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Physical and ecstatic love in Croatian medieval passion plays on the example of the character of Virgin Mary


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Missoni, Ivan. (2018). Physical and ecstatic love in Croatian medieval passion plays on the example of the character of Virgin Mary. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of History.
(Poslijediplomski doktorski studij medievistike) [mentor Rafolt, Leo and Korade, Mijo].

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In the first chapter after the "Introduction", titled "Researching Emotions in a Historical Context", I initially address the definition and etymology of the concept of emotion, as well as the various paradigms for the mental-emotional dynamics which have shifted with the passage of time. Afterwards I delve deeper into the distinction between feelings and emotions, the arguable connection between language and emotions, methodological tools and scientific terms, the question of appropriate sources, and ultimately the advantages and disadvantages of word lists. I subsequently outline some doubts and prejudices about emotions, whereby I point out a controversy as to whether emotions are timeless (a stand taken by universalists) or they undergo changes throughout history (viewpoint of social constructivists). Namely, during the course of over a hundred years, the study of emotions in a wide range of disciplines has been significantly determined by the continuous discussion which had emerged between the supporters of socially constructed, culturally contingent, relativistic and historical conceptions of emotions on one side, and the essentialist, culturally universal and transhistorical conceptions on the other. In that sense, the entire (hi)story of the history of emotions could be written in terms of nature vs. nurture dichotomy. Having described the main features of the emotional turn, I proceed with tracing the historical development of the study of emotions from theology to neuroscience. I conclude the chapter by reaffirming the claim made by Susan Matt and Peter Stearns who stated that emotions not only have their own history but have in turn shaped history. I commence the following chapter, under the title "Emotions and Religion – Medieval Notions of Love", by describing the general connection between emotions and religion, then out of all religions I focus on Christianity, and thereby among all "Christian" emotions, I expound upon the concept of love in Middle Ages, starting with the Bible, then patristics, scholastics, mysticism (also including female mysticism) onwards to romantic love. I thereafter move on to the modern age and place special emphasis on the most prominent theoreticians of love, such as Anders Nygren and C. S. Lewis (seraphic love), in order to eventually turn to the French Jesuit Pierre Rousselot and elaborate the main features of his concepts of physical and ecstatic love, described in his ground-breaking study from 1908 titled "The Problem of Love in the Middle Ages: A Historical Contribution", as well as their staunchest advocates. The concept of physical or Greco-Thomist love, whose proponents were, among others, Aristotle, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, does not signify the corporeality but naturalness of such love. It is based on the propensity of natural beings to seek their own well-being and find it in love of others and of God, also implying harmony and unity of the lover and the beloved. In contrast, ecstatic or disinterested love is characterized by the duality of the lover and the beloved, the violence of love, its irrationality, and self-sufficiency. Reflections on it can be found, for example, in the writings of Gregory the Great, Aelred of Rievaulx and Abelard. Summing up, by placing Rousselot within the framework of philosophical and theological theorising on love, I clearly show how my research fits with the existing trends of approaching medieval sources so as to decode traces and expressions pertaining to emotions. After that, I set off with the scientific study of the importance of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary through a prism of emotions most commonly associated with them, hence the chapter's is title: "Christ's Passio and Mary's Compassio". In view of passio, I pay attention to the theological and art-historical accounts of Christ's torment, death and resurrection, and to the theodicean questions and answers. I describe in detail the Eucharistic celebration and the Easter mystery of transubstantiation, expanding upon the symbolism of blood and bread. In addition, I follow the development of the representation of the cross in art, especially liturgical, as the most eminent symbol of passion, giving importance to the shift in Christ's appearance in the 13th century, when his humanity was brought to the fore. At that time the typical Romanesque representation of the Son of God as a priest, the celebrant of death, the so-called Christus victor style, had been redirected to a more naturalistic depiction of the suffering Christ, who was from then on shown dead on the cross, known as the Christus patiens style, resembling Isaiah's "Man of Sorrows". The entire crucifix symbolizes the Franciscan meditation on the passion, rendering Christ's passio present in current time and place with the aim to move the viewer to compassio, that is – affective gratitude for all that Christ had undertook on our behalf, and to the spiritual sharing of the passio together with Mary. This represents a great step in "humanising" art