The life and works of the beguine Marguerite Porete were transformed by fire. In 1310 Marguerite was burned alive in Paris as the first recorded “mystical heretic” of the French Inquisition. A few years earlier her book, The Mirror of Simple Souls, had also been burned in Valenciennes, with Marguerite as a witness. Her use of fire as a metaphor to describe union with God foreshadows her death. Furthermore, The Mirror’s emphasis on the insufficiency of language to describe the divine echoes Marguerite’s silence during her inquisitorial trial. However, these complaints against language in her book and Marguerite’s own refusal to speak should not be seen as an absolute rejection of text, body, and oral expression as vehicles of divine and human encounter. Instead, they reveal a theory of performance in which life and reading cannot be easily separated into different realms of experience.

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