Staging Medievalisms: Touching the Middle Ages through Contemporary Performance
Christina Lynn Gutierrez
The University of Texas at Austin: Doctor of Philosophy, May (2013)
Staging Medievalisms analyzes how twentieth-and twenty-first century performance constructs the Middle Ages. This work is in conversation with medievalism, the academic field concerned with the diverse ways post-medieval societies have re- imagined medieval narratives and tropes, often in service of their own values. As a result of centuries worth of re-definition, the term “medieval” is unstable, referring simultaneously to a fairytale prehistory and a dark age of oppression.
I argue that performance, both in theatrical productions and in medieval-focused tourist spaces, allows an affective connection between the medieval past and the present, casting the Middle Ages as an inherently flexible backdrop for contemporary political and social concerns. In tourist spaces and plays about the Middle Ages, the performing body becomes the site where the medieval and the modern touch. I conduct close readings of six productions and three public spaces which stage the Middle Ages, examining which particular versions of the medieval they create, how they stage moments of historiographical contact, and how each uses the medieval to imagine their own historical contexts.