Defining Boundaries in Theatrical and Ceremonial Space in the Middle Ages

  • Jadwiga S. Smith
Part of the Analecta Husserliana book series (ANHU, volume 81)


A few years ago I presented here, in Cambridge, a paper devoted to the investigation of recent applications of phenomenological methodology to the interpretation of medieval drama. In that paper, I traced the growing interest in looking at the drama of the Middle Ages with a focus not only on texts but also on actual stage productions. Of course, the problems of staging have been studied diligently, but the bulk of that critical pursuit has been devoted to various aspects of historical, economic, sociological, liturgical or theological contexts. What I tried to point out, in contrast, was an emerging interest in phenomenological theories of perception and conceptualization of space being expressed by a number of medievalists, Clifford Davidson and Pamela Sheingorn, among others. I stressed the fact that:

the medieval audience was involved in a theatrical spectacle to a much greater degree than later audiences. To understand, then, the principles behind such concepts as, for example, awareness of space as a highly concretized experience of visual data loaded with meaning, can help us to see these concepts in relation to a larger context of religion, philosophy, and ethics. (Smith 232)

Since hermeneutics of spatial organization as one of the phenomenological elements in the interpretation of the medieval theater seems to be gaining momentum, let me contribute yet again to this interest. This time, however, I am enlarging the scope of my investigation by looking at early English drama in the context of the treatment of space in medieval ceremonies. Defining boundaries of theatrical space in the Middle Ages is not a one-way process meant to establish factors ranging from stage dimensions to actors’ interactions with the audience, to the spilling of the performance into the surrounding area. Rather, in order to discuss the medieval understanding of space in relation to the spectacle of the audience, one should also consider some implications disclosed by taking a reverse approach.


Theatrical Space Popular Culture Civic Culture Critical Pursuit City Space 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jadwiga S. Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.Bridgewater State CollegeUSA

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