Article

French Drama

Lofton Durham

in Medieval Studies

ISBN: 9780195396584
Published online February 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0061
French Drama

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)
  • Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy
  • Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400)
  • Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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The earliest extant example of drama in French is Le jeu d’Adam, dating from the mid- to late 12th century. Indeed, Le jeu d’Adam may be the first example of medieval drama in a vernacular Romance language (though the Castilian Auto de los Reyes Magos may, in fact, be earlier). The field of French drama benefits from a corpus of extant dramatic texts that is larger and better preserved than medieval drama in most other vernaculars, especially English. In addition, many extant manuscripts of French drama include illustrations—examples may feature a dozen to literally hundreds of full-color illuminations—that are now being reexamined for what information they yield about why these documents were created and how they were used. Thus, French drama in the medieval period possesses a long history and a significant body of evidence, though many aspects are facing new levels of scrutiny. What might have been seen as settled issues in the mid-20th century—such as what makes a given text “dramatic,” or the importance of dramatic genres—are being reconsidered in light of new perspectives brought to bear by the discipline of performance studies, alongside cultural lenses deployed by some literary critics and historians. Scholarship on French drama began in the late 19th century with the systematic effort to catalogue, transcribe, and interpret the extant plays and production documents in archives across France. More recent scholarship has attempted to recontextualize plays and other artifacts of performance according to local conditions and situations. Some of these artifacts include texts now seen as containing substantially dramatic material, either aimed at recording or generating large-scale public, civic, or courtly performances (like those during processions, entries, pas d’armes, or banquets), or private performances for individuals or small groups (including silent or public reading, oral recitations, or storytelling by a jongleur). Finally, it is generally accepted that the number of known extant Francophone play texts and other performance artifacts is a small portion both of what actually remains to be discovered in Francophone archives, and of what was actually created to support, record, and disseminate performance during the medieval period.

Article.  9728 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500) ; Literary Studies (Early and Medieval) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy ; Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400) ; Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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