Staging the Medieval Theater on a Page -A Case Study of Jean Bodel's Jeu de saint Nicolas in BnF fr. 25566 and Recent Editions

Gammar, Nouha, French - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Ogden, Amy, Department of French Language and Literatures, University of Virginia

The definition of early medieval theater is influenced by corpora and concepts established in the 18th century and is determined by such a rarity of materials and information that Symes calls for a closer observation of these elements and of the movement between the written text and the oral performance, and is also dependent on a perception of performance so entangled that Enders declares that “medieval literary studies is performance studies” (318). The examination of one example of these early vernacular plays, Jean Bodel’s Jeu de saint Nicolas, will lead to a sharper image of medieval theater. I study the interwoven mise en page and mise en scène and compare their relation in the manuscript BnF fr. 25566 made in Arras around 1300 and in the most recent editions of this play: the Oxfordian edition by Francis James Warne in 1951, the Belgian and the Genevan editions, both by Albert Henry in 1981, and the Parisian edition by Jean Dufournet in 2005.
All of these editions, be they medieval or modern, claim a high fidelity to the original Bodelian text. An analysis of the paratext, first level of conjunction between layout and staging, shows that the modern peritext is heavily influenced by modern theatrical standards and thus distances the modern reader from the medieval reality. Second, the different manipulations of the medieval rubrics between the manuscript and its modern renditions outline the differing performances imagined from the text of Bodel. This leads interestingly to a clearer image of Bodel’s stage. The final level of juxtaposition of layout and staging consists in the modern additions to the body of Bodel’s text, from stage directions to translations and typographical symbols. These elements underline the tension within each imagined performance: is it an authentic reproduction or a modern interpretation of Bodel’s play?
The lucid perception of these movements, from the stage to the manuscript and conversely, from the manuscript to the modern prints, and from the text to its context, be it socio-cultural or paratextual, is at the foundation of a better understanding of medieval theater, but also of modern theater. I believe that these interactions demonstrate that medieval theatrical space is thought as continuous and multifunctional, while the modern view considers the theatrical space as divided and univocal.

MA (Master of Arts)
Bodel, Layout, Manuscript, Movement, Performance, Scholarly Editing, Medieval Studies, Space, Staging, Theater, Medievalism, Editorial Practices
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