Saturday, July 11, 2015

Julian of Norwich

Cover image for Writings of Julian of NorwichA Vision Showed to a Devout Woman and A Revelation of Love by Julian of Norwich, edited by Nicholas Watson and Jacqueline Jenkins, 381 pages

Julian of Norwich was an anchoress.  For some forty years she lived in a solitary cell attached to St Julian's Church in Norwich - the name by which she became known was taken from the church, her birth name having been surrendered by her upon entering the cell, when she "died to the world."  She is the first woman known to have written in English.  She wrote two works that have survived, A Vision Showed to a Devout Woman (sometimes called The Short Text) is an account of visions she received during a severe illness around the age of 30.  A Revelation of Love (aka The Long Text) was written decades later, and is an account of the same visions with the added benefit of years of reflection, meditation, and learning.  Long obscure, she experienced a twentieth century revival, notably inspiring TS Eliot.

Julian wrote in English, but Middle English, and it is the original text presented here, with notes on the facing pages to assist the reader.  This avoids the pitfalls present in either a partial updating or a full translation, and increases the sense of encounter with the woman behind the text.  Extensive critical materials are also included, to be used or ignored according to the desires of the reader.

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