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Defining the South English Legendary as a Form of Drama: The Relationship between Theory and Praxis Karen Bjelland For those working in the field of drama, wedding theory and praxis together can be a challenge. Steeped as we are in a rich tradition of dramatic theory which stretches back to Plato and Aristotle, we feel a certain reluctance when we attempt to revise time-honored prescriptions concerning the dramatic experience to fit what we have found in our close analysis of individual texts. Indeed, the pressure of collective opinion, past and present, seems to work against us. And yet, if justice is to be done to die history of medieval drama (and by extension to certain classical, renaissance and modern plays), we must undertake the challenge of rewriting dramatic theory. Toward this end, an analysis of the South English Legendary might prove helpful in illuminating some of the voice-address problems to be confronted in our reassessment of dramatic form. In setting the stage for such a study, we might, therefore, begin by examining the work of Klaus P. Jankofsky and Thomas J. Heffernan.l Since they have expressed diametrically opposed views witii regard to the subject of what dramatic value should be assigned to each text, with Jankofsky assigning that value to the South English Legendary and Heffernan limiting it to the Legenda Áurea, their debate affords us the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate how drama should be defined widi reference to a specific text; since they have never addressed Ulis problem in their own work, we can clarify the discussion by considering a model that members of KAREN BJELLAND, whose dissertation at The Catholic University of America centered on the South English Legendary, now is working on an analytical and historical bibliography of Recusant Uterature from 1580 to 1630. 227 228 Comparative Drama a medieval audience would have inherited—namely, the classical model as it was articulated by Plato and Aristotle. Yet, given the way we have appropriated this model, we must "unpack" it first to show how certain categorical imperatives have been put forth in the generation of an essentialist definition of drama.2 This we can do by making reference to James Craig LaDrière's short but representative articulation of the classical position. In his brief article on "Voice and Address" written more than two decades ago, LaDrière summarizes the modern understanding of the classical model when he notes that "nothing is more important than to determine precisely the voice or voices presented as speaking and the precise nature of the address."3 On the basis of two "classical" statements, with one being Platonic and the other Aristotelian,4 he argues that the voiceaddress structure of any text can take on one of three possible forms, with differences being marked within each formal category according to the author's perference for a "static" or "dynamic" general object referenced THE FORMS OF LITERATURE Diegesis (One Basic Voice) / V StaticDynamic Mixed Voice (Basic Voice + Quoted Voices) / \ StaticDynamic PoemsChroniclesSketches PrayersParables SermonsExempla EssaysAutobiographies Mimesis (Plurality of Free Voices) I Static I Dialogues Debates \ Dynamic I Plays Ballads Narratives Novels Short Stories In considering the first of the three options, he notes that an autiior might create a text in which the speaker presents the material in his own voice, a method which the ancients called diegesis or apangellia; depending upon the orientation taken with respect to the general object reference, he might produce a lyric poem, prayer, or sermon in emphasizing the "static," mental processes of his speaker, or a narrative-style text (e.g., a Karen Bjelland229 history, parable, autobiography) in emphasizing the "dynamic" actions associated with his speaker's life. Yet, given the fact that this option limits him to the presentation of one voice in the text, he might decide to use the second format, that of mimesis (or "imitation"), in an effort to let his speaker take on "the voice of another person or set of persons."6 In using this multi-voiced format in conjunction with a static, thoughtoriented object reference, he might create any number of texts, even though the classic examples associated with this form are the debate, Socratic dialogue, and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 227-243
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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