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The Paradox of Evil: a Study of Elevation Through Oppression
3rd Global Conference (2011)
For medieval mystical women, the ability to maintain two opposite concepts simultaneously is seemingly requisite for spiritual development. Women understood their nature as both inferior and worthy, wholly evil while righteous; spiritual quest for God necessitated an internalization and embodiment of paradox. In a close study of Julian of Norwich and Marguerite Porete, the female
manifestation of contradiction can be seen to allow for an exceptional identification and unification with the ultimate paradox of divine-in-human Christ. In short, by virtue of gender, she can approach union with divinity. In a reading that integrates critics such as David Aers, Carolyn Bynum Walker and Nicholas Watson with Cleanth Brooks, the mystics’ internalization and use of paradox to achieve inclusion places the medieval mystic in a poetic role. Not through rejection, but through embrace of her “evil” nature, the female mystic is seen to unify both herself to Christ and all to God. In this, one can trace use of the paradox as a figure of speech in the writing of Julian of Norwich and Marguerite Porete, linking their writing with their perception of their complicated role in the Church and in mystic discourse.