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Medieval Convent Drama

English title Medieval Convent Drama
Applicant Dutton Elisabeth
Number 165887
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Département de langues et littératures romanes - Faculté des Lettres Université de Fribourg
Institution of higher education University of Fribourg - FR
Main discipline German and English languages and literature
Start/End 01.10.2016 - 31.03.2021
Approved amount 588'627.00
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All Disciplines (4)

Discipline
German and English languages and literature
General history (without pre-and early history)
Romance languages and literature
Music, Theatre

Keywords (12)

drama; French; nuns; English; medieval; Literature; convent; liturgy; performance; musicology; manuscripts; feminism

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
Medieval Convent Drama: Le théâtre dans le couvent médiévalLes preuves documentaires publiées par Records in Early English Drama et les constatations de plusieurs chercheurs nous ont fourni des indications concrètes que de nombreuses femmes ont vraisemblablement participé à la production publique des pièces de théâtre pendant le moyen âge en France, au Pays-Bas et en Angleterre. Cependant, le théâtre médiéval - en particulier, le théâtre sacré - est habituellement considéré comme un domaine exclusivement masculin. Ce projet vise à interroger ce stéréotype critique, en explorant le théâtre dans le couvent médiéval.
Lay summary

Contenu et objectifs du projet
L’équipe du projet a identifié un groupe de couvents dont nous possédons des scripts originaux. Nous commencerons par un examen approfondi de ces manuscrits médiévaux et une nouvelle édition/traduction. Nous chercherons : 1) à éclaircir la façon dont les religieuses ont recréé les événements Bibliques dont elles s’inspiraient ; 2) à déterminer comment elles ont utilisé la musique empruntée de la liturgie; 3) à localiser le lieu et la disposition de la mise-en-scène parmi les bâtiments/espaces (enclos ou publiques) du couvent. Nous produirons aussi des nouvelles mises-en scène en se servant uniquement des acteurs féminins pour pouvoir comprendre l’effet d’une présentation particulièrement féminine de l’histoire sacrée.
Contexte scientifique et sociale du projet
Les ressources que produira le projet permettront aux lecteurs/spectateurs d’intégrer le théâtre féminin des couvents francophones et anglophones du moyen âge à leur compréhension de la production du théâtre médiéval. Ainsi, notre projet contribuera au débat concernant le rôle et le statut des femmes, particulièrement vis-à-vis la religion, pendant le moyen âge occidental.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 22.06.2016

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
'Drama, Performance and Touch in the Medieval Convent and Beyond'
Robinson Olivia, Dutton Elisabeth, 'Drama, Performance and Touch in the Medieval Convent and Beyond', in Garcia Pablo Acosta, Carillo-Rangel David, I Nieto-Isabel Delfi (ed.), Palgrave Macmillan, New York.
Medieval Convent Scripts, Contemporary Performance Scripts: Translating Scripture and Transforming the Liturgy
Cheung-Salisbury Matthew, Dutton Elisabeth, Robinson Olivia, Medieval Convent Scripts, Contemporary Performance Scripts: Translating Scripture and Transforming the Liturgy, in Beer Jeanette (ed.), Medieval Institute Publications, Kalamazoo, MI.
Performance-based Research in the Medieval Convent
Robinson Olivia, Performance-based Research in the Medieval Convent, in European Medieval Drama, 22(2018).

