Quod quaeritis, o discipuli


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

Past analyses of medieval drama, whether literary or developmental in approach, have consistently relied upon historical method. Since recent confusions in terms have denigrated the historical method, perhaps some definition of it is in order. Texts are prepared with greater or lesser restorations, depending upon the stated policies of the editor. Date and provenance are at least tentatively established on the basis of recognized evidence. Ideally, any conclusions about the materials so acquired are limited by the possible knowledge of the materials and their milieu. The arrangement of the materials in accordance with the historical method may even dictate certain conclusions, but these conclusions need not in any way approximate the tenets of Darwinian evolution, a fact so ably demonstrated by O. B. Hardison in his Christian Rite and Christian Drama in the Middle Ages. The devastating attack of 0. B. Hardison upon the evolution of drama as presented by Karl Young and E. K. Chambers succeeded, not because of their utilization of historical method, but because of their failure to practice the second step of the method-the observance of the limitations of chronology and provenance. As is now commonly accepted, these scholars imposed upon their materials a philosophy, not a method, that all life is subject to Darwinian theories of evolution. Since both scholars were eminent practitioners of the first phase of historical method, the collection of materials, the present distrust of their conclusions has been transferred to historical method itself. Though it is a matter of some question that Young and Chambers provided an aesthetic, as well as an history of medieval drama, the disproof of their long-accepted dogmas and the subsequent lack of faith in historical method has left critics briefly at a loss for an aesthetic. The only certainty is that any new aesthetic must avoid the presumed errors of historical method, as illustrated in the work of Young and Chambers.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.