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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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14. Confraternities as Media in the Civilizing Process426

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The functioning of confraternities can be described according to the tasks that they were meant to fulfill. However, for heuristic purposes, our classification shall not be based on the accounts of confraternity members, but rather on the actual outcomes of their actions; not those direct – like participation in funerals – but the far-reaching and within the perspective of eschatological safety. These effects will in turn be associated with the civilizational functions distinguished by Reiner Wild (1982) in his attempt to ground literary studies in Elias’ theory of civilization.427

1. As mentioned in chapter 2, Elias’ dynamic representation of civilization relies on Lloyd’s structurist methodology: causal relationships between action, consciousness, institutions, and structures serve as the driving force of social change. The central concept here is figuration, understood as a network of interdependencies that pertain to each individual; society is the sum of these interdependencies between individuals.428 As the agens of history act not the people but the conflicting figurations, in which everyone participates and to which everyone contributes, but which simultaneously socialize and confine us. This relationist approach interprets European civilization as a process of social integration and attributes the emergence of self-control and moral will to political circumstances; as an unintended consequence of the monopoly on violence in centralized states. As we indicated ←201 | 202→earlier, this explanation appears to be insufficient, since we should also account for religion and other cognitive domains (see chapter 13).

2. Given the field of operations of confraternities,...

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