The Flavor of Sin in the Ordo Representacionis Ade
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The twelfth-century drama Ordo representacionis Ade represents scenes from Genesis (Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel) along with a procession of prophets. This essay argues that the Ordo, allied with both Lent and predication, represents gustatory desire as the source of both sin and salvation. At the heart of the drama lies a tension between the pleasures of flavor (feast) and the pains of self-renunciation (fast). In an effort to convey the value of fasting penitence to a lay community, the drama figures illicit gourmandism as a social danger born of both pride and avarice. At the same time, the Ordo offers itself as a source of aesthetic pleasure. Indeed, its dramatization of penance and redemption participates in a general twelfth-century movement away from corporal experiences (penitential confinement, communion) and toward vicarious experiences through symbolic representation. This process turns participants in ritual into observers of spectacle. As spectators rather than sinners, the audience can be distracted from pious messages by aesthetic pleasures. In both thematic and performative terms, then, the Ordo maintains fundamental tensions between individual tastes and communal responsibilities.
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