PERVERSION, PEDAGOGY AND THE COMIC: A Survey of the Concept of Theatre in the Christian Middle Ages


ISBN 9789350026892
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ISBN 9789350026892


Perversion, Pedagogy and the Comic studies how the idea-of-theater shaped western consciousness during the Christian Middle Ages. It analyses developments within western philosophy, Christian theology and theater history to show how this idea realized itself primarily as a metaphor circulating through various discursive domains. Beginning with Plato’s injunction against tragedy the relation between philosophy and theater has been a complicated affair which this book traces at the threshold when the western world became Christian. By late antiquity as theatre was slowly banned, Christian theology put the idea-of-theatre to use in order to show what they understood to be the perverted nature of worldly existence and the mystery of the Kingdom of God. Interrogating the theological teachings of some of the early Church Fathers like St Augustine, Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria the book offers a new look at how the idea of theater not only inspired Christian liturgical practices but Christian pedagogy in general which in turn shaped the nature of Christian religious drama. Finally the author tries to demonstrate how this hegemonic use of the theatre-idea was countered by a certain comic sensibility which opened the idea of theatre in the Christian Middle Ages to a new and subversive materialist possibility.

Soumick De is currently a post doctoral fellow at Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR),Indiawhere he is working on the concept of the tragic and its relevance in the political imagination of modernity. His previous contributions include “Translating the Greeks: the divine faithlessness of Hölderlin” published in the international journal Kritike, 2019 and the chapter titled “Melancholy and the World: The Genesis of a Modern Concept” in Abjection and Abandonment: Melancholy in Philosophy and Art, ed. Saitya Brata Das, Aakar books: Delhi, 2018


It seems to me that the triangulation of theatre, philosophy and religion, once accelerated beyond a critical threshold, yields a kind of “vortex” whose force is nothing if not political. In the remote historical distance from where the documents of this book—errant, always errant!—signal to us, there exists already something here-and- now, absolutely contemporary—political, always political… -Soumyabrata Choudhury, Associate Professor,School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

It is a work of great learning that rigorously and painstakingly, and with the greatest passion and deliberation uncovers something like the ‘primacy’ of theatre in the institution of ethical substance through Greek, Roman, late ancient and medieval discourse. It achieves in a sense a restoration of what Soumick calls ‘theatrical substance’ to its place in the scene of alterity, at the heart of the very possibility of an ethics…

– Milind Wakankar, Associate Professor, Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi


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