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Document Details :
Title: Purgatory: Place or Process?
Subtitle: Women's views on Purgatory in 14th-15th Century (Britain)
Author(s): MAYNARD, Jane F.
Journal: Studies in Spirituality
Volume: 12 Date: 2000
This paper explores the understandings of purgatory developed in the writings of three fourteenth to fifteenth century British women visionaries: Margery Kempe, Julian of Norwich, and the author of A Revelation of Purgatory. One purpose of this exploration is to test Bynum's thesis that medieval women understood purgatory primarily as the fact of redemptive suffering rather than as a place of punishment. A second purpose is to explore the understanding of suffering advanced by these women and images used to describe it.
The results of the research suggest that medieval women's notions of purgatory were rich and complex and drew on a number of theological notions, including some thought to be passé by this period. The author hypothesizes that the differences in treatment of purgatory in these texts may arise from the women's varying social locations, purpose in writing, and genre. Images advanced for suffering include blindness/deprivation of the sight of God, weeping, and fire.
This study emphasizes the heroic efforts made by these women to alleviate their own suffering and that of others and suggests that their insights may enrich our understanding of the redemptive possibilities present in suffering.