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Oak Park Concert Chorale United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Exchange of personnel
Soeurs de Sainte Ursule, Fribourg Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
University Church, Oxford Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- Publication
Carmel du Pâquier, Canton de Fribourg Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
'Cantores in Aede', University of Oxford Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Exchange of personnel
Abbaye de la Maigrauge Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Carmel de Vilvoorde Belgium (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Frideswide voices Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Exchange of personnel

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Harlaxton Medieval Symposium Talk given at a conference Putting on the role: the performance of medieval convent drama 17.07.2018 Harlaxton, Grantham, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Dutton Elisabeth;
Harlaxton Medieval Symposium Poster The Nuns of Barking Abbey 17.07.2018 Harlaxton, Grantham, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Blanc Aurélie;
Harlaxton Medieval Symposim Talk given at a conference Workshop: Exploring Performance, Ceremony and Display with the Nuns of Barking Abbey 17.07.2018 Harlaxton, Grantham, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Dutton Elisabeth; Cheung Salisbury Matthew; Blanc Aurélie;
New Chaucer Society Conference 21st Biennial Conference, 2018 Talk given at a conference The Medieval Convent Drama Project: Gender, Performance and Research 10.07.2018 Université de Toronto, Canada Robinson Olivia;
IMC, Leeds, 2018 Talk given at a conference Deguilleville in the Convent: Pilgrimage, Poem and Playscript 02.07.2018 Leeds, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Robinson Olivia;
Interdisciplinary Doctoral Seminar: Inside the Nunnery: Objets, Pratiques et espaces de la spiritualité féminine Individual talk Conférence: 'Actors, Audiences and Space in Medieval Convent Drama' 31.05.2018 MMSH: Aix-en-Provence, France Dutton Elisabeth; Robinson Olivia;
Colloque des études médiévales / Mediävistisches Colloquium, Université de Fribourg Individual talk Les pièces de théâtre de Barking Abbey et leurs spectateurs laïcs 30.04.2018 University of Fribourg, Switzerland Blanc Aurélie;
METh (The Medieval English Theatre Conference), Université de Sheffield, 2018 Talk given at a conference The Carmelites and the Community: Nuns, Urban Procession and Performance in Late Medieval Burgundy 24.03.2018 Sheffield, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Robinson Olivia;
METh (The Medieval English Theatre Conference), Université de Sheffield, 2018 Talk given at a conference ‘Desiderans torporem penitus exstirpare: Medieval Convent Drama at Barking Abbey and Civic Unrest’ 24.03.2018 Sheffield, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Blanc Aurélie;
EEDPN Network Day (Early English Drama and Performance Network) Individual talk Working with Non-Academic Partners and Generating Research Data (a training session for postgraduate students within the network drawing on experiences as part of the Medieval Convent Drama project) 23.03.2018 Sheffield, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Robinson Olivia;
Touching, Devotional Practice and Visionary Experience Individual talk Drama, Performance and Touch in the Medieval Convent and Beyond 08.03.2018 Barcelone, Spain Robinson Olivia;
CUSO Doctoral Workshop (Medieval and Early Modern English Literature) Individual talk Playing Back and Praying Back: Convent Theatre and Convent Heritage 11.10.2017 University of Geneva, Switzerland Robinson Olivia;
IMC, Leeds (UK), 2017 Talk given at a conference Exploring Worship: Performance-based Research in the Medieval Convent 05.07.2017 Leeds, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Robinson Olivia;
Women's Literary Culture and the Medieval Canon conference Talk given at a conference The Convent and the Canon: Women’s Drama and Medieval Theatre in England and France 22.06.2017 Bergen, Norway Robinson Olivia; Dutton Elisabeth;
International Medieval Congress Talk given at a conference Translating Medieval Convent Drama 10.05.2017 Kalamazoo, MI, United States of America Blanc Aurélie; Cheung Salisbury Matthew;
Medieval English Theatre Conference, University of Glasgow, 2017 Talk given at a conference The Nativity Play of the Carmelite Convent at Huy: a staged reading of our translated script 25.03.2017 Glasgow, Scotland, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Robinson Olivia; Dutton Elisabeth; Blanc Aurélie;
Colloque des études médiévales / Mediävistisches Colloquium, Université de Fribourg Individual talk Le théâtre dans le couvent médiéval: découvrir le théâtre féminin au Moyen Age 21.11.2016 Université de Fribourg, Switzerland Robinson Olivia;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Other activities Mise en Scène: La Visite au Tombeau de Barking Abbey Western Switzerland 2018
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) @MedConventDrama Twitter Feed Twitter International 2017
Other activities Mise en scène Les Nativités de Huy Western Switzerland 2017
Other activities Production of Digby Candlemas Play International 2017
Media relations: print media, online media Sister act de Noël Alma & Georges Western Switzerland 2017
Talks/events/exhibitions The Oxford Mysteries: Engaging Modern Audiences with Medieval Plays International 2017
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) Theatre History Podcast International 2017
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) Medieval Convent Drama blog International 2016

