© 2010

Performing Bodies in Pain

Medieval and Post-Modern Martyrs, Mystics, and Artists

  • Authors

Part of the Palgrave Studies in Theatre and Performance History book series (PSTPH)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xii
  2. Marla Carlson
    Pages 1-23
  3. Marla Carlson
    Pages 25-48
  4. Marla Carlson
    Pages 49-76
  5. Marla Carlson
    Pages 77-101
  6. Marla Carlson
    Pages 103-130
  7. Marla Carlson
    Pages 131-154
  8. Marla Carlson
    Pages 155-166
  9. Back Matter
    Pages 167-227

About this book


This text analyzes the cultural work of spectacular suffering in contemporary discourse and late-medieval France, reading recent dramatizations of torture and performances of self-mutilating conceptual art against late-medieval saint plays.


art concept Conceptual art death discourse drama France Medieval Literature Middle Ages performance play torture

About the authors

Marla Carlson is Associate Professor of Theatre at the University of Georgia, USA

Bibliographic information


"Carlson's historical sensitivity, superb performance criticism, and vivid writing make Peforming Bodies in Pain compelling, and, perhaps troublingly, highly enjoyable to read." - Theatre History Studies

"Engaging and compelling...The subject of pain can hardly be contained or exhausted in a single volume, and it is a testament to rather than a criticism of Carlson's range that she has left open so many possible avenues for future researchers." - The Medieval Review

"Performing Bodies in Pain does what many of us were taught never to do: it places contemporary examples of theatre and performance art alongside analogous works from a totally alien historical period and seeks fruitful, politically charged comparisons ... The book is thickly researched and Carlson is clearly at home with the medievals, but she is at her best when discussing contemporary works ... These are chapters I would readily give graduate students or even senior undergraduates encountering twentieth-century performance for the first time, but they will be of use to seasoned scholars as well." - Theatre Research International

"Bringing together two vastly different periods in history to display bodies in pain and empathy as a shared outcome, Carlson's examinations are skillful, careful and brimming with insightful expertise." - Contemporary Theatre Review

"Pain is both one of the most fundamental human experiences and also one of the most complex and the extensive interest today in the performing body has concentrated new attention on this basic experience. Carlson examines key manifestations, private and public, of pain, its performance, its effect upon those who witness it, and its utilization in both medieval and modern contexts. The result is a fascinating comparison of this universal phenomenon in pre-modern and post-modern culture which opens provocative new perspectives in the understanding of both." - Marvin Carlson, Sidney E. Cohn Professor of Theatre, CUNY Graduate Center, USA

"In this dazzling juxtaposition of performed pain in late medieval France and our own late/post modern world, Carlson makes immediate for the reader the sensations and responses of spectatorship. But she also reflects, deeply and wisely, on the many uses and functions of pain in these parallel but far from identical worlds. Drawn along by Carlson's compelling sense of urgency and presence, the reader encounters with her the pain of others, whether simulated or real, as a medium through which we experience a culture's most significant identities.Drawing on a wide range of sources, from witness to neuroscience, from saints' plays to performance art, this book makes major contribution to our thinking (and feeling) about pain." - Pamela Sheingorn, City University of New York, USA