A New Look at an Old Emotion

Rosenfeld’s article takes a look at how envy is depicted in the Book of Margery Kempe.  As Rosenfeld explains envy is usually thought of as a negative emotion, but in some ways in can be positive, motivating, and encouraging.  What I found most interesting in the article, was the idea that Margery’s singularity both was reason for her neighbor’s envy and slander and reason for others’ worship.  Furthermore, her singularity was encouraged by Christ and envy caused her to be competitive for Christ.  Some people looked up to Margery because of her unique relationship with God and way of worshipping and other looked down at her differences.  One of the most interesting examples that Rosenfeld brings up is the people’s reaction to Margery’s weeping.  Rosenfeld deems their negative reaction to the idea that Margery was using up too much of the emotions.  Rosenfeld explains that the people were irritated by Margery’s dramatic displays because she used such an “abundance” of emotions that she was “diminishing” the other peoples’ emotions (113).  This idea, Rosenfeld states, suggests that “emotions…are not in infinite supply” (113).  This is one of the many examples that Rosenfeld provides of the reactions of other to Margery and their envy.  Rosenfeld also explains how Margery’s envy of saints, like Saint Bridget, triggered her to emulate them.  The idea of the emotion envy being both negative and positive is hard to wrap my head around but Rosenfeld paints a pictures of how envy was productive in Margery’s life.

2 thoughts on “A New Look at an Old Emotion

  1. Although I was initially skeptical, I found that I agreed with many of Rosenfeld’s points. Envy seems to be a more suitable characteristic to attribute to Margery rather than simple competitiveness. The article reminded me of the two types of envy that I learned about in Sunday school, ironically enough. As I remember it, the beneficial envy drives a person to attain similar possessions, success, or notoriety as another person has received. Detrimental envy causes someone to wish that the other person no longer had those things at all. The former type of envy sounds like Margery, who seemed to be driven toward self-improvement for God. Like Erin mentioned, Rosenfeld discusses how Margery envied and thus emulated saints in order to be closer to Christ like they were.

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