and devotion. The first part of this chapter ends by contemplation upon salvation and second coming. When it comes to compassio, in the process of exploring the connection between Marian devotion and the development of the emotion of compassion in the Middle Ages, I mention, inter alia, that the Church Fathers under the influence of ancient philosophy believed that the Virgin under the cross stoically withstood the suffering of her firstborn, while the full flourishing of Marian compassion was only reached in the 12th and 13th centuries with Anselm of Canterbury, Bernard of Clairvaux and Francis of Assisi. I investigate liturgical practices of Marian worship, such as Our Lady of Sorrow, also closely examining prayers, meditations and other passion narratives. It is interesting to note that Peter Dronke established that Marian laments (planctus Mariae) drew upon traditional pre-Christian women's mourning, which by inconsolable grief represents resistance to male social authority and Christian eschatology. I also linked the growth of Marian devotion to the inception and rise of courtly love. Concerning passion narratives, such as Ogier's "Quis dabit", I refer to Thomas Bestul who has convincingly demonstrated that Mary's weeping at the foot of the cross had the potential to break the traditional gender roles and the prevailing discourse of misogyny. When her character not only wants to perish with Christ but moreover struggles to acquire her son's body after his demise, her behaviour suggests that female emotionality may be a paradoxical source of power and thus may have had an emancipatory effect on the female audience, while at the same time deeply disturbing the male audience by disrupting the hierarchy of patriarchal family relationships. Such an interpretation is complemented by Sarah McNamer who, through the study of medieval affective meditations, had shown that compassion is not only an emotion but also a potential foundation of an ethical system. The Virgin represents maternal care as a model of compassion which contains a set of ethical demands (as opposed to loyalty to God, the Father): that she has a duty to preserve her son's life, that the crucifiers have a duty to spare his life, and that finally he has a duty to live. My "Analysis of Croatian Medieval Passion Poetry and Plays in the Context of Physical and Ecstatic Love" comes next, where after a brief introduction into this genre I subject the respective literary works to a thorough thematic-motivic analysis. It encompasses all four developmental stages of Croatian medieval passion plays: lyrical-narrative poems (with the addition of prominent Easter poems, such as Raduj se, vsaki verni – Rejoice, Every Faithful):1 Pisan ot muki Hrstovi – The Poem of Christ's Torment, Cantilena pro sabatho (Jegda čusmo željne glasi) – Chant for Holy Saturday (Whence We Harkened Sorrowful Voices) and Ja, Marija, glasom zovu (I Mary, Call Forth); dialogical laments: Prigovaranje blažene Dive Marije i Križa Isusova – The Reproach of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Jesus's Cross, Splitski ulomak – Split Fragment, along with Picićeva pjesmarica – Picić Chant Book and Rukopis Vrbničkog plača – Manuscript of the Vrbnik Lament; dramatised laments: Zbornik duhovnoga štiva – Spiritual Reading Miscellany, Klimantovićev zbornik I. and II. – Klimantović Miscellany I and II, Osorsko-hvarska pjesmarica – Osor-Hvar Chant Book, Muka Isukrstova iz Klimantovićeva zbornika II. – The Passion of Jesus Christ from Klimantović Miscellany II, Muka Spasitelja našega iz Tkonskog zbornika – The Passion of Our Saviour from Tkon Miscellany; passion plays: Muka Spasitelja našega iz 1556. – The Passion of Our Saviour from 1556, Mišterij vele lip i slavan od Isusa – The Mighty Beautiful and Glorious Mistery of Jesus and Uskrsnutje Isusovo – The Resurrection of Jesus. The diligently conducted analysis of Croatian passion plays has ascertained the undeniable presence of all relevant characteristics of physical (Greco-Thomist) and ecstatic (disinterested) concepts of love as described by Pierre Rousselot. By applying them to the reading of the texts in question, as living tissue cut open with a scalpel, subcutaneous, visceral motions of dual significance flicker before of our eyes. From the capillary secretive circulation in certain lyrical-narrative poems, their presence gradually gains momentum, intensity and frequency, all the way to the tremendous pulsation which echoes through dramatised laments and passion plays. From this discerning insight we can observe how physical and ecstatic love pair up but also parry each other by means of dialogues between Christ and the Virgin Mary. Following the same already established pattern articulated statements of the mentioned concepts of love extend through almost all the works of the Croatian passion genre and permeate them. Furthermore, it can be noticed that they have recruited other characters, such as John and Mary Magdalene, for their, conditionally speaking, rivalry. In the chapter entitled "The Scenic-Performative Features of Passion Plays" I define the development of medieval drama and theatre with special reference to the questionable existence of religious drama in the East. Then I elaborate on the emergence and interrelationship of liturgical dramas and church plays. Afterwards, I turn my attention to Croatian passion plays and their place and origins within the classical genre division of medieval drama into mysteries, miracles and moralities. I proceed by examining their originality in relation to foreign influences. In the text on poetics, verse and thematic