ABOUT THIS BOOK
Intimate Reading: Textual Encounters in Medieval Women’s Visions and Vitae explores the ways that women mystics sought to make their books into vehicles for the reader’s spiritual transformation. Jessica Barr argues that the cognitive work of reading these texts was meant to stimulate intensely personal responses, and that the very materiality of the book can produce an intimate encounter with God. She thus explores the differences between mystics’ biographies and their self-presentation, analyzing as well the complex rhetorical moves that medieval women writers employ to render their accounts more effective.
This new volume is structured around five case studies. Chapters consider the biographies of 13th-century holy women from Liège, the writings of Margery Kempe, Gertrude of Helfta, Mechthild of Magdeburg, Marguerite Porete, and Julian of Norwich. At the heart of Intimate Reading is the question of how reading works—what it means to enter imaginatively and intellectually into the words of another. The volume showcases the complexity of medieval understandings of the work of reading, deepening our perception of the written word’s capacity to signify something that lies even beyond rational comprehension.