Title page for ETD etd-04132004-121421

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Cavenaugh, Gregory Lee
Author's Email Address gcaven1@lsu.edu
URN etd-04132004-121421
Title Flesh and Spirit Onstage: Chronotopes of Performance in Medieval English Theatre
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Speech Communication
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Patricia A. Suchy Committee Chair
Andrew A. King Committee Member
Leslie A. Wade Committee Member
Michael S. Bowman Committee Member
Ruth Laurion Bowman Committee Member
Leonard J. Stanton Dean's Representative
  • religious representation
  • medieval theater
  • bakhtin
  • chronotope
Date of Defense 2004-03-26
Availability unrestricted
This study uses Mikhail Bakhtin's chronotope, which is the informing principle of one's experience of space and time, to explore different relations among space, time, actors, and audience in medieval theatre. Relations between the material and spiritual worlds as understood in the Middle Ages are considered in the context of relations between performers and audience members with two goals. First, I explore how the ontological status of the metaworld created through performance changed in the context of specific chronotopes. Second, I explore how diverse religious discourses affected medieval modes of representation.

This study posits three chronotopes of performance informing medieval theatrical experience. In the sacramental chronotope, disciplined bodies moved through spiritual geographies in Latin liturgical dramas to bring participants into contact with an ontologically superior divine world. The consubstantial chronotope operated from an ontology of self-sufficiency locating power in the individual's body rather than in a superior being. Within the consubstantial chronotope, performance, and representation more generally, was understood as a tool for the contemplation of ideas rather than as a vehicle for bringing performers into contact with an ontologically substantive world.

The transubstantial chronotope works within an ontology of community that constructs performances as sites of cultural contestation and engagement. The communal mystery plays performed on Corpus Christi day in medieval England created a space and time for communicative bodies to tell shared narratives in a ritual effort to strengthen, purify, and heal souls. Performance within the transubstantial chronotope was uniquely open to metalinguistic and dialogic play, allowing the imaginative metaworld of the performance to function as innerly persuasive discourse possessing its own ontological weight and agency.

Having explored these three chronotopes, this study examines the heterochronotopic quality of medieval English morality plays. I conclude with an analysis of a recent production of the Chester mystery cycle, Yimmimingaliso: The Mysteries. Using a variety of different languages in performance, as well as different languages of performance, this production evoked something of the transubstantial chronotope of medieval England.

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