The activities I developed were focused around Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich, two late medieval mystics who each wrote or had written texts outlining their faith and life. The activities are a combination of craft, collage, and experience. I know many of you also teach these texts, and I wanted to share what I did to see what you make it is and in case you'd like to try it out for yourself. Call it an early Christmas gift!
- Creating our own anchorholds
- Travel guides with Margery
- Cut-and-stick poetry
Creating our own anchorholds
|Christ on the cross (as seen |
through a 'squint' window)
Travels with Margery
What it is: Researching and creating collaborative travel guides based on Margery Kempe's experiences of pilgrimage.
|The front cover of the travel guides|
What you’ll need: Pre-prepared and printed 'travel guides', pens, paper, glue, scissors, and source material (maps, extracts from the text, images).
What I was trying to do: Pilgrimage was a significant form of late medieval devotional practice and Margery Kempe's book describes her experiences of pilgrimage in characteristically engaging detail. Many pilgrimage guides survive from this period so I was aiming to combine this context with the text of Margery's book to encourage close reading and analysis of quite a lengthy text and to imitate medieval practices of textual production.
Instructions for students: Your task is to create a travel guide on behalf of Margery (you are acting as her scribes). Pilgrimage was a significant part of medieval Christian devotion, and several pilgrimage guides were published throughout the Middle Ages offering practical advice (where to sleep, what to eat) and describing the sights; it is estimated there are 526 extant accounts of pilgrimage to Jerusalem written between 1100 and 1500 (Voaden, p. 183). Margery’s book offers an evocative and information-rich account of pilgrimage and its perils.
Accessibility: The activity involves writing and (potentially) cutting and sticking, therefore is not directly accessible for any student for whom this kind of mobility is difficult. The research element of the task, on the other hand, is accessible, especially if material is provided electronically. I therefore advised students to work together when collating the material, meaning that those students unable to physically write could still contribute to the task.
|Important sites in medieval Jerusalem|
|Preparations for pilgrimage|
Cut-and-stick poetryWhat it is: A cut-and-stick poetry exercise using Margery's own text.
Time: 40-50 minutes
What you’ll need: Paper (I used coloured paper), glue sticks (one per pair at least), scissors (one per pair), a photocopied or transcribed page from a primary text.
Instructions for students: This is your opportunity to ‘write back’ to Margery Kempe, using her own words. How do you feel about Margery Kempe and her Book? Is she a ‘fals lollar’, ‘a bad
|'Her affection was for Christ'|
Working in pairs or individually (it’s up to you) you should collect:
– A photocopied page with excerpts from Chapter 35 of the Book of Margery Kempe.
– A glue stick
– A sheet of coloured paper.
Then, fridge magnet style, cut out the words on the page and rearrange them, bisect them, add your own, do what you will with them to write your own response (poetry or prose) to the questions.
Spend a couple of minutes now talking to your partner or thinking about your response to questions and then collect your items. You have approximately 30 minutes to work on this.
Accessibility: As this was intended to be an individual activity (which was important for the reflective component) it was not possible to ask students to work in pairs where one would cut and stick for both participants. I therefore developed a digital equivalent that a student could use on a tablet using Padlet - here's a link to a copy I've made: https://padlet.com/burgea/margerykempe2. Rather than cutting and sticking, the student could then drag and drop to re-order the text.
|Padlet 'cut-and-stick with Margery Kempe'|
I do think the activity could be made more challenging with an emphasis on textual analysis rather than reflection. This might have better met the expectations of the students, who were perhaps less accustomed to reflective work. In the future, I might begin with some discussion of the major themes of the text, and perhaps use this to direct the activity. We also encountered some difficulties with the digital version which didn't function correctly on the student's tablet. We managed to organise a work-around, using a word document I'd created as a back-up, but in the future I would ensure in advance that the site worked on the student's device, or make sure I had a second device to hand that we could use instead.
NB: Thanks to my students for allowing me to share their work and for their enthusiastic participation in the above activities.