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Enrolling Medieval Culture Performance, Politics, Secularism: A Franco-American History, 1933-1945

Enrolling Medieval Culture Performance, Politics, Secularism: A Franco-American History, 1933-1945
91 Charles St.W., Alumni Hall, Victoria College
Time: Nov 10th, 4:00 pm End: Nov 10th, 6:00 pm
Interest Categories: Religion, Study of (FAS), Political Science, Medieval Studies (FAS), Language Studies (UTM), History (FAS), Historical Studies (UTM), German (FAS), French (FAS), English and Drama (UTM), English (UTSC), English (FAS), Critical Theory, Comparative Literature (FAS), Communication, Culture, Information and Technology (UTM), Classics (FAS), Book History/Print Culture, 1900-1950, 1500-1800, 1200-1500
Lecture by Helen Solterer, Duke University

Enrolling Medieval Culture
Performance, Politics, Secularism: A Franco-American History, 1933-1945

Professor Helen Solterer
Romance Studies, Duke University
Thursday, 10 November 2011
Alumni Hall
Victoria College
91 Charles Street West
Reception to follow.
This talk explores the surprising function of medieval scripts and dramatis personae for the generations who endured two World Wars, and internecine conflict in Europe. In so doing, it reopens and extends a chapter in cultural history. Reviving the Middle Ages in the modern world was an aesthetic project that we recog­nize for its nostalgia – a value that fed the Far Right. But less recognized is the part it played in political programs on the Left, its part in debates over secular life for Christians and Jews alike. How did re-enacting mystery plays, farce, and satirical sketch enter into the struggles over democratic ideals of a people free and equal, of community and identity? To what effect?
To pursue these questions, Professor Solterer will investigate a performance history in action, examining the situations of these medieval dramas, the actors who enrolled them in their public lives. Over some twenty years, sponsored by ideologically opposed regimes, the group known as the Théophiliens performed various medieval dramas for mass audiences, in France, throughout Europe, and across to North and South America.
At the heart of the investigation are two principal figures: Gustave Cohen, an intellectual who activated his research into medieval theater to serve a notion of the Republic, and come 1940, to defend it in exile, and Moussa Abadi, the group’s leading actor who adapted his role-playing for Jewish Resistance work in Nice, training children how to evade deportation and survive. In their different ways, Cohen and Abadi challenge us to think through the paradoxes of making the medieval a part of European democracies – paradoxes that they personify.
Sponsored by

This event is free and open to the public.  For further information, please contact the Centre for Medieval Studies.

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Professor Solterer will present a workshop titled "Historical Anachronies and the Memory of Fiction: Medieval Objects over Time" at 10 a.m. on 11 November 2011 in 125 Queen's Park, room 301. This event requires registration and has a reading list.  Please click HERE for details.

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