ABSTRACT

Focusing on The Book of Margery Kempe, this article argues that devotional objects such as the crucifix and the pietà functioned as a model for the performance of religious identity. Reading devotional objects as devotional “events,” using material culture and performance theory, the article will demonstrate that pastoral care texts and religious lyrics created an expectation that an encounter with a devotional object could be a powerful opportunity for religious self-fashioning. This was an opportunity that was available to Lollard as well as orthodox devotees and which, I will argue, was especially efficacious for laywomen. A detailed examination of Margery Kempe's encounter with the pietà and her experience in the house of a poor woman in Rome additionally reveals that such performances established female communities that operated outside of ecclesiastical control and renegotiated the contours of sacred space.

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