Laughing at the Devil

Seeing the World with Julian of Norwich

Book Pages: 144 Illustrations: Published: August 2018

Author: Amy Laura Hall

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Pre-Modern Studies > Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Religious Studies

Laughing at the Devil is an invitation to see the world with a medieval visionary now known as Julian of Norwich, believed to be the first woman to have written a book in English. (We do not know her given name, because she became known by the name of a church that became her home.) Julian “saw our Lord scorn [the Devil's] wickedness” and noted that “he wants us to do the same.” In this impassioned, analytic, and irreverent book, Amy Laura Hall emphasizes Julian's call to scorn the Devil. Julian of Norwich envisioned courage during a time of fear. Laughing at the Devil describes how a courageous woman transformed a setting of dread into hope, solidarity, and resistance.


"Although Hall addresses serious topics, her treatment is boundless and joyful. Those familiar with Julian's writings should find this unique take to be contemporary and relevant." — James Wetherbee, Library Journal

"In Laughing at the Devil, Amy Laura Hall urges her own readers to read Julian [of Norwich] and to keep thinking along with her. This brief study is worthy of careful reading. . . . Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty, general readers." — G.H. Shriver, Choice

"A book to read with the heart as well as the mind." — Willard E. Roth, Sharing the Practice

"Best described as both a meditation on ethical and political issues (in Julian’s and Hall’s time) and spiritual autobiography. . . . With its informal descriptions of medieval England, this book seeks to reach audiences unfamiliar with Julian and her time." — Godelinde Gertrude Perk, History of Women Religious of Britain and Ireland

"Amy Laura Hall’s Laughing at the Devil is valuable because she resists a bloodless and spiritualized vision of Julian’s theology. Covenant theologians seeking to understand the significance of Waldenström’s insistence that the cross was a demonstration of divine love will find in Hall’s Julian an important conversation partner." — Jodie Boyer Hatlem, Covenant Quarterly

"A labor of love: a testament to the richness of Julian’s writing and the balm of a new theological perspective for those deeply hurt by life. . . .  For readers grappling with tragedy, pain, and bewilderment at the world’s evils, Laughing at the Devil makes meaningful Julian’s revelation that all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well." — Andrew K. Lee, Reading Religion

"Recommended for readers seeking perspectives on pain and modernity, and who enjoy a bold, conversational voice." — WATER

"Hall brings into her short summary of Julian’s writings her own life filled with joys and struggles. Scorning the saccharine answers to hard questions, Hall exults that God’s love meets us in the hard places, places Hall names. Whether we are beset by abusive marriages or the violence of Game of Thrones, in the end Julian persuades us that, thanks to Love, 'All manner of thing will be well.' Similarly, Hall confronts the mantra, 'Winter is coming,' and confidently assures us to 'Be courageous. Easter is coming' (92)." — Daniel Boice, Catholic Library World

"A fresh take on Julian of Norwich that you don’t need a divinity degree to understand. . . . In Hall’s hands, Julian the anchorite mystic becomes a spiritual friend. She may have prayed in mean and miserable times, but she gets a generous vision of God’s love for us all." — Lillian Daniel, Christian Century

"This is a pastoral and prophetic book for all readers who seek a centering hope in times of overwhelming oppression and pain, in which a toxic blend of religion and politics entices people to cope with the fear of pain or their present suffering through various mechanisms of control and punishment—be it shame, intimidation, or scrutinizing methods accounting for grace and redemption. Selective in its sources, teachers of theology and ethics will find this a great companion book to reflect with students on how to translate historical theological writings into real lived embodied situations in ways that matter. . . ." — Heike Peckruhn, Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics

Laughing at the Devil offers much sound research in a bold and fresh style for a general readership. Amy Laura Hall…achieves that fine balance between imparting well-contextualised knowledge and a personal, impassioned, and joyful presentation.” — Luke Penkett, Way

“Laughing at the Devil with these two exceedingly clear-eyed women—Julian of Norwich and Amy Laura Hall—is compelling, enlightening, and joyous, all in one. The two have created texts, each for their own time, that together bear witness, at points defiant, at points mischievous, to a profoundly God-sustained world. What a wonderful, grace-filled vision.” — Teresa Berger, author of @ Worship: Liturgical Practices in Digital Worlds

“You might not expect to find references to Game of Thrones, West Texas, barfing bears, divorce, and Machiavelli in a book on Julian of Norwich, but you will find all these and much more in this volume. Julian of Norwich is a most unusual theologian, and Amy Laura Hall has given us a most unusual book: it is engaging and illuminating, a personal, passionate, and political reflection on and with Julian.” — Karen Kilby, coeditor of The Cambridge Dictionary of Christian Theology

“Amy Laura Hall's masterful Laughing at the Devil is a rewarding joy to read, at once a profound dialogue with the great mystic Julian of Norwich, and a beautiful, raw, funny, audacious, and insightful invitation to the contemporary audience. We laugh with Hall and Julian, and we too yearn to pull closer to God not through fear and trembling, but through an aching heart bursting open with joy. This is the kind of raw, gritty, grounded, and real spiritual exploration that calls to all Christians, and to all people of faith. Strongly recommended!” — Omid Safi, author of Radical Love: Teachings from the Islamic Mystical Tradition


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Price: $19.95

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Amy Laura Hall is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at Duke University Divinity School. She is the author of Kierkegaard and the Treachery of LoveConceiving Parenthood: American Protestantism and the Spirit of Reproduction; and Writing Home, With Love: Politics for Neighbors and Naysayers.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface. Devil: Zero  xi
Acknowledgments  xix
Introduction. Love in Everything  1
1. Time: On Poynte  19
2. Truth: Divine Delight  41
3. Blood: Spiritual Safety  61
4. Bodies: Nakedly and Truly  81
Postscript  109
Appendix. A Summary of Julian's Visions  113
References  115
Index  119
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