framework, following Nikica Kolumbić, the doyen of Croatian studies, I describe two fields of realisation (direct addressing the viewers – the faithful, on the one hand, and dramatising or stage adaptation of religious texts on the other) from which the poetics of Croatian medieval drama will spring forth, from style and composition to the conception of characters. The same scholar, like Nikola Batušić, argued that skilful and prominent Croatian Renaissance poets Marko Marulić and Petar Hektorović were among the authors of Croatian medieval passion plays. Furthermore, I scrutinise the disputed existence of dramatic tension and the psycho-emotional profiling of the protagonists within the mentioned works, then the notion of time or timelessness of the represented events, as well as the feeling of close connectedness of actors and viewers (emotional communities). I continue by presenting information on late medieval actors (both European and domestic), viewers and topics such as reception, duration of plays, number of viewers and the city's visage during performances, whereby I draw on Gustave Cohen's research. Those considerations are followed by highlighting the features of the medieval theatre: mansion and platea, while I thereafter bring the chapter to an end by commenting on mise-en-scène, scenography, costumes, masks, music and stage effects. From the title of the last chapter before the "Conclusion": "The Notion of Passionism Manifested in the Paschal Mystery, Liturgy and Popular Piety, the Trident Council, and Church Plays" it is clear where my focus lies. I thus primarily turn my attention to the timeframe of medieval passion plays' traditional performances – the bringing about of Lent as a form of pre-Easter preparation and its actions (fasting, almsgiving, and praying), then on the rituals of the Holy Week, whereby I conclude this subchapter by commenting on the days of the Easter Triduum. Besides, I underline a matter worthwhile to pursue: "passionism" as a convergence of liturgy and popular piety. I further discuss the differing principles of the two, but also the alignment of extra-liturgical pious practices with liturgy, with special reference to the development of folk passion devotions in specific parts of Croatia. As an example of official, liturgical devotion, I consider the Via Crucis, while as a form of public piety, I expand on the "Following the Cross" procession on the island of Hvar during the Holy Week, citing Bernardin Škunca's works on this subject. I round off this part of the text by examining literature as a form of paraliturgy on the example of Croatian medieval literary production. I therewith describe the significance of the city of Zadar and lay fraternities for the development of our domestic passion plays. After that I interpret the impact of the Council of Trent’s (1545–1563) provisions on their performance, in an effort to discover how the inclusion of the scenes of (excessive) torture and (again excessive) laughter in the passion plays had come to cause aversion among certain layers of society. Finally, I devote myself to the recording of the inevitable course of events: church bans and clashes of sacral and profane take on plays, professionalisation of acting and the loss of social cohesion, changes in aesthetic taste in the second half of the 16th century, namely the beginnings of Croatian Renaissance comedy (Marin Držić), and the passion plays' gradual descent from the stage. In my "Conclusion", I point out that Christ's passion and Mary's lament constitute the fundamental subject matter of Croatian medieval lyrical-narrative poems, dialogical and dramatised laments, and ultimately passion plays, comprising some 15,000 verses. In those texts the Nazarene sacrifices himself for humanity, while his mother in turn yearns to sacrifice herself for him or in his place. They, as main protagonists, engage in a dialogue in which she begs and beseeches him, threatening to take her own life unless he preserves his earthly existence at the expense of that in heavens, whereas the Saviour's seeks to comfort his distraught mother, spiritually nourish her and affectionately explain to her that he receives the cross and bears the ultimate sacrifice in order to grant the whole human race the redemption of sins and eternal life. By utilising the concepts of physical and ecstatic love by Pierre Rousselot in the course of a thematic-motivic analysis of the aforementioned works, it becomes apparent that this verbal dissension is not merely accidental but forms a regular pattern consistently widespread throughout the whole genre of Croatian medieval passion poetry and drama. In other words – it lies at the very heart of it. Namely, through the act of generous self-sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for the salvation of mankind a propensity of human beings to seek their own good, and find it in love of others and of God, is reflected. In this view, to love the Lord means to "regain one's soul". This notion is supplemented by the interpretation that all humans in a concordant and harmonious way by their very nature love God, the common good of the entire universe, more than themselves. Additionally, if we compare Christ's Passion with three important theories set out by Thomas Aquinas (of the whole and the part, of the universal appetite of all things for God, and of the coincidence of the spiritual good with the good in itself), we will come to realise that they are in perfect correspondence. Hence, from the presently reviewed facts, it clearly follows that the figure of the Lamb of God in Croatian medieval