Josephine A. Koster
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The prayers of Margery Kempe
A reassessment
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This chapter re-examines the frequently neglected collection of prayers found at the end of The Book of Margery Kempe and argues that they are a deliberate attempt on the part of Kempe and her amanuenses to develop and reinforce her pious identity as an intercessor for her fellow Christians. It examines the scribal conventions and practices of her amanuensis Richard Salthows in copying the text, probably with the assistance of Kempe’s confessor Robert Spryngolde, and concludes that the collection of prayers was composed separately from the Book and deliberately appended to it in the manuscript as a clerical validation of her piety. Drawing on analysis of the rhetorical structures of Middle English vernacular prayer, the chapter argues that this collection not only appropriates and reworks examples of contemporary prayers to which Kempe was exposed but also contains prayers for which there are no obvious models and may thus be her own compositions. A close comparison of the prayers with surviving Middle English bidding prayers, the only part of the Mass she would have heard in the vernacular, demonstrates how she transforms those petitions into first-person statements that emphasise her spiritual standing and her right to criticise those she believed to be errant in their faith. In sum, the chapter argues that a reassessment of the prayers as a component of the construction of Kempe’s pious identity is not only long overdue but a promising avenue from which to examine the intentions both of Kempe and her scribes.

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