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Eva Figes’s Remediation of The Book of Margery Kempe for BBC Radio 2


In 1985, BBC Radio 2 broadcast the radio play The True Tale of Margery Kempe by contemporary writer Eva Figes (born 1932). The text is a remediation of The Book of Margery Kempe which recovers and gives new life to the tale of Margery Kempe re-instituting the memory of a long-lost manuscript and at the same time giving it back the original characteristics of orality. The narrative strategies adopted by Eva Figes in this adaptation for the radio of the medieval text are influenced by questions linked to the issue of the authorial voice. The transformation of the medium from written text to oral text for the radio gives Figes the opportunity, through directions to the actors, the use of monologues and dialogue, sounds, and music, to underline the role of Margery as narrator and author of the work, granting her tale a revitalization which further modernizes her figure by connecting the gender issues in the original texts to those inscribed in the present in a cultural relationship of reciprocal exchange. Her radio play leaves us suspended creatively between the medieval readers and the contemporary audience, technologically modernizing Margery’s tale and restoring to the book the prominence it deserves in the history of literature and at the same time showing the modernity of Margery’s position within her society. In this article, I shall be analysing the radio adaptation focusing on the oral medium – an appropriate form of remediation since The Book of Margery Kempe had been dictated to scribes – and on the transformations provided by the use of the radio. Form informs The True Tale of Margery Kempe, the radio play gives back to The Book of Margery Kempe its oral nature by making use of reconstructed dialogues and interior monologues, which bring to the mind the composition of collaborative life writing. I shall be also taking into account the author’s attempts to give back to Margery’s tale those everyday-life elements which are simply hinted at in the original text, through the use of modernization strategies, especially as regards the body, sexuality, and desire.