Ceremonial Embodiment: The Problem of Liturgical Drama Academic Article uri icon


  • Dox argues that the unique dynamic between corporal body and immutable soul that permeated Christian theology in the Middle Ages renders contemporary performance theory inadequate to describe medieval embodied ceremonies. While modern dramaturgy casts the body as signifier for a material referent, the medieval body is representative of an immaterial soul. In the absence of a codified treatise of medieval representational practices, Dox grounds her positioning of soul and body in a comparison of medieval European liturgical practices with those described in the Sanskrit Natayasastra and the medieval JapaneseKadensho, both of which posit performance as a physicalization of an inner spirit. The absence of masks in European liturgical practices, as well as an emphasis on imitation as a method of spiritual improvement found in two non-liturgical texts, implies a medieval European understanding of the body as a representation of the soul. This construction of medieval embodiment complicates traditional narratives of European performance history.

published proceedings

  • Ecumenica: Journal of Theatre and Performance

author list (cited authors)

  • Dox, D.

complete list of authors

  • Dox, D

publication date

  • January 2010