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poniedziaek, 10 sierpnia 2009

Abstracts of papers to be delivered at the conference

The Category of Theatricality In Medieval Studies 

 28 October 2009,Warsaw

The programme here


The Drama of the Poetic Edda: Performance as a Means of Transformation

Terry Gunnell, University of Iceland


This lecture will summarise many of the arguments I have previously made in The Origins of Drama in Scandinavia (1995) and other papers and lectures presented since then about the dramatic nature of poetic presentation in the Nordic countries in the early Middle Ages.

Drawing in part on the ideas of  Richard Schechner and others with regard to performance studies, it will be concentrating on those Eddic poems which were composed – and presented – in the form of direct speech (not Orly Skírnismál, Hárbar?sljó?, Lokasenna, Fáfnismál-Sigrdrífumál, and Vaf?rú?nismál – but also Grímnismál and Völuspá), underlining the fact that like other performances (and all poetry at this time was performed rather than merely silently read), these works involved much more than “mere” text. They were also considered in terms of sound, space and time, and played on the living background knowledge of their audiences, who were expected to participate in one way or another.

Even more important is the fact that by using first-person speech, these works deliberately step into the realms of dramatic presentation, thereby immediately altering – in both the short and the long term – their audience’s conception of performer and performance space: chieftain becomes god; hall becomes temple; and landscape becomes sacred.

Jakub Morawiec

Characteristic of skaldic court performances


Old Norse narratives, especially the kings’ sagas, skald sagas and short stories called þættir, present numerous instances of skaldic court performances.  It is difficult to find a promising and talented poet, who would not be willing to present his artistic skills at either king’s or other chieftain’s court. The reason seems to be obvious. For all those, who found themselves distinguishably gifted, it was the easiest and most expected way to win everlasting fame, material wealth and social status. The key to these goods was the artistic utterance, a poem, presented before and addressed to one, whose grace and appreciation would ensure all those benefits.

 Not surprisingly at all, skaldic court poetry is full of praise for the ruler, his, mainly military, achievements and virtues – here his generosity towards subjects – have special significance. Both proper artistic devices like metre, kennings and rhymes, and the content of a poem that itself justifies its composition, are of special importance for the skald in achieving his goals when he visits the royal court.

Skald’s visit to the court and his presentation of a poem, constitute a  kind of interplay, full of political and ideological meanings. It includes special behaviours of all parties involved, namely the skald, the ruler and his retinue.

The aim of my paper is to investigate those behaviours, considering their significance: first for literary scenes in sagas, describing skaldic performances, second for their potential importance in political, ideological and social aspects of court environment in early medieval Scandinavia.  


Kamil Kopania  

On the Origins of Medieval Animated Sculptures of Crucified Christ


Medieval animated sculptures of crucified Christ, usually called “movable arm crucifixes”, have been the subject of many studies. Scholars most often deal with the question of their function. The role of the crucifixes in Depositio Crucis, a dramatised liturgical rite performed on Good Friday, during which the Christ figure was taken off the cross and deposited in the sepulchre, emerged as the main issue within this context. The role of animated figures of the crucified Christ in processions and religious drama has also been analysed. Some scholars raise questions connected with worshippers’ perceptions of them, which are highly conditioned by the realism of the statues seen in motion. Their uses over the liturgical year are also mentioned, especially their role as objects of pilgrimage.

Yet there exists a relatively small number of studies on the beginnings of such works of art. Usually such figures are claimed to originate from German-speaking countries and their existence is interpreted as a result of passion piety typical of the end of the XIIIth century. My aim is to prove that animated sculptures of crucified Christ appeared far earlier, and did not originate from German-speaking regions. I’m convinced that their origins have deep roots in the Holy Week ceremonies celebrated in southern parts of Europe, in Spain and Italy.


Małgorzata Dowlaszewicz

Performative aspects of the Dutch prose romance Alexander van Mets

The Middle-Dutch prose romances form an extensive collection of texts and although united under one genre label they represent a variety of structures. For many years now it has been discussed whether some of them have been originally composed with the purpose of being performed on stage. The question of theatrical elements in the prose romances is not new and arose already in the 1940’s, however there was no clear outcome of the decades of research. This lack of clear conclusions might be seen as resulting from the concentration on genre issues. If we consider though the performative elements as an essential aesthetic procedure, a firm statement of the genre doesn’t appear to be necessary anymore.

The aesthetic force of performative motives shall be shown by an example of a late medieval prose romance, Alexander van Mets. The earliest preserved text comes from the 17th century, however after comparing it with other versions of the same story, and with other prose romances, I suggest that the performativity has been introduced in the text already by the beginning of the 16th century. Dutch literary culture was applying theatrical elements as an aesthetic force which was responsible for creative devices of text composition and not only accompanying actual stage performances.



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