Sacred Feeling: A Dramaturgy of Religious Emotion

Donnalee Dox, Amber Dunai


We show in this paper that the soteriological aims of medieval theatre relied on the precise articulation of emotions, affect and feelings associated with religious devotion. We propose that this dramaturgy of emotion undergirds the formal structure of medieval plays as effectively as realism, imitation, and representation did for later dramas influenced by Aristotle’s Poetics.  In a close reading of Hildegard von Bingen’s twelfth-century music-drama, Ordo Virtutum, we align a medieval play’s movement of emotions with a schematic organization of religious feeling provided by St. Augustine. This reading offers a perspective on reading medieval devotional drama that expands Aristotelian considerations of dramatic structure to consider how medieval audiences steeped in a particular theology of salvation were socialized to respond emotionally to imagery, sound, narrative, and characterization. 

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Copyright (c) 2017 Donnalee Dox

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