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Theater and the Sacred in the Middle Ages

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Andrzej Dąbrówka

The book presents a theory of relationships between the forms of devotion
and early drama genres. The historical background is the circumstances of the Church becoming independent of the Empire. A theological and philosophical aspect of the transformation of piety at the time was the specification of the ontological status of the sacred (spiritualization) and "shifting it to Heaven" (transcendentalization). In opposition to a theory of Western civilization as a process of increasing individual self-control, the author argues for the need to take into account purely religious conditions (the idea of recapitulation). This allows the author to develop a holistic aesthetics for the religiously inspired creativity in the period spanning the 11th-15th centuries and to propose a new typology of medieval drama.

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5. Forms of Devotion

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Since we are dealing with the influence of forms of devotion on literature, it is important to recapitulate the main manifestations of piety. For our purposes, it would be more useful to provide a survey of organizational or institutional forms (2). For the record, let us first (1) enumerate forms of personal religious practice; otherwise, they might seem neglected. In chapter six, I shall address yet another aspect, namely – the temporal framework of religious practices, which may serve to put them in order. We should not consider all these enumerations as a brief elaboration of the phenomenology of religion;113 they simply facilitate my further investigations. I start with cataloging and later proceed to discuss the chronology, as the scope of particular forms of devotion changed in every respect and constituted a separate research problem.114

1. Religious practices. In what follows I provide a brief historical overview of forms of devotion qua ways of practicing religion and related acts, gestures, and procedures (Greschat 1983: 671 ff.); each of these practices, to a different extent, constitutes the content of organizational forms of religious life.

If we would like to initially structure them according to their increasing complexity, we should probably start with silence, which, in its purest form, occurs in certain monastic rules and accompanies other religious practices.115 If silence is a kind of sacrifice, then asceticism and fast – and, to a lesser extent, even obedience (Eph 6,5) that children should display toward their...

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