Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index

Article of the Month

Indexers select an article or essay at the beginning of each month that is outstanding in its line of argument, wealth of significances, and writing style. We particularly look for pieces that will be useful as course readings.

May 2022

Photo of a marble statue of a woman in a dress and headwrap, holding an open book and quill. The book's cover reads 'Revelations of Divine Love'.
David Holgate, Mother Julian, statue in Ancaster stone, 2000, Norwich, flanking the cathedral's west entrance (Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain). Recording archive record

Kelner, Anna. "Trusting Women's Visions: The Discernment of Spirits in Julian of Norwich's Revelation of Love." Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 51, 2 (2021): 193-214.

Abstract: "Julian of Norwich intervened in the clerical discourses surrounding the discernment of spirits (Latin discretio spirituum), a method for observing differences between divine and diabolical causes of visionary experience. During the late Middle Ages in Europe, churchmen used methods of discernment in some prominent trials to examine female visionaries for sanctity or heresy. In these instances, discernment offers a medieval analogue to what critics such as Rita Felski, following Paul Ricoeur, have termed paranoid reading practices or the "hermeneutics of suspicion," premised on demystifying the illusory nature of signs, as opposed to reparative reading practices or the "hermeneutics of trust," which calls for restoring their meaning. In a climate when discretio spirituum came to prominence, Julian responded to the suspicious techniques developed to interpret women's visions and bodies by incorporating an innovative guide for discernment in A Revelation of Love that prioritizes trust over suspicion. Julian's trusting form of discernment offers a way to recuperate one of the most stigmatized aspects of femininity: woman's perceived susceptibility to diabolical influence. A Revelation of Love shows how apparently diabolical signs can indicate God's divine presence. " - [Reproduced from the journal page on the Duke University Press website.]