Revelations of Divine Love


Although Julian refers to herself as a simple creature unlettered (Rev. chap. 2), it is possible that she was educated and that "unlettered" carries a more nuanced meaning. It might be an expression of real modesty or imposed modesty because she did not want to antagonize her readers, especially male readers in the ecclesiastical hierarchy, who would have been offended if she considered herself a teacher. Also, "unlettered" in the Middle Ages did not necessarily mean the inability to read or write. It might have just meant that she did not receive a formal education because, in the Middle Ages, formal education was rarely available to laywomen. Another interpretation of "unlettered" could be that Julian was illiterate in Latin, the official ecclesial and academic language of her time and place. That being said, it is possible that she had received some instruction and that she could read and write.[3]:15–6 Throughout the mid-fourteenth century, Norwich was a flourishing centre for religious life. The city contained many convents and orders that recognized the importance of education. Many English convents in the Middle Ages had boarding schools for girls where they were expected to read and write.[3]:16 While scholars are not sure whether Julian attended any of those boarding schools, it is at least a possibility. There were many schools in the late Middle Ages for young men to attend. The goal of these schools was to give men the basic training needed before entering colleges. Some of these schools were attached to a church or cathedral. Those schools taught reading, writing, religion, spoken and written Latin, and probably rhetoric and logic. It is a possibility that Julian had a brother who went to such a school, and she could have learned from her brother.[3]:15–7 All these possibilities show that there were a number of religious resources which could have given Julian some kind of education. When Julian describes herself as "unlettered" she may have just meant that she lacked a "formal education."

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