Awards

Title Year
BARRIE DOBSON SCHOLARSHIP for the HARLAXTON MEDIEVAL SYMPOSIUM 2018

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
153494 Early Drama at Oxford 01.09.2014 Project funding (Div. I-III)

Abstract

Recent research into medieval English drama has emphasised possible roles played by women in the consumption, production and dissemination of theatre throughout the Middle Ages. The publication of documentary evidence for dramatic productions undertaken by REED (Records of Early English Drama) for example, has yielded important archival evidence of female participation in dramatic performance during the period before the first commercial playhouses were built. An even greater body of evidence of female participation in drama exists from mainland Europe. Nonetheless, medieval European drama, particularly Biblical drama, is still often characterised critically as a male-only province, both in terms of the composition and copying of scripts, and in terms of those individuals staging them. Where the involvement of women in dramatic production is acknowledged critically, it is often as an exception to the rule, a marginal aberration.This project seeks to overturn some of these assumptions and biases by directing new critical attention towards a relatively neglected but important area of study - the female dramatic productions of medieval convents. Very little convent drama survives from England - the most comprehensive single record we now have is that of the Visitatio Sepulchri and Harrowing of Hell drama from Barking Abbey (briefly described by Normington, 2009, Young 1933): the rarity of surviving plays probably partially explains the relative lack of critical attention paid to English convent drama as a genre. However, the lack of surviving evidence does not indicate that medieval convent drama was rare; rather, evidence did not survive the Reformation in England. In France, by contrast, many accounts of convent drama, and many dramatic scripts, survive; examination of this material may increase our understanding of both English and the French plays by and for nuns, as well as of convent drama across Europe. Commentators on civic plays from medieval England have explicitly stated that the most useful analogues may be found in contemporary continental material (eg Spector, 1991 and Granger, 2009); if the routes by which eg French drama or Dutch literature exerted an influence on English theatre cannot always now be precisely defined, the influence is nonetheless clear. It is also unsurprising since there were, throughout the Middle Ages, political, cultural and commercial links among England, France and Burgundy/The Low Countries (see, eg Butterfield, 2009 for the impact of these networks on literary production). Religious orders provided some of the strongest networks through which ideas and texts could be transmitted. The close study of surviving plays which were copied, read, performed and composed by nuns within medieval convents suggests questions relevant to understanding medieval dramatic and devotional practices more broadly. For example: how is a play defined as such? Convent drama survives in many manuscript forms and contexts: some plays are presented following the generic and codicological conventions we associate with the mise-en-page of medieval play-scripts; others survive as sequential prose descriptions which might function as stage directions for actors. Are such descriptions ‘plays’, or ‘drama’? Some convent plays are scripted elaborations on passages of liturgy; some borrow innovatively from the liturgy in otherwise vernacular dialogue; the project will necessarily engage a long-standing critical debate: when does the liturgy become theatre? It seems likely that drama could be a devotional act, requiring imaginative participation in the role played akin to the engagement required of contemplatives by, say, the Ancrene Wisse or Rolle’s Meditations. Such drama might not require an audience, or it might be played out within a religious community only. What role did performance play within an enclosed context? Who would act, and were scripts modified for or during performance? In some cases, it can be demonstrated that the nuns did perform for lay audiences: what role did performance play for this local community? The project will approach these questions through the particular lens of an understudied female dramatic tradition.
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