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Censorship and the Representation of the Sacred in Nineteenth-Century England$
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Jan-Melissa Schramm

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198826064

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198826064.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 27 October 2020

The Art of the People

The Art of the People

Romanticism, the Ritual Year, and the Rediscovery of the Mystery Plays

Chapter:
(p.49) 2 The Art of the People
Source:
Censorship and the Representation of the Sacred in Nineteenth-Century England
Author(s):

Jan-Melissa Schramm

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198826064.003.0002

This chapter traces the rediscovery of the medieval mystery plays which had been suppressed at the Reformation. The texts were painstakingly recovered, edited, and published in the first half of the nineteenth century, by medieval scholars but also by radicals like William Hone who were keen to emphasize the political value of expanding the literary canon. At the start of the nineteenth century, then, vernacular devotional drama was largely unknown; by the 1850s, the genre had been accorded a place in an evolutionary design that privileged the achievements of Shakespeare, and by the early twentieth century, performance was finally countenanced, albeit under the watchful eye of the Lord Chamberlain. This is a narrative of recuperation but also of misunderstanding, as the mystery plays were also positioned as comic burlesque and farce in constructions of the literary canon which stressed the aesthetic and religious superiority of the Protestant present.

Keywords:   Reformation, mystery plays, William Hone, blasphemy, popular art, John Payne Collier, Henry Hart Milman, almanacs, carnivalesque, parody

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