Play and Counterplay: Dramatic Modes of Action in and alongside the Medieval Liturgy (800–1500)

Medieval Drama/Medieval Liturgy/Manuscript Studies/Musicology/Medieval Intellectual and Cultural History

“Play and Counterplay” is an interdisciplinary study of dramatic ceremonies linked to the liturgy and of plays which were performed alongside and interactive with liturgical action. This study contextualizes a variety of sung and declaimed dramatic forms, paying close attention to the shifting natures of language and music and of the interrelations between these aspects. Both parts of the book are shaped by consideration of community and architectural contexts, as well as by ways in which musical expression could transform texts. In part A, phenomena not called “plays” are shown as often more profoundly representative of characters and situations than materials routinely designated as such. In part B a series of plays appropriately vivified only when positioned alongside the liturgical practices of their host communities is considered. The dynamism of inter- and counteractions between materials studied in parts A and B shape our book and provide its unique character.

A student working with me on this project would be immersing herself in later medieval manuscripts, and I would especially be helped by locating particular passages I need to study and repositioning them in context. Oftentimes medieval dramas are edited apart from the sources in which they are found, and our work is to understand their larger meanings. I also can teach the basic research tools a student needs for work in medieval manuscript sources and will enjoy doing that kind of instruction. Many of the newest tools are online, and each has its own joys and its own limitations, but taken together the field of medieval studies is being transformed by them. The tools can be put to use on the great many manuscripts online, and others found on microfilm in Isham Memorial Library. We will be working with both kinds of materials as well as with printed books. It is a great detective story, and the information that one finds in medieval sources can open up worlds of new discovery for a student eager to learn.