>This one is for the fans of medieval drama out there. And I just know there are millions of you.
So one of the things that got me all excited about The Broadview Anthology of British Literature: The Medieval Period, the anthology I keep mentioning but not yet writing about, is its medieval drama section, which is simply awesome. Yes, I always judge an anthology by its medieval drama section (where appropriate, that is), because it’s easiest to tell if an anthology is carefully and thoroughly done, up-to-date, interesting and innovative by seeing what they do with medieval drama. As I’ve written before, too often editors have let that section fester with out-of-date misinformation, like saying that drama started in the church, moved to the church steps, and finally moved to the city streets. So wrong — and so stinking out of date — in so many ways.
Anywho, what initially got me really excited about this anthology was not only that it was absolutely up-to-date on current knowledge of drama (it doesn’t even make the now questionable assumption that all medieval plays were written by clergy) but also that it made really cool text selections. It has the Jeu d’Adam!! The Jeu d’Adam, people! That’s so exciting! It means, among other things, one more 12th century text, one more Anglo-Norman text, one more opportunity to remind students that literature in the Middle Ages was multi-lingual, and one more way to talk about different communities and audiences for texts, dramatic or otherwise. And if you’re doing a Med-Ren survey, it would make a nice pairing with Milton’s Paradise Lost, as a study in the cultural uses and interpretations of this supposedly traditional, sacred and ‘fixed’ story. The only other place you can get the Jeu d’Adam in an anthology is in Bevington’s Medieval Drama (that’s the translation they use, btw.) And the other exciting bit is the edition of Mankind they’ve used — they’ve modernized the spelling and punctuation especially for this edition. I love teaching Mankind in my medieval lit. courses and have done so many times, but my students do get lost in the language. The simple matter of changing a medieval ‘y’ to a modern ‘i’ — and other such changes that don’t effect prosody — makes all the difference to student learning. Yay for Broadview doing this! It also includes Everyman as well as Mankind, so students can see the variety of allegorical drama. Oh, and Flavia, you’ll be happy to hear that it has the Chester Noah’s Flood, too, which I recall you were missing in the new Norton. (I think it was you, wasn’t it?)
I have other things to say about the anthology, but I’ll save them for another post, one that isn’t dedicated to all things dramatic.
So now, on to the links. Back when I was talking up the revised Norton — which, to its credit, updated its medieval drama section; but alas, no Jeu d’Adam — I kind of picked on poor Everyman and a lot of you concurred. And it is true that it has been misused critically and pedagogically as a kind of fall-guy for the dullness of the 15th century and the flatness of medieval drama. Plus, there is still much critical debate about just how English, medieval, and dramatic it is — thus one can question its use in the Norton and other anthologies as an exemplar of medieval allegorical drama. And I have to say, I just personally prefer the raucous Mankind or the spectacular and comprehensive Castle of Perseverance. But we were later taken to task, perhaps rightly so, for underestimating the dramatic power of Everyman. You probably didn’t see this comment because its writer came by long after the freshness of that post had expired. Its author, Douglas Morse, is making a film version of Everyman, and I wanted to alert you all to it and to the director’s web page, so that you might put yourselves on the mailing list and consider using a DVD of it when teaching Everyman, or at least check out the stills and clips. It’s a film and not a filmed version of a stage production, so it won’t give students a sense of Everyman as a play, per se, but it might still be pedagogically useful.
Meanwhile, in other Everyman news…I blogged about this before, but it was in a quicky post that got lost between other posts way back when, so I’m going to blog about it again. So there! The “it,” btw, is a blog called Tuco’s Lament, about one man’s creative process of re-envisioning The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly through the lens of Everyman, and doing the whole thing with puppets. Don’t laugh — puppetry is a beautiful art. Just look at his Everyman/Tuco puppet or this gorgeous backdrop. I suppose I’ve loved puppetry all my life — Sesame Street and I are the same age, and I grew up on the muppets — but I got into really artful puppetry and marionettes when my 5th grade social studies teacher, whom I thought was the coolest of the cool, told me she was a puppeteer and invited me to a show. Until then, I never realized how real and beautiful live marionettes could seem. Exquisite. And yes, I love Being John Malkovich, especially the Heloise and Abelard puppet show. So add Tuco’s Lament to your list of post-modern puppet reinventions of medieval narratives! It appeals to me, anyway.