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Murder by Accident: Medieval Theater, Modern Media, Critical Intentions

Overview

Over fifty years ago, it became unfashionable—even forbidden—for students of literature to talk about an author’s intentions for a given work. In Murder by Accident, Jody Enders boldly resurrects the long-disgraced concept of intentionality, especially as it relates to the theater.

Drawing on four fascinating medieval events in which a theatrical performance precipitated deadly consequences, Enders contends that the marginalization of intention in critical discourse is a mirror ...

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Murder by Accident: Medieval Theater, Modern Media, Critical Intentions

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Overview

Over fifty years ago, it became unfashionable—even forbidden—for students of literature to talk about an author’s intentions for a given work. In Murder by Accident, Jody Enders boldly resurrects the long-disgraced concept of intentionality, especially as it relates to the theater.

Drawing on four fascinating medieval events in which a theatrical performance precipitated deadly consequences, Enders contends that the marginalization of intention in critical discourse is a mirror for the marginalization—and misunderstanding—of theater. Murder by Accident revisits the legal, moral, ethical, and aesthetic limits of the living arts of the past, pairing them with examples from the present, whether they be reality television, snuff films, the “accidental” live broadcast of a suicide on a Los Angeles freeway, or an actor who jokingly fired a stage revolver at his temple, causing his eventual death. This book will force scholars and students to rethink their assumptions about theory, intention, and performance, both past and present.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice

"This work fully embraces the old and the new and in so doing suggests . . . that we are not as far removed from medieval France as we think. . . . Moving fluidly from medieval texts to modern representations, the author forces us to consider the absolute impassivity of the audience, where the spectacle of reality television and the evening news replay versions of medieval stage deaths."
Julie Stone Peters

“Jody Enders’ Murder by Accident offers an extraordinary amalgam of historical work and contemporary theory. We have here, as in her earlier work, richly detailed evocations of the social world of medieval spectacle. But we also have the theoretical and ethical concerns that her historical readings raise brought front and center. This book engages issues critical to anyone interested in art or in accountability (legal and moral)—that is, all of us.”
Barbara Hanawalt

“Enders is a remarkable scholar who uses the intellectual freedoms accorded to theater historians to the fullest. Not constrained by the limitations of historians or literary scholars, she moves easily between fact and fiction, medieval and modern. But what will always delight readers of Enders's work is the sheer pleasure of her style, her insights, and her asides.”
Bruce Holsinger

“Once again Jody Enders has given us a brilliantly new perspective on the premodern dramatic tradition. In its graceful recovery of intention as the very ground of theatrical knowledge, Murder by Accident represents a signal contribution to some of the most pressing questions in the humanities today.”
Choice

"This work fully embraces the old and the new and in so doing suggests . . . that we are not as far removed from medieval France as we think. . . . Moving fluidly from medieval texts to modern representations, the author forces us to consider the absolute impassivity of the audience, where the spectacle of reality television and the evening news replay versions of medieval stage deaths."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226207834
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/2009
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Jody Enders is professor of French and theater at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the author of three books, including Death by Drama and Other Medieval Urban Legends, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

List of Abbreviations

Mise en Scène

Introduction: Doing Theater Justice

Part I Back to the Medieval Future

1 Behind the Seen: All Hell Breaks Loose

2 The Final Run-Through

3 Fear of Imminence and Virtual Ethics: Staging Rape in the Middle Ages

4 Killing Himself by Accident: Of Broken Frames, Mimetic Blindness, and a Dance of Death

Entr’Acte: This Fallacy Which Is Not One

Part II The Theater and Its Trouble

5 The Theatrical Contract

6 In Flagrante Theatro

7 Theater Nullification

Talk-Back: Black Box and Idiot Box

Appendix: Original Documents in French and Latin

Notes

Works Cited

Index

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