Sex, Sensuality And Religion In The Book Of Margery Kempe

1423 words - 6 pages

Sex, Sensuality and Religion in The Book of Margery Kempe    

    Baron Richard Von Krafft-Ebing, a 19th century German psychiatrist, was quoted as having said, "We find that the sexual instinct, when disappointed and unappeased, frequently seeks and finds a substitute in religion." This may have been the condition of Margery Kempe when she desired to cease all sexual activity with her spouse because of her devotion to God. Instead of performing her duties as a wife, she chose instead to spread her knowledge of God to her community and did so not only in speech, but also in literature. Whatever her motivation for creating such descriptive language, it is evident that her faith in God conquered both her fear of public opinion and the constraints placed upon all women during the period. Living in the 1400s, she steps out of a woman's role and into the territory of a man by living her life publicly, abandoning her position of mother and wife, and recording her life in writing. Fortunately, because she was writing for religious reasons, her work was both permitted and accepted. In The Book of Margery Kempe, she describes her experiences with brilliant imagery, some of which is sexual, all of which is sensual. By using her own senses to portray her spiritual faith, Kempe permits the reader to understand the transcendent quality of her relationship--a woman's relationship--with God.

In The Book of Margery Kempe we see many instances where she expresses her religious faith through her senses. For example, evidence of her extreme inspiration exists in her sense of touch. Like other devotees, primarily male, when she first began to commune personally with God, "she did great bodily penance" (20). Along with wearing a hair-cloth beneath her skirt, she also "gave herself up to great fasting…" (20). Showing repentance through a willingness to undergo bodily harm was a sign of true faith, but was not usually exhibited by women to the extent we find it in Kempe. In addition, after her first personal heavenly message, she renounces sexual activity with her husband for God, saying she would rather "[eat]…the muck in the gutter than consent to any fleshly communing" (20). Although he does not agree to heed her wishes readily, after many years and fourteen children he agrees to respect her vow of celibacy. By secretly wearing such a horribly uncomfortable cloth, not eating, and refraining from sexual contact--all decisions which translate the literal feelings of the physical body to the spiritual--she expresses her religious faith through her senses.

Kempe also experiences spirituality through her hearing. When first she comes to realize her sinfulness, she hears beautiful music. In fact, it is this music--which she alone can hear--which sparks her conversion. In Chapter 3, she says that while in bed one night, "she heard a sound of melody so sweet and delectable, that she thought she had been in Paradise" (19). By these sudden sounds, she...

Find Another Essay On Sex, Sensuality and Religion in The Book of Margery Kempe

A Feminist in the Medieval Era: Margery Kempe

1401 words - 6 pages the 14th century versus now, but about our societal normalitys in general. When we read The Book of Margery Kempe, it is not difficult to see the connection and similarity of how Kempe was perceived in her era, and how we perceive and judge her as well. The comparison of the14th century to present day just goes to show how astonishing it is to see such little change in beliefs, judgments, and acceptance over hundreds of year. Provided, there

Sensuality, Sexuality, and Fertility in Kubla Khan

1388 words - 6 pages Sensuality, Sexuality, and Fertility in “Kubla Khan” In “Kubla Khan,” Coleridge imagines a land where sensuality, sexuality, and fertility abound and share inextricable links. Any threats to the fecundity of the land exist outside of its magnificent walls. Coleridge uses this image of an impenetrable fortress of sexual creativity in considering his own mind, desiring the same productivity in his poetic imagination. By creating this

Sex, Love, and Religion in The Miller's Tale, by Chaucer

1302 words - 5 pages , Alisoun played a brutal trick on Absolon, who in return became enranged and burned Nicolas’ bottom. As a consequence, John crashed onto the floor and broke his arm. Many have argued the Miller’s tale is simply a pornographic story, but it is not the case. There were many themes that gave this story its meaning and purpose to the reader. These three themes include sex, love, and religion. It is important to notice that Chaucer meant this

Sex and Violence in the Old South - HIST1301 - Book Review

1789 words - 8 pages A Book Review of The Fires of Jubilee by Stephen B. Oates The work entitled The Fires of Jubilee by Stephen B. Oates is an account of the Nat Turner slave rebellion that occurred in 1831 in rural Virginia. The book, as a whole, is a very loose historical account of the events that led to the bloodiest rebellion in Southern history. Oates makes statements that he has no proof of and cannot possibly confirm. He is also very vague in his stance on

In John Donne's poetry, the craft of poetry, sex and religion are intertwined. Discuss with reference to three of Donne's poems

2290 words - 9 pages Born into the Christian religion of Catholicism, John Donne converted to Anglicanism in midlife and as a result; it is unsurprising to find that a large amount of his poetry is devoted to religion and his relationship with god. However, upon examination of his works, we can discern that his relationship with God is intertwined with his relationships, both real and desired, with sex . To begin to examine Donne's works, we must first unpack his

