Article Title

Defining the South English Legendary as a Form of Drama: The Relationship between Theory and Praxis


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

For those working in. the field of drama, wedding theory and praxis together can be a challenge. Steeped as we are in a rich tradition of dramatic theory which stretches back to Plato and Aristotle, we feel a certain reluctance when we attempt to revise time-honored prescriptions concerning the dramatic experience to fit what we have found in our close analysis of individual texts. Indeed, the pressure of collective opinion, past and present, seems to work against us. And yet, if justice is to be done to the history of medieval drama ( and by extension to certain classical, renaissance and modern plays), we must undertake the challenge of rewriting dramatic theory. Toward this end, an analysis of the South English Legendary might prove helpful in illuminating some of the voice-address problems to be confronted in our reassessment of dramatic form. In setting the stage for such a study, we might, therefore, begin by examining the work of Klaus P. Jankofsky and Thomas J. Heffernan.1 Since they have expressed diametrically opposed views with regard to the subject of what dramatic value should be assigned to each text, with Jankofsky assigning that value to the South English Legendary and Heffernan limiting it to the Legenda Aurea, their debate affords us the perfect opportunity to. re-evaluate how drama should be defined with reference to a specific text; since they have never addressed this problem in their own work, we can clarify the discussion by considering a model that members of a medieval audience would have inherited-namely, the classical model as it was articulated by Plato and Aristotle. Yet, given the way we have appropriated this model, we must "unpack" it first to show how certain categorical imperatives have been put forth in the generation of an essentialist definition of drama.2This we can do by making reference to James Craig LaDrière's short but representative articulation of the classical position.

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