passion plays exhibits all the essential traits of the concept which Pierre Rousselot had named physical (or Greco-Thomist) love. Along with St. Thomas, it was championed by Aristotle, Pseudo-Dionysius, Hugh of St. Victor and St. Bernard in his early writings. Contrary to this, the grief stricken character of Mary consequentially displays all four quintessential features of Rousselot's ecstatic (disinterested) concept of love, namely: the duality (disharmony) of the lover and the beloved, unlike their presupposed harmony and unity within the physical concept of love (the Virgin offers her life neglecting her own well-being); the selfsufficiency of love (taking no notice of the prophesies and by openly opposing the Divine Plan, Our Lady finds her justification, reason, and end in a self-oppressing love directed towards thisworldly, mortal Christ); its irrationality (advocating egalitarianism, she disregards the difference between her own and the Saviour’s nature); and ultimately the violence of the Madonna’s love which both physically and mentally hurts and humiliates her, while it additionally aggravates the excruciating suffering of the crucified Anointed One. In sheer opposition to physical love, here to love God means "to lose one's soul". Such love for others only includes the love of friendship (amor amicitiae) and is free from the love of desire (amor concupiscentiae), or love for oneself, whereas physical love, embodied in the image of Christ, signifies unity (not duality as in ecstatic love) as well as continuity of the love of friendship and the love of desire. Among the proponents of ecstatic love we find Richard of St. Victor, Albert the Great, William of St. Thierry, Aelred of Rievaulx, Abelard, William of Auvergne, St. Bonaventure, Duns Scotus, and St. Bernard in his later sermons. Through this reinterpretation of Croatian passion plays my striving to decode the discourse of love contained inside their verses has been modelled on Niklas Luhmann's research ("Love as Passion: The Codification of Intimacy"), as well as on plentiful other comprehensive interdisciplinary studies which had come to pass over the course of the last 15-20 years within the scope of a relatively new, thriving science – the history of emotions. In the light of the pivotal position of love in Christian thought, I strongly feel that this type of interdisciplinary examination provides us with an exquisite insight into the underlying framework of the passion play genre, hence unravelling a hitherto undetected pattern of dramatic tension, as well as enhancing our understanding of different religious-didactic expressions of love. What is more, I hope to have successfully demonstrated within my dissertation how adept utilisation of notions such as emotion script and emotional community can bring us closer to unveiling the significance, profoundness and authenticity of emotions performed on medieval stage and to perceiving their potential impact on religious sensibilities. Besides, is there a more sublime sacrifice than to succumb to love, to lay down one's life prompted by it and consider that an act of selfless commitment of God to man and man to God? I believe that herein lies the answer to Rousselot's "problem of love": whether and how can there be a self-denying and sacrificial love for others which is at the same time fulfilling and perfective of oneself? By virtue of the exceptional transition from the advocate of ecstatic love to the advocate of physical one after Magdalene's announcement or even cathartic encounter with her resurrected son in certain passion poems, Mary has eventually taught herself how to love; her tears of sorrow had turned into tears of joy (mater dolorosa → mater speciosa). Given the presented results, from the analysis carried out within my dissertation it evidently transpires that Rousselot's concepts of love are not just empty verbalisms, haphazardly uncoordinated as well as arbitrarily and sporadically interspersed within passion texts, but that they consistently consolidate into interdependence. By this conclusion I have confirmed my starting hypothesis and achieved the aims set at the beginning of my research. The hypothesis stated that there are sections of text in Croatian medieval passion plays containing the characteristics of physical and ecstatic concept of love. My objectives were to seek out and prove the existence of the mentioned concepts of love in passion plays, and then to analyse them on the basis of these concepts, especially the character of the Virgin Mary. Moreover, by observing the Croatian passion poetry and plays in the context of physical and ecstatic love, in front of our eyes, like a cryptic diptych finally drawn into the light of the day, a yet unnoticed drama unfolds; their conflict not only contributes to the development of dramatic tension, but the alternating replicas of the main protagonists instigate its genesis. Without this cognisance I am convinced that we simply would not be able to grasp the works of that genre in their emotional, spiritual, and cognitive comprehensiveness.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: Physical love, ecstatic love, passion plays, Christ, Mary, Rousselot, Middle Ages, history of emotion, passion, compassion, scholasticism, theatre, liturgy, popular piety, Council of Trent
Subjects: History
Departments: Department of History
Supervisor: Rafolt, Leo and Korade, Mijo
Additional Information: Poslijediplomski doktorski studij medievistike
Date Deposited: 07 Jun 2018 09:00
Last Modified: 07 Jun 2018 09:00

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