Reads medieval texts long considered the historical basis for Western drama as part of the Latin Christian intellectual tradition
"Through well-informed and nuanced readings of key documents from the fourth through fourteenth centuries, this book challenges historians' long-held beliefs about how concepts of Greco-Roman theater survived the fall of Rome and the Middle Ages, and contributed to the dramatic triumphs of the Renaissance. Dox's work is a significant contribution to the history of ideas that will change forever the standard narrative of the birth and development of theatrical activity in medieval Europe."
---Margaret Knapp, Arizona State University
"...an elegantly concise survey of the way classical notions of theater have been interpreted in the Latin Middle Ages. Dox convincingly demonstrates that far from there being a single 'medieval' attitude towards theater, there was in fact much debate about how theater could be understood to function within Christian tradition, even in the so-called 'dark ages' of Western culture. This book makes an innovative contribution to studies of the history of the theater, seen in terms of the history of ideas, rather than of practice."
---Constant Mews, Director, Centre for the Study of Religion & Theology, University of Monash, Australia
"In the centuries between St. Augustine and Bartholomew of Bruges, Christian thought gradually moved from a brusque rejection of classical theater to a progressively nuanced and positive assessment of its value. In this lucidly written study, Donnalee Dox adds an important facet to our understanding of the Christian reaction to, and adaptation of, classical culture in the centuries between the Church Fathers and the rediscovery of Aristotle."
---Philipp W. Rosemann, University of Dallas
This book considers medieval texts that deal with ancient theater as documents of Latin Christianity's intellectual history. As an exercise in medieval historiography, this study also examines biases in modern scholarship that seek links between these texts and performance practices. The effort to bring these texts together and place them in their intellectual contexts reveals a much more nuanced and contested discourse on Greco-Roman theater and medieval theatrical practice than has been acknowledged. The book is arranged chronologically and shows the medieval foundations for the Early Modern integration of dramatic theory and theatrical performance.
The Idea of the Theater in Latin Christian Thought will be of interest to theater historians, intellectual historians, and those who work on points of contact between the European Middle Ages and Renaissance. The broad range of documents discussed (liturgical treatises, scholastic commentaries, philosophical tracts, and letters spanning many centuries) renders individual chapters useful to philosophers, aestheticians, and liturgists as well as to historians and historiographers. For theater historians, this study offers an alternative reading of familiar texts which may alter our understanding of the emergence of dramatic and theatrical traditions in the West. Because theater is rarely considered as a component of intellectual projects in the Middle Ages, this study opens a new topic in the writing of medieval intellectual history.
Donnalee Dox is Assistant Professor in the Department of Performance Studies at Texas A&M University.