kempe’s relationship with Christ spurred from solely sacred and religious roots but I understand how it can be inferred as profane. Kempe successfully observes and respects all of the sacred aspects, but the act of humanizing Christ, if he was not actually there speaking to her, could be declared profane. Her relationship definitely exceeds what Christians believe that Christ expects and wants from people, but it does not necessarily cross the line of becoming profane because it does not offend Christ or anyone else. The intimacy serves to maintain the personableness of the relationship, rather than her feeling like she shares the same Christ with millions of other people, even though she does. This can definitely be argued either way, and the story indubitably shares people who express feelings on both ends of that spectrum.

  2. I agree with the idea that Kempe’s relationship with Christ spurred from solely religious purpose. However, the way her intimacy with Christ is portrayed does lend to a more profane understanding. Much like her peers, the reader is forced to confront the bizarre intimacy of her relationship with God and instead of finding it devoutly Christian or spiritual, it feels bizarre and over the top. I think the writer deliberately uses language and other devices to make the relationship stand out and to force readers to ask questions about the intimacy with which one if supposed to have with Christ and moreover, how our relationship with Christ is supposed to be carried amongst relationships with our peers.

  3. Of course, I agree with the other commenter’s here that Kempe’s journey towards Christ was at least in-part driven by a religious interest. However, the “profane” nature of the relationship as it seems to lose its spiritual purity indicates (at least to me) the presence of a truly posthuman dynamic. In short, I think, it is difficult to position a medieval female narrator as outside of the bounds of a inherently restrictive social world. In this way, Kempe’s relationship with Christ (and entire spiritual transformation) can be seen as an exercise in fluid identity. For Kempe, placing “all her love and all of her affection…in God’s manhood” (79) seems to offer a sense of agency, identity, and indeed free will that would seemingly not be allowed in a more socially acceptable “sacred” religious relationship. Christ, both as a person and persona, allows Kempe the chance to adopt a new “self.” Most importantly, Kempe’s uncoventtional and earthly “profane” relationship with Christ allows her to “in no way be separated from him” (80), providing her adopted self an all-important amount of cohesion.

  4. I agree that her devotion to Christ is spurred on by purely religious interest. I think it does become “profane” when her relationship with Christ goes from being a purely spiritual interaction to a more personal one. Her devotion to him is a bit fanatical at times, so I can understand why people were suspicious of her faith, but I think her ability to be wholy devoted to her faith (as well as her husband’s willingness to go along with her chastity) is very intersting. I also agree with Matthew that Kempe’s relationship with Christ allows her to be “spiritually reborn”, which gives her the ability to become a different person while still acknowledging her past “earthly” relationships.

  5. As has been said above, I too agree with the idea that this relationship with Christ started out as a form of spiritual devotion, but the later versions are quite physical and easily able to be decried as corrupt. This sort of devotion where a female was still shown to have needs and desires is interesting, especially given the timeframe of the work. Kempe’s spurning of her earthly husband and devotion to a male who couldn’t sexually interact with her had me questioning if it was physical touch that she disliked. Her idea of love seems to be much more mind over body, leafing to this bizarre relationship with Christ that she shares through her writing.

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