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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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21. The Forms of Devotion and Drama

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1. THE WILL OF HUMAN SUBJECTS. In the conclusion of Part Two, we saw a correlation emerge between the transfer of the sacred to the metaphysical realm and the descent of the individual soul from the higher regions to a separate body. In one direction there happens an individuation of the spirit, while in the opposite the transcendentalization of the sacred (katabasis–anabasis). In the first process, the individual furnishes its interior with external norms and truths – the divine and the imperial – while, in the second process, the sacred leaves the earthly sphere and retains only a few but accessible points of communication with this world (the sacraments).

We cannot elaborate this process in all the literature. Moreover, to limit the purely psychological thread of further investigation – which will hopefully receive other specialized studies in the near future794 – we restrict our interest to the characters of drama. Let us confine ourselves to the simple auxiliary criterion of the dramatic, which is distinguished from the two other great modes by both the compositional dominant and the specific application of language.

• The epic is formed by a story about events, the cases that happen to the protagonists; the language describes the world of the story, which speaks to us with its own logic and fullness of space-time illusion.

• A lyrical piece is an utterance of a subject which perceives and objectifies its state; the language co-creates this image, while the semantic relations of words...

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