meg and julian

A quick internet search shows that people resent Madeleine L’Engle for allowing her best character, Meg, the feisty, brilliant protagonist of A Wrinkle in Time, to grow up to be “simply” a wife and mother (of seven!!). I find today I am appreciating that L’Engle did that. She could have gone a different way, but it feels oddly realistic (a quality with which L’Engle is not particularly associated). There is a rumor L’Engle was writing a book about Meg as an adult–her own story, not as a background character for Polly O’Keefe–when L’Engle became incapacitated. I am sorry that was never finished. I would like to have read it.

Meanwhile, poet and educator Kristin Berkey-Abbott reminds us that yesterday was the feast day for Julian of Norwich. Kristin writes this:

Yesterday was also the feast day of Julian of Norwich, which almost slipped right by me.  I comforted myself throughout the day by repeating her most famous quote:  “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” I also comforted myself by reminding myself that Julian of Norwich would be astonished if she came back today and saw the importance that people like me have accorded her.  She likely had no idea that her writings would survive.  She was certainly not writing and saying, “I will be one of the earliest female writers in English history.  I will depict a feminine face of God.  I will create a theology that will still be important centuries after I’m dead.”

A couple years ago, when researching a presentation on Julian and Margery Kemp, I was surprised to realize how little literary energy had been spent on Julian in the last few decades. Literary types love Marjorie with her autobiographical zaniness. Julian’s book is mystical and theological. It’s visions, “shewings”–not story. And she may have been “out there,” but she wasn’t zany. She didn’t journey to Jerusalem; she stayed in her cell. For all the lack of literary energy toward her*, Kristin is right. Within a particular religious culture, she is part of the landscape, the religious imagination. Who knew?

*That may have changed in the last couple years. I’ll have to check it out. About a year and a half ago Robin reviewed Julian of Norwich: A Contemplative Biography by Amy Frykholm and it looked promising. I was still finishing my dissertation on Shakespeare at the time, so I didn’t go there, but I ordered it today and look forward to reading it.

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3 Responses to meg and julian

  1. Kristin Berkey-Abbott says:

    Thanks so much for this extended commentary and for mentioning my blog. I love these connections that you make.

    My book club is reading “A Wrinkle in Time,” and they’re not liking it as much as I have been (and as I did as a child). I feel fretful about our next meeting. I’m oddly overprotective of Meg and “Wrinkle.”

    • bookgirl says:

      And now you’re linked and spelled right. Meant to do that the first time around and lost track. (I also have trouble remembering whether Bennet (as in Elizabeth et al) has one t or 2.)

  2. Neat connections here. I just saw Amy Frykholm speak at the Festival of Faith and Writing, she was great. I didn’t buy the Julian book, I got See Me Naked instead, but I hope to read the Julian someday. I wrote a paper on her in seminary. I also love Meg, I know what you mean about feeling protective of her.

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