The first woman known to have written in English, the fourteenth century mystic Julian of Norwich has inspired generations of Christians with her reflections on the "motherhood" of Jesus, and her assurance that, despite evil, "all shall be well." In this book, Denise Baker reconsiders Julian not only as an eloquent and profound visionary but also as an evolving, sophisticated theologian of great originality. Focusing on Julian's Book of Showings, in which the author records a series of revelations she received during a critical illness in May 1373, Baker provides the first historical assessment of Julian's significance as a writer and thinker. Inscribing her visionary experience in the short version of her Showings, Julian contemplated the revelations for two decades before she achieved the understanding that enabled her to complete the long text. Her writings therefore offer a unique opportunity to explore her process of interpretation and identify the cultural and spiritual trends that would have influenced them. Baker first traces the genesis of Julian's visionary experience to the practice of affective piety, such as meditations on the life of Christ and, in the arts, a depiction of a suffering rather than triumphant Christ on the cross. Julian's innovations become apparent in the long text. By combining late medieval theology of salvation with the mystic's teachings on the literature of humankind, she arrives at compassionate, optimistic, and liberating conclusions regarding the presence of evil in the world, God's attitude toward sinners, and the possibility of universal salvation. She concludes her theodicy by comparing the ontological connections between the Trinity and humankind to familial relationships, emphasizing Jesus' role as mother. Julian's strategy of revisions and her artistry come under scrutiny in the final chapter of this book, as Baker demonstrates how this writer brings her readers to reenact her own struggle in understanding the revelations. What emerges is a critical portrait revealing Julian as a theologian and author of impressive erudition and originality.
Introduction Affective spirituality and the genesis of A Book of Showings From visualization to vision: meditation and the bodily showings "Alle shalle be Wele": the theodicy of Julian of Norwich The parable of the lord and servant and the doctrine of original sin Reconceiving the Imago Dei: the motherhood of Jesus and the ideology of the self Re-Visions and A Book of Showings.
Includes bibliographical references (pages 199-212) and index. Conference on Christianity & Literature Book of the Year Award, Honorable Mention, 1995