Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Medieval Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Eve Salisbury

Second Advisor

Dr. Kevin Wanner

Third Advisor

Dr. Paul Johnston Jr.

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) discusses in her greatest work, Il Dialogo, the various stages by which the human soul can ascend the spiritual path to God and salvation. She specifically treats the matter of "holy tears" and outlines a complete taxonomy of holy weeping, a six-tiered scale through which the soul can ascend in pursuit of union with the divine. The activities of Catherine's insular near-contemporary, Margery Kempe, a woman famed for her persistent wailing in remembrance of ail things holy, are recorded in a text whose construction of its eponymous heroine parallels in many ways the hierarchy of tears delineated by Catherine. ll Dialogo had been translated into English for the nuns of Syon Abbey under the title The Orcherd of Syon in the early fifteenth century, well before Margery's book was penned. Margery's text itself records a visit to Syon Abbey, which raises the possibility that Margery came into direct contact with Catherine's work. This study explores Margery's incessant weeping in relation to Catherine's system of holy tears. By closely reconsidering the texts themselves, the manuscript marginalia, and even the printed extracts of each treatise, this study highlights Margery's spiritual progression, reevaluates her status as an author, and aims to achieve a better understanding of the influence of Catherine' s work in late medieval England.