The Medieval Theater of Cruelty: Rhetoric, Memory, Violence (Hardback)
  • The Medieval Theater of Cruelty: Rhetoric, Memory, Violence (Hardback)
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The Medieval Theater of Cruelty: Rhetoric, Memory, Violence (Hardback)

(author)
£74.00
Hardback 288 Pages / Published: 09/12/1998
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Why did medieval dramatists weave so many scenes of torture into their plays? Exploring the cultural connections among rhetoric, law, drama, literary creation, and violence, Jody Enders addresses an issue that has long troubled students of the Middle Ages. Theories of rhetoric and law of the time reveal, she points out, that the ideology of torture was a widely accepted means for exploiting such essential elements of the stage and stagecraft as dramatic verisimilitude, pity, fear, and catharsis to fabricate truth. Analyzing the consequences of torture for the history of aesthetics in general and of drama in particular, Enders shows that if the violence embedded in the history of rhetoric is acknowledged, we are better able to understand not only the enduring "theater of cruelty" identified by theorists from Isidore of Seville to Antonin Artaud, but also the continuing modern devotion to the spectacle of pain.

Publisher: Cornell University Press
ISBN: 9780801433344
Number of pages: 288
Weight: 624 g
Dimensions: 235 x 156 x 23 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

"A powerful discourse.... An eloquent reading of the blurring of the boundaries among theories of torture, rhetoric, and drama."

* Theatre Journal *

"An intellectually challenging... book that deserves serious consideration by medievalists... The Medieval Theater of Cruelty offers invigorating new perspectives on violence in medieval drama as well as in all forms of aesthetic and rhetorical invention, and asks us to reconsider current pieties."

-- Kathleen Ashley * Arthuriana *

"Enders presents her argument in such a careful manner that even the most conservative reader will find it persuasive.... I highly recommend The Medieval Theater of Cruelty not only for its content but also for its process: it stands as a fine example of how modern theory may responsibly be integrated into discussions of medieval texts.... An extremely well-written, persuasive, and stimulating book."

-- Leanne Groenveld * Comparative Drama *

"Following Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punishment and Elaine Scarry's The Body in Pain, an entire subdiscipline of the study of torture and incarceration has developed. Jody Enders makes the connection that most investigators have glossed over: that drama and rhetoric and forensic share a concern, even obsession, with violence, with the language of violence and the violence of language, with representation of violence and the violence of representation, and with the recreation and memory of violence which is itself purged through an equal and opposite expression of violence. It is impossible to read any of the texts Enders discusses in the same way again."

-- John M. Ganim, University of California, Riverside

"Jody Enders's bold work on drama, rhetoric, and violence changes the terms by which we understand law, persuasion, and performance from antiquity onwards. The Medieval Theater of Cruelty shows how the violence of the medieval and early modern theater is grounded in rhetoric's real and symbolic dependence upon torture, punishment, and pain. This is a brilliant reading of medieval theater, a revolutionary reading of the rhetorical tradition, and a powerful argument for the immediacy of intellectual history to contemporary social analysis."

-- Rita Copeland, University of Minnesota

"The contemporary cultural currency of violent yet pleasurable entertainments-and their tendency to spill over into 'real life'-lends urgency to Enders's interrogation of the dark side of medieval spectacle and performance and to her powerful argument about how and why medieval rhetoric, violence, and theater can and should matter to us all."

-- Theresa Coletti * Speculum *

"This book... should not be ignored by specialists interested in medieval drama or in the nature of violence in any period."

* Choice *

"This book is essential for those interested in late medieval theater and medieval rhetoric. It is replete with examples from both sources, and offers many readings of little-known or under-appreciated medieval plays-both mysteres and farces.... This is a very useful and interesting book, which I highly recommend. It is very thorough and very subtle in its core argumenst, and Enders is to be credited for her willingness to expand these arguments into larger theoretical contexts.... This book successfully crosses the boundary from medieval scholarship to broader, comparative issues in literary and cultural studies, and makes a powerful case for the continuing importance of the Western tradition of rhetoric in contemporary cultural life."

-- Andrew Cowell * The Comparatist *

"This important new study returns to the topics of rhetoric and medieval drama but implicates these areas of this writer's interest and expertise with another topic about which she cares with equal passion: the historical continuity and seeming ubiquity of violence and cruelty."

-- Ann Blake * Parergon *

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