Margery’s “Noyse” and Distributed Expressivity

  • Julie Orlemanski
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


The fifteenth-century narrative chronicling the spiritual adventures of Margery Kempe is full of the ruckus, commotion, and confusion that this laywoman’s piety generates. Whether among strangers or among friends, in English parishes or at pilgrimage sites across the sea, Margery’s devotions tend to disrupt the regular order of things. Perhaps the most dramatic of her public pieties are the fits of “plentyuows terys and boystows sobbyngys, wyth lowde cryingys and schille schrykyngys [plentiful tears and violent sobbings, with loud crying and shrill shriekings]” that seize hold of her at moments of passionate devotional intensity.1 When Margery cries, God speaks not to her but through her, as God directly explains: “‘sumtyme I geve the gret cryis and roryngys for to makyn the pepil aferd wyth the grace that I putte in the [sometimes I give you great cries and roarings to make the people afraid at the grace that I put into you]” (I.77; 223). God compares her cries to violent storms, “‘gret reynys and scharp schowerys’” (I.77; 223).2 These outbursts, then, are not quite Margery’s own speech acts. They are instead portrayed as something that happens to her, or comes upon her, as a “gyft of God [gift from God]” (I.61; 189).3


Diffi Cult Adverbial Clause Authentic Voice Medieval Literature Narrative Voice 
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© Irit Ruth Kleiman 2015

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  • Julie Orlemanski

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