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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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6. The Ontology of the Sacred

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The relationship between the ontological status of the sacred and forms of devotion is not simply causal. The change in ideas or theories that embraced the ontology of the sacred influenced the forms of devotion more than the other way around, but they were the environment in which these theories could develop. Sometimes, we should assume an inseparable connection here, as between the meaning of the word and its sound form, which co-exist and develop together.

1. WHAT EXISTS? The issues of ontology are not a typical subject of literary studies. Let us take a moment to remind and orientate ourselves in the complexities of philosophical positions regarding existence.

Instead of dissecting the key word “exist,” which requires no explanation, let us carelessly ask like in a social game: Does darkness exist? A wave on the water? The reflection in the mirror? Colors?202 Heat? A hole in the sleeve? The ozone hole? A ditch? An image in a concave relief?

We will rather say that darkness does not exist as such, but this is how we call the lack of light.203 The last four questions also speak of something that is not there. But does this lack exist? Is there a shadow? These questions certainly make us enter dangerous grounds. How can you say that something like darkness does not exist, if you still hear the breath of the diligent Creator, who has just separated it from the light (Genesis 1)...

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