Estella Antoaneta Ciobanu, Exile Atones for Everything? Politico-Ontological Exile in the Christian Imaginary of the West as Suggested in Middle English Drama

Exile Atones for Everything? Politico-Ontological Exile in the Christian Imaginary of the West as Suggested in Middle English Drama
Estella Antoaneta Ciobanu

Abstract: This  paper,  while  focused  on  the  exilic  trope  in  western  medieval Christianity, is not concerned with theological pronouncements on earthly life as a form of exile  or  with  exegesis  of  biblical  exilic  experiences;  nor  does  it  aim  to  offer  a  critical overview of theorisations of experiential exile and of exilic writings. Rather, it investigates how two Middle English plays from Chester re-morph the Christian exilic trope into an onto- theological metaphor with  socio-political ramifications, thus offering a fresh case study of subject  identity-making under patriarchy in the West. In this sense, the exilic metaphor  is studied here in its endorsement of marginalisation in the wake of allegedly devious conduct, which thereby contributes to the elaboration by the hegemonic group of discursive practices of identification, segregation and marginalisation of other groups, deemed disruptive of in- group coherence and ethos, and to their stigmatisation as the devil‟s lot. The fallen angels‟ condition can be – and was at various times during the Christian Middle Ages – construed as an exile from the original state of grace; so was the Adamic fall. Nonetheless, my reading of the  two  Chester  Fall plays as developments of  the  exilic  trope  parts  company  with  the traditional interpretation of medieval religious drama as ethically coterminous with Christian teachings.  On  the  contrary,  I  find  the  extant  scripts  a  compelling  illustration  of  the patriarchal stakes of blaming within the Christian discourse as disseminated to the laity and intent on instructing and edifying them. Both Lucifer, the premier rebellious angel, and Eve, the premier insubordinate human being, according to malestream Christian lore, appear in Chester as the always already blameable creatures, even as the discourse which constructs them as such is one fraught with intertextual ambivalent allusions. As I hope to demonstrate, Chester‟s Lucifer and Eve are confined to a „statutory‟ exilium – a pre-scripted exclusion of „devil‟ and „woman‟ from the (spiritual) place and condition held to be one‟s true home – invested with kyriarchal socio-political meanings: they cannot but  be guilty for the very notion of righteousness to be definable meaningfully.

Keywords: exile,  Middle  English  religious  drama,  Chester  Fall   plays,   devil, woman, violence of representation

To cite the article: Estella Antoaneta Ciobanu, (2012) “Exile Atones for Everything? Politico-Ontological Exile in the Christian Imaginary of the West as Suggested in Middle English Drama”, International Journal of Cross-Cultural Studies and Environmental Communication NO. 1 2012, Vol. 1 Iss: 1, pp. 25 – 41

Estella Antoaneta Ciobanu teaches Medieval English Literature, Gender Studies, and Religions in the U.S., at Ovidius University, Constanţa. She has published articles on medieval English theatre and culture, as well as on medieval  and  post-medieval  cartography  and  early  modern  anatomical illustration.  She  is  co-author,  with  Petru  Golban,  of  A  Short  History  of Literary Criticism (Kütahya, Turkey: Üç Mart Press, 2008).

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