Material Devotion: Objects as Performance Events

Part of the Cognitive Studies in Literature and Performance book series (CSLP)


The medieval laity approached religious media with bodies prepared to construct devotional meaning from their live, physical encounters with these works. I have called this devotional tactic performance literacy because it involves seeing and relating to images and objects as if they are live performance events. Performance literacy constitutes an embodied schema; therefore, it is comprised of both the infiction that a person brings to the art work, as well as the patterns for understanding that this encounter with the work traces within the viewer. Like other embodied schemata, performance literacy is not only the means by which spectators may generate meaning through their experiences with devotional art, but it also functions as a plan for future bodily interactions with devotional media. By employing the concept of performance literacy, I aim to foreground the body’s role in visual piety.


Performance Literacy Painted Cloth Parish Church Funeral Practice Funeral Procession 
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© Jill Stevenson 2010

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