Dramatic Ways of Being Religious

Larry D. Bouchard

in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and the Arts

Published in print February 2014 | ISBN: 9780195176674
Published online February 2014 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Dramatic Ways of Being Religious

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  • Religion
  • Religious Subjects in Art
  • Sociology of Religion
  • Religious Studies


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The history of drama and performance often overlaps with histories of religious practice, belief, experience, and thought. This chapter surveys such histories and gives consideration to religious stories and themes, ritual structures, dramatic forms (including “metatheater,” “epic theatre,” verse drama, naturalism, and avant-garde theater), and to theories of religion and performance. The discussion is framed by the question, “Is drama inherently a way of being religious?” That is, does theatrical drama—by virtue of being a hybrid of narrative, dialogue, and embodied performance before live audiences—inherently create possibilities for religious, social, and ethical meanings and relations? The question’s value lies in its power to catalyze discoveries, not in any definitive answer. The chapter concludes with recent theological and ethical views of how drama can open questions of self-transcendence and otherness.

Keywords: avant-garde theater; drama histories; ethics and theater; theology and theater; metatheater; performance; narrative; religious experience and theater; ritual and drama; theatrical form

Article.  9928 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religious Subjects in Art ; Sociology of Religion ; Religious Studies

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