Religious Emotion

While reading from A Revelation of Love, I was actually surprised by the lack of emotion that came through Norwich’s text.  Obviously, she is writing about an experience that was extremely important to her and probably to religion at the time.  She walks us through these visions which are full of suffering, pain, happiness, love — all sorts of emotions — but somehow they didn’t really come through to me as I was reading, as say, the cross’s emotion did in “Dream of the Rood.”  It might be the very matter of fact way that she maps out what will happen in each chapter and the frank descriptions, but despite the levity of what Norwich is describing, the text felt almost bland.  It greatly contrasts (but also compliments) the fervor and emotion of Margery Kempe I think.  But then again, people thought Kempe was insane.  So I wondered: does Julian of Norwich check some of the emotional excitement in order to be taken more seriously?

2 thoughts on “Religious Emotion

  1. I found the lack of emotion surprising as well. It is very interesting how she was able to write about all these different kinds of emotions, as you say, but without actually conveying them to the reader. Your question also brings up a good point about the text, since it is very likely that she did tone down the emotional aspect of her writing to be taken seriously as an author during that time. Since women have long been thought to be the “more emotional” of the genders, she to stay away from this stereotype. Because she was the first women to write and publish a book in English, she probably felt pressure to make her writing have a serious tone. Despite this, it is an amazing feat that she was able to achieve this and make it a little easier for the next female authors.

  2. You ask some really good questions here, Tanna, given that the text is loaded with emotion as a concept (so much focus on love, on wholly positive and generous love, and so much dismissal of righteous anger and other negative emotions). Your final question is especially provocative. Certainly part of it is a matter of genre, of the style generally suited to writing what is essentially theological.

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