Study Guide

The Book of Margery Kempe Spirituality

By Margery Kempe


Campy Kempe practices something called affective piety, which is all about imaginatively entering into the life and suffering of Christ and his mother, Mary. There's usually a trigger in the physical world that sends Kempe into "recollections" of such moments—like visiting Mount Calvary in Jerusalem, or simply seeing an infant boy in his mother's arms. It's an intense experience, since this kind of spirituality deeply engages the emotions. It's also an isolating practice: either Kempe spends time in lonely contemplation, or she mixes with the public and gets her freak on public because of this spiritual communion.

Either way, in The Book of Margery Kempe, the contemplative life is not is not for wimps: it brings real dangers and distress to Kempe, along with any spiritual benefit.

Questions About Spirituality

  1. In what ways is Kempe's spiritual life unique? In what ways does it fit a particular model or type?
  2. Why is Kempe so attached to Jesus? Why does she feel more spiritual attraction to him than to, say, God the Father or the Holy Spirit?
  3. What is affective piety? How does it shape Kempe's spiritual practices and life?
  4. How do Kempe's interactions with other contemplatives and religious figures influence her own practices?

Chew on This

Kempe uses the lives and personalities of other female mystics to support her cause as she faces challenges from the patriarchy of the church.

Kempe's attachment to Jesus's humanity shows that she has not progressed much spiritually; it isn't until she is "married" to God the Father that she matures in her faith.