Empathy, Entrainment, and Devotional Instability

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


The York cycle, with its many instances of pious seeing, seems to be the perfect performance to stage as part of Corpus Christi Day, a feast celebrated through the visible presentation and procession of the Eucharist. But the relationship between the cycle and the other Corpus Christi events was not always a comfortable one. Debate over the relationship between procession and play is evident as early as 1426 when Friar William Melton, according to an A/Y entry “a most famous preacher of the word of God,” came to York and argued that the two events should be separated. The A/Y indicates that Melton

commended the said play to the people in several of his sermons, by affirming that it was good in itself and most laudable; nevertheless, he used to say that the citizens of the aforesaid city and the other foreigners coming in to it during the said festival, attend not only to the play on the same feast, but also greatly to feastings, drunkenness, clamours, gossipings, and other wantonness, engaging the least in the divine service of the office of that day and that, alas, for that cause, they lose the indulgences granted to them in that matter by Pope Urban IV.1


Mirror Neuron Live Performance Musical Rhythm Religious Performance Affective Resonance 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Alexandra F. Johnston and Margaret Rogerson, eds., Records of Early English Drama: York, 2 vols (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1979)Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Suzannah Biernoff, Sight and Embodiment in the Middle Ages (New York: Palgrave, 2002), 134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 7.
    The York Plays, ed. Richard Beadle (London: Edward Arnold, 1982)Google Scholar
  4. 11.
    Brigitte Cazelles, “Bodies on Stage and the Production of Meaning,” Yale French Studies 86 (1994): 62Google Scholar
  5. 12.
    Pamela King, The York Mystery Cycle and the Worship of the City (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2006), 103.Google Scholar
  6. 15.
    Christian Keysers, et al., “A Touching Sight: SII/PV Activation during the Observation and Experience of Touch,” Neuron 42 (April 2004): 335–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 16.
    Vittorio Gallese, “The Roots of Empathy: The Shared Manifold Hypothesis and the Neural Basis of Intersubjectivity,” Psychopathology 36 (2003): 173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 20.
    Chester Scoville argues, “This lifting of the Christ child may have had mnemonic resonances with the Mass... Mary’s elevation of the Christ child into visibility may have had an effect reminiscent of that of the elevation of the Host.” Saints and the Audience in Middle English Drama (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004), 66.Google Scholar
  9. Gail McMurray Gibson makes a related point about East Anglian drama in The Theater of Devotion: East Anglian Drama and Society in the Late Middle Ages (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), 166–8.Google Scholar
  10. 21.
    V. A. Kolve, The Play Called Corpus Christi (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1966), 182.Google Scholar
  11. 22.
    Ibid., 185. Alexandra F. Johnston describes how the verbal parody and rapid stichomythia in this pageant turns the scourging into a kind of dance. See “The Word Made Flesh: Augustinian Elements in the York Cycle,” in The Centre and its Compass: Studies in Medieval Literature in Honor of Professor John Leyerle, eds. Robert A. Taylor et al. (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 1993), 239.Google Scholar
  12. 23.
    Claire Sponsler, Drama and Resistance: Bodies, Goods, and Theatricality in Late Medieval England (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 150.Google Scholar
  13. 25.
    Michael H. Thaut, “Rhythm, Human Temporality, and Brain function,” in Musical Communication, eds. Dorothy Miell, Raymond MacDonald, and David J. Hargreaves (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 176.Google Scholar
  14. 27.
    R. Keith Sawyer, “Music and Communication,” in Musical Communication, eds. Dorothy Miell, Raymond MacDonald, and David J. Hargreaves (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 52.Google Scholar
  15. W. S. Condon and W. D. Ogston, “Sound Film Analysis of Normal and Pathological Behavior Patterns,” Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases 143 (1966): 338–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 34.
    Miri Rubin, Corpus Christi: The Eucharist in Late Medieval Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 98.Google Scholar
  17. 35.
    Hans Belting, The Image and its Public in the Middle Ages: Form and Function of Early Paintings of the Passion, trans. M. Bartusis and R. Meyer (New Rochelle, NY: Caratzas, 1990), 58.Google Scholar
  18. 38.
    William F. Hodapp, “Ritual and Performance in Richard Rolle’s Passion Meditation B,” in Performance and Transformation: New Approaches to Late Medieval Spirituality, eds. Mary A. Suydam and Joanna E. Ziegler (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999), 242.Google Scholar
  19. 44.
    Evan Thompson, Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of the Mind (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007), 382–411.Google Scholar
  20. 46.
    Augustine, Eighty-three Different Questions, trans. D. L. Mosher. Fathers of the Church 70 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University Press, 1982), 43Google Scholar
  21. 49.
    Bruce McConachie, Engaging Audiences: A Cognitive Approach to Spectating in the Theatre (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 50.
    A Tretise of Miraclis Pleyinge, ed. Clifford Davidson (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 1993), 102.Google Scholar
  23. 51.
    Sarah Beckwith, Signifying God: Social Relation and Symbolic Act in the York Corpus Christi Plays (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), 69–70Google Scholar
  24. 52.
    Stanton B. Garner, Jr., Bodied Spaces: Phenomenology and Performance in Contemporary Drama (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1994), 183.Google Scholar
  25. 53.
    Vittorio Gallese, Morris N. Eagle, and Paolo Migone, “Intentional Attunement: Mirror Neurons and the Neural Underpinnings of Interpersonal Relations,” Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 55, no. 1 (2007): 142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 54.
    Bruce McConachie, “Falsifiable Theories for Theatre and Performance Studies,” Theatre Journal 59, no. 4 (2007): 567.Google Scholar
  27. 58.
    Gallese, “Roots of Empathy,” 174; Vittorio Gallese, Christian Keysers, and Giacomo Rizzolatti, “A Unifying View of the Basis of Social Cognition,” Trends in Cognitive Science 8, no. 9 (2004): 397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Jill Stevenson 2010

Authors and Affiliations

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations