Julian of Norwich, Theologian Denys Turner

Publication date:
26 Apr 2011
Yale University Press
288 pages: 210 x 140mm

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For centuries readers have comfortably accepted Julian of Norwich as simply a mystic. In this astute book, Denys Turner offers a new interpretation of Julian and the significance of her work. Turner argues that this fourteenth-century thinker's sophisticated approach to theological questions places her legitimately within the pantheon of other great medieval theologians, including Thomas Aquinas, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Bonaventure.

Julian wrote but one work in two versions, a Short Text recording the series of visions of Jesus Christ she experienced while suffering a near-fatal illness, and a much expanded Long Text exploring the theological meaning of the "showings" some twenty years later. Turner addresses the apparent conflict between the two sources of Julian's theology: on the one hand, her personal revelation of God's omnipotent love, and on the other, the Church's teachings on and her own witnessing of evil in the world that deserves punishment, even eternal punishment. Offering a fresh and elegant account of Julian's response to this conflict—one that reveals its nuances, systematic character, and originality—this book marks a new stage in the century-long rediscovery of one of the English language's greatest theological thinkers.

Denys Turner is Horace Tracy Pitkin Professor of Historical Theology, Yale University. He lives in New Haven, CT, and in Birmingham, UK.

"Fascinating and quietly powerful... Recommended for serious college and university students and their professors as well as theologians who focus on this era." --Jennifer Stout, Library Journal

"A groundbreaking book about Julian the theologian….a bold and utterly compelling case that her works warrant a place in the higher echelons of rigorous, systematic theology…..Perhaps the greatest achievement of this book is that it will encourage us all to read or re-read Julian’s masterpiece."—Jonathan Wright, Catholic Herald

"Turner’s perceptive engagement with Julian’s theology is deployed with great art to difficult areas of debate… What he demonstrates time and again is a scrupulousness that is able to distinguish between paradox and incoherence, but he also has the rarer skill among theologians to communicate subtle technicalities with exceptional clarity…" Brutus Green, Theology