Julian of Norwich’s Children

  • Grace Hamman
  • Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, January 2019, Duke University Press
  • DOI: 10.1215/10829636-7279684

The significance of the image of the child in Julian of Norwich’s A Revelation of Love

What is it about?

This article takes a closer look at the figure of the child in Julian of Norwich’s famous similitude of Christ as a mother and the Christian as his child in her contemplative work, A Revelation of Love. This essay demonstrates how Julian works within recognizable penitential and scriptural traditions of childhood imagery while transcending them. Julian’s depiction of the Christian as a “meke child” [meek child] strives to understand sin, guilt, and culpability within the constraints of humanity’s limited self-knowledge.

Why is it important?

Scholars have long focused on Julian’s innovative image of Christ as a Mother, but no one has directly addressed at length the theological and epistemological role of the child in her similitude. This article is the first to invite scholars in literature, theology, and history to consider the importance of the child in Julian’s work as both a hermeneutic model for reading A Revelation of Love and as an exploration of medieval conceptions of sin and self-knowledge.


Grace Hamman
Duke University

Writing this article gave me a chance to not only address Julian’s beautiful image of mother and child, but also to explore children as figures often on the margins of critical academic thought. Even when prominent in texts, children are often dismissed as sentimental figures or simply ignored, a perspective I’ve found regularly even in criticism as generous as the body of scholarship on Julian of Norwich. Attending to the neglected figure of the child provides both a rich source of ethical insight and a counterbalance to narratives focusing on more conventional forms and figures of power and agency.

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