Sex- Prostitution and The Value of Sex

1921 words - 8 pages Elizabeth Anderson makes a claim that “The attempt to sell gift value on the market makes a mockery of those values.”(Anderson 188) Anderson uses this claim to object commoditized sex (prostitution). There are two premises that Anderson uses to support her claim. The first premise being the gift value of sex cannot be realized in commercial terms and the second premise being that the gift value of sex is more significant that the use value of

Love and Sex in the Tale of Cupid and Psyche

887 words - 4 pages which can be true or fictitious; myths, in a sense, are the "highest reality." Most stories of the myth have its root in love and sex. Love between two people can be said to happen due to erotic desire or because of actual love. Although sex and love seems inextricably linked, our brain distinguishes between the two. Dr. Helen Fisher, anthropologist, believes that the initial purpose of reproduction influenced the evolution of love

The Growing Trend of Sex and Violence in Media Today

676 words - 3 pages permissiveness in today’s Multi-Media, our society has developed a sordid standard of morals. Sex is often considered to be taboo among families. Parents do not want to believe that their children are aware of it, and vice-versa. While the family is living in a state of denial, the media is embracing sexuality. It is almost impossible to go anywhere without being exposed to sexual media. Virtually all advertisements, regardless of form, use

The Role of Morals in Education and Religion in School

815 words - 3 pages The Role of Morals in Education and Religion in School “Our father’s God to, thee, author of Liberty, to thee we sing. Long may our land be bright with freedoms holy light; protect us by thy might, Great God our King.” Since the late 1950’s, when separation between Church and state was forced into practice, public schools have shown a dramatic decrease in the amount of ethics and morality taught in the classroom. All the while, school

The role of Woman in the Muslim religion as defined by the Quran (the Muslim's holy book)

701 words - 3 pages that men and women are equal, as long as they believe. That is one of the main strengths of Islam, that as long as you believe in the religion, you will be equal to everybody else. There is another similar reference to this equality in section 40:40 of the Quran: "Whoever commits a sin is requited for just that, and whoever works righteousness--male or female--while believing, these will enter Paradise wherein they receive provisions without any

Power of the Gods and Religion in Oedipus the King

1018 words - 4 pages In the tragic play, Oedipus Rex, the Gods and religion greatly influence the social structure which in turn has a profound effect upon how the events unfold. Oedipus is the head of the state. There is a direct parallel in the demise of his household and city state which eventually comes to a full circle to destroy him. Even though Oedipus is praised by his people for being a responsible and honest king, he possesses a major character flaw in his

Similar Essays

"The Book Of Margery Kempe" By Margery Kempe

1351 words - 5 pages While much attention has been brought upon Margery Kempe's behavior in her book The Book of Margery Kempe, an exploration of her movements is also essential in thoroughly understanding her book. One cannot fully understand the importance of her story and the meaning of her other behaviors without understanding her travels. She uses her travels as one medium to impose the importance of self on the social. Margery Kempe uses her travel as a medium

Comparing Piety In The Wakefield Mystery Plays, The Book Of Margery Kempe, And Le Morte D'arthur

1244 words - 5 pages Comparing Notions of Piety in The Wakefield Mystery Plays, The Book of Margery Kempe, and Le Morte D'Arthur The monastic lifestyle that Launcelot and his knights adopt after their conversion is one that Margery Kempe might approve of -- doing penance, singing mass, fasting, and remaining abstinent. (MdA, 525) But Launcelot's change of heart is not motivated by the emotions that move Kempe, nor is his attitude towards God the same as can be

The Controversial Margery Kempe Essay

4112 words - 16 pages envy of her neighbors that they should be as well arrayed as she.? In her Book, she even goes so far as to say that her marriage to businessman John Kempe did no justice to her ?worthy kindred? and was a socially-imbalanced relationship, although they both belonged to the same social class. This haughtiness and sense of pride are distinguishing features of Margery throughout her life. In 1393, at the age of twenty, Margery married John, who was

Margery Kempe And Mental Illness Essay

2421 words - 10 pages ). Works Cited Gray, Peter, ed. Psychology. 5th ed. New York: Worth Publishers, 2007. Print. “Mental Illness Exacts Heavy Toll, Beginning in Youth.” National Institute of Mental Health. NIMH, 6 June 2005. Web. 23 Novemeber 2010. Repper, J., and R. Perkins. Social Inclusion and Recovery: A Model for Mental Health Practice. China: Elsevier Health, 2004. Google books. Web. 24 November 2010. Staley, Lynn, ed. & trans. The Book of Margery Kempe. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2001. Print.