In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

123 Reviews Abbott, Christopher, Julian of Norwich. Autobiography and Theology (Studies in Medieval Mysticism 2), Cambridge, D. S. Brewer, 1999; cloth; pp. xiv, 197; R R P £35, US$60; ISBN 0-85991-548-4. This perceptive study provides not only a thorough analysis of Julian's wri but has wider relevance for students of the period because it provokes many interesting ideas about the notions ofpersonhood and about medieval perceptions of the Incarnation. Abbott grounds Julian's theology firmly in traditional Christology and sees this Christology as not only determining the construction ofthe autobiography, but also as the means of discovery ofthe self. Abbott shows a keen familiarity with the recent literature and theory, but he sensibly keeps debate mainly confined to the (conveniently positioned) footnotes. This allows him freedom to develop his thesis and, more importantly, to allow due weight to Julian's own words which are citedfrequently,and thus his argument remains grounded in the text. His own views are expressed in a most readable manner, free from jargon and always lucid, despite the intellectual subtlety of some of his approaches. The book deals,first,with the problems of autobiography as a genre, and dismisses simplistic views of the Showings as merely the randomly remembered jottings of Julian. Her writing (Abbott deals largely with the Long Text) is consciously structured and is rewritten to be viewed tropologically, not anecdotally (p. 9) because her hindsight allows her to express the theological significance of the visions. This significance is the 'indivisibility of self-knowledge and the 124 Reviews knowledge of God' (p. 9). Her autobiography is not a search for self, although in the search for God the self is better understood. She moves from an external viewing of Christ, to an internal understanding of Christ's working both in the world and through her. Initially, her viewings are almost iconic; Christ is the other. Gradually, Julian becomes aware of Christ's self-emptying, of herself not as observer but as responding self to his self, and moreover realises that Christ himself is urging her to respond. Christ's creation of the human, his indwelling in the human, brings human potential into being. The idea ofpersonhood is thus inseparable from an acknowledgment of God within. Abbott shows h o w essential the choice of the autobiography is in understanding Julian's theology; her choice of the personal is not a subjective or romantic humanism, but rather 'her affirmation of the personal takes the form of a developed incarnational theology' (p. 46). That is, the created being can only be understood by knowledge of the activities of the creator. 'As she clearly understands it, the inestimable value attached to the human person as such is derived from the incarnation of Christ. The individual human being is literally unthinkable, unconceptualizable, apart from him' (p. 81). Julian realises that her showings are not exclusive to her, but bring her 'into a state of religious consciousness in which her engagement with Christ as a living person is shown to be instrumental in bringing her to a new and dynamic relation with the Church as an essentially spiritual reality, Christ's mystical body' (p. 73). The revelations are a means of transformation of herself into union with the entire mystical body of Christ, with the Church and, therefore, with others in the world. There can be no revelation without the corresponding love for others within the body of Christ. Abbott sensibly highlights the significance of this socially-orientated theology; 'genuine human compassion is the outward expression of an inward union with Christ' (p. 75). Joined in Christ to all, Julian is encouraged to communicate her revelations to others. 'This sense of union, or more appropriately communion, emboldens Julian to adopt quite freely a rhetorical stance by which her insights are presented not merely as significant for her personally but universally significant' (p. 76). Christ indwells in Julian and she is then part of the mystical body, and therefore her revelations are for all. However, hers is not a purely subjective vision, but 'an objective theological reality susceptible of juridical authentification' (p. 149) by the medieval Church and, in particular, the sacraments. Julian's orthodoxy...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 123-125
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.