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Introduction R much has been done in the last two decades to assert the value of medieval theater, performance, performing bodies (living and dead), modes of representation, and texts independent of the consciously theatrical presentation of classical plays in the Renaissance.1 Vibrant performance traditions associated with medieval ceremonies, civic rituals, tournaments, festivals, folk traditions, and religious rites, as well as ludi, have been explored for their technical virtuosity and variations on mimesis. Recent scholarship in theater history and historiography has looked outside the framework of “drama” and “theater” de‹ned by scripts, playhouses, performance rubrics, and records of performances and beyond a developmental model that culminates in modern realism. Interest in the material conditions in which medieval texts were produced , with particular interest in corporeality, has also opened new territory for investigating medieval performance. Studies in the last two decades have explored how documents of performance encode attitudes toward gender, race, class, cultural alterity, cultural hegemony, religious beliefs, and power relationships.2 The interest in popular, as opposed to literary, culture has drawn attention to a range of performative expressions that operated on the margins of or in resistance to the of‹cial written culture of European institutions, especially the church. New work on medieval performance has turned, for example, to spectacles of torture (Jody Enders, The Medieval Theater of Cruelty: Rhetoric, Memory, Violence) and the performative aspects of the human subject (Claire Sponsler, Drama and Resistance: Bodies, Goods, and Theatricality in Late Medieval England). Other studies have looked to variations on mimesis, con- sidering the Host and relics as performative demonstrations (Caroline Walker Bynum, The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200–1336), the corporeality of music (Bruce W. Holsinger, Music, Body, and Desire in Medieval Culture: Hildegard of Bingen to Chaucer), and distinct modes of representation (Michal Kobialka, This Is My Body: Representational Practices in the Early Middle Ages). The historiography of medieval theater, with its traditional trajectory into Renaissance humanism, has also been reassessed in relation to speci‹c social transformations (Sarah Beckwith, Signifying God: Social Relation and Symbolic Act in the York Corpus Christi Plays) and local culture (Gail McMurray Gibson, The Theater of Devotion: East Anglian Drama and Society in the Late Middle Ages). Research in theatrical performance of medieval plays has continued in studies of the communicative power of physical gesture (Clifford Davidson, ed., Gesture in Medieval Drama and Art) and staging (Victor I. Scherb, Staging Faith: East Anglian Drama in the Later Middle Ages, and Dunbar H. Ogden, The Staging of Drama in the Medieval Church).3 The present study departs from current interests in the materiality of medieval theater practices and historiography to look at theater in medieval thought. Periods of intellectual renewal in the Western church were marked by reevaluations of classical learning and innovations in Christian thought, coincident with religious reform.4 Collisions between classical knowledge and the authority of the Christian Scriptures, and the effort to integrate the two intellectual traditions, are in a sense the spine of the Christian intellectual tradition . Collisions in the late ‹fteenth century mark a more radical reevaluation of the classical tradition in the arts, literature, and sciences, a more severe challenge to the received knowledge of Catholic Christianity. Indeed, differences between the humanism of the twelfth century and that of the ‹fteenth are frequently attributed to interpretations of antiquity.5 The dual impulse to dramatize (as well as read or write) plays on stages and to apply theories such as that offered by Aristotle’s Poetics to the invention of new performance practices in the ‹fteenth century is thus well-traveled terrain; this new use of antiquity set in motion a theatrical tradition based on ancient models and distinct from the religious plays of the previous ‹ve centuries. In a thorough essay on Hildegard von Bingen’s Ordo virtutum, Nils Holger Petersen deals with the ‹ne distinction between medieval drama and Christian ritual set out by Karl Young in 1933.6 Petersen concludes, quite rightly, that records of medieval liturgical plays and performances show no signs of “a consciousness of a concept of drama, or any kind of departure from a liturgical thinking [italics added].”7 It is precisely the consciousness of 2 The Idea of the Theater in Latin Christian Thought “drama” as “theater” in inquiries into human nature and culture that has traditionally separated the theatrical dramas of Renaissance humanism from the liturgical and secular ludi of the Middle Ages. Thinkers in the Western church were apparently far less...


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