Staging the Sacred examines the importance of Christian, Jewish, and Samaritan liturgical poetry from Late Antiquity through the lenses of performance, entertainment, and spectacle. Laura Lieber proposes an account of hymnody as a performative and theatrical genre, combining religious and theatrical studies to examine how performers creatively engaged their audiences, utilized different modes of performance, and created complex characters through their speeches.
To truly consider performance and engage with these poems fully, Lieber urges readers to imagine the world beyond the page. While poetry and hymnody from Late Antiquity are usually presented in textual form, Lieber moves away from studying the text on its own, engaging instead with how these poems would have been performed and acted. The specific literary techniques associated with oratory and acting in Late Antiquity, such as apostrophe and vivid imagery, help craft a more accurate idea of liturgical presentations. Lieber suggests ways that these ancient poets could have used their physical spaces of performance by borrowing from the gestures and body language of oratory, mime, and pantomime.
A highly interdisciplinary study that will appeal to scholars across religion, theatre, literature, and beyond, Staging the Sacred proposes a novel interpretation of Late Antique hymnody and poetry as a performative genre, akin to oratory, theatre, and other modes of public performance, placing these works in their wider societal context.
Laura S. Lieber is a Professor of Religious Studies and Classical Studies at Duke University and the Director of the Duke University Center for Jewish Studies. She holds a PhD from the University of Chicago and received her rabbinic ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
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