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Editors: Laura Kalas and Laura Varnam

Encountering The Book of Margery Kempe illuminates the capaciousness of Margery Kempe studies in the twenty-first century. Through multiple, probing ‘encounters’, this innovative collection of essays generates and inspires interdisciplinary, overlapping, supportive, disruptive, and exploratory theoretical and creative approaches to the Book, and is a valuable new critical companion.

Structured around four categories of encounter – textual, internal, external, and performative – the volume suggests particular thematic threads yet reveals the way in which The Book of Margery Kempe resists strict categorisation. The fundamental unruliness of the Book is a touchstone for the analyses in the volume’s chapters, which define and destabilise concepts such ‘autobiography’ or ‘feeling’, and communities of texts and people, both medieval and modern. The chapters, written by leading scholars in Margery Kempe studies, cover a broad range of approaches: theories of psychoanalysis, emotion, ecocriticism, autobiography, post-structuralism, and performance; and methodologies including the medical humanities, history of science, history of medieval women’s literary culture, digital humanities, literary criticism, oral history, the Global Middle Ages, archival discovery, and creative reimagining. Deliberately diverse, these encounters with the Book capture the necessary expanse that it demands. Topics include the intertextuality of the Book, particularly in Europe; Kempe’s position within a global context, both urban and rural; the historicity of her life and kin; the Book’s contested form as a ‘life’ textualised and memorialised; and its performative, collaborative mode.

Encounters are dynamic, but they always require negotiation and reciprocity. This volume examines how encountering Kempe and her Book is a multi-way process, and paves the way for future critical work.

Margery Kempe encounters ‘Margaret Florentyne’
Anthony Bale and Daniela Giosuè

one of Kempe's key female interlocutors, referred to as ‘Margaret Florentyne’ or ‘Dame Margarete Florentyn’, whom Kempe first encountered in the Italian city of Assisi. In this chapter we posit the identity of Margaret Florentine, who has not previously been identified. It is clear from the Book that Margaret Florentine had a house in Rome, although her name suggests that she was of Florence: ‘Margherita Fiorentina’, Margaret of Florence. Whilst the details given by Kempe are scant, we propose that ‘Margaret Florentyne’ was Margherita degli Alberti (d. after 1417

in Encountering The Book of Margery Kempe
Tara Williams

. The text describes Margery's personal connections with women in terms quite different from the holy dalliances. Some are noted only in passing; as Margery prepares to travel to Santiago, for example, she receives money from ‘a woman, a good frend to this creatur’ (p. 221). Others are chronicled at greater length, such as the one with Margaret Florentine. 28 This relationship develops over the course of Chapters 31 and 38 and the two women spend significant time together, meeting in Assisi and travelling together to

in Encountering The Book of Margery Kempe