Murder by AccidentMedieval Theater, Modern Media, Critical Intentions

Murder by AccidentMedieval Theater, Modern Media, Critical Intentions

Jody Enders

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226207834

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


Over fifty years ago, it became unfashionable—even forbidden—for students of literature to talk about an author's intentions for a given work. This book resurrects the long-disgraced concept of intentionality, especially as it relates to the theater. Drawing on four medieval events in which a theatrical performance precipitated deadly consequences, the author contends that the marginalization of intention in critical discourse is a mirror for the marginalization—and misunderstanding—of theater. The book 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.