Narrating Pain and Healing in Andrieu de la Vigne, Mystère de saint Martin (1496)

  • Andreea Marculescu
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Experience book series (PSHE)


Somatic expressions of pain and healing are volatile patterns, difficult to incorporate within language. They can, however, be acknowledged as a fait accompli: a particular saint performs a miracle and heals a blind person, a paralytic, a demoniac, or a leper. But the processual aspect of the act of healing in its minutiae and the corporeal ways in which it affectively impacts the subject and those close to his/her entourage is difficult to capture. The aesthetic regime of late medieval devotional theatre in the vernacular, however, facilitates close attention towards bodily expressions of pain and the act of healing. In fact, one of the reasons for which the Middle Ages garnered a strong anti-theatrical prejudice was precisely the fact that religious theatre in the vernacular focused too much on the body. Such performative models allow disabled and sick characters in the plays to narrate their condition alluding to both somatic and emotional reactions they developed as a result of blindness, physical impairment, or disease. In addition, the formal structure of the plays written in verses, expanding on sacred narratives and hagiographical sources, facilitates the incorporation of a plurality of voices: the sick, those witnessing his or her condition, and the saint as healer. This way the condition of impairment is never the prerogative of only one character, but enters the realm of communal storytelling enhanced through embodied performance. Focusing on a fifteenth-century hagiographical play, Mystère de saint Martin, authored by Andrieu de la Vigne, one of the well-known French poetic voices from the end of the Middle Ages, this paper analyses how impairment and religious healing become through embodied storytelling part of a demotic conversation about disease, communal care, and attention towards the sick.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andreea Marculescu
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Modern Languages, Literatures, and LinguisticsUniversity of OklahomaNormanUSA

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