Reformyng and Restoryng: Vision and Revision in The Showings of Julian of Norwich

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Hines, Jessica
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University of the South , Sewanee, Tennessee , English Department, University of the South , Julian of Norwich , Female Mystics , Visions , Thomas Aquinas , Incarnation
Julian of Norwich, a mystic writing in the fourteenth century, composed two versions of her text, The Showings of Julian of Norwich, in which she gave an account of a series of revelations granted to her by the divine. The first of these accounts, the Short Text, was presumably written soon after she received her visions in 1373. Julian presents her visions in the Short Text, seemingly in their entirety. She certainly provides no textual indication that she for any reason left out a part of her vision. Twenty years later, however, Julian writes another text of her Showings, the Long Text, in which she expands on her original account, including visions she had not initially included in her text. Julian explains, “And fro the tyme þat [the vision] was shewde, I desyerde oftyn tymes to wytt in what was oure lords menyng. And xv yere after and mor, I was answeryd in gostly understondyng” (LT 732. 13-15). Julian received her vision fifteen years or more before she had understanding of it. The Short Text then includes those portions of her vision that she understood in the time immediately following her visions, whereas she writes the Long Text only after she reaches a more expansive “gostly” understanding. I want to argue that the changes in both the visions she recounts as well as the language in which she analyzes them are the product of a period of contemplation upon her visions, a period of contemplation which led to a revision and a “re-vision” of her text. I want to argue further that Julian asserts her own authority and agency as author through her “re-vision” of God’s divine gift of the revelations in the context of her own memory and understanding.