death of the author defeated: Easter drama of imagination

Quem quaeritis?: angel questions women at Jesus's tomb in tenth-century Missel de Limoges.

Whom do you seek in the sepulcher, O literature-followers?
{Quem quaeritis in sepulchro, litterarum-colae?}

The father of wisdom, who was crucified, O schools-dwellers.
{Pater sapientiae crucifixum, o scholarum-colae.}

He is not here. He has risen as he himself said. Go, announce that he is risen.
{Non est hic. Surrexit sicut ipse dixit. Ite, nuntiate quia surrexit.}

Alleluia, the author has risen! Today the mighty lion, the spirit, the son of mind, has risen. Praise be to God. Say it indeed!
{Alleluia, resurrexit auctor! Hodie resurrexit leo fortis, anima, filius mentis. Deo gratias. Dicite eia!}

These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons, they will speak new languages, they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them. They will lay their hands on the sick, and the sick will recover.
{σημεῖα δὲ τοῖς πιστεύσασιν ταῦτα παρακολουθήσει ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου δαιμόνια ἐκβαλοῦσιν γλώσσαις λαλήσουσιν καιναῖς καὶ ἐν ταῖς χερσὶν ὄφεις ἀροῦσιν κἂν θανάσιμόν τι πίωσιν οὐ μὴ αὐτοὺς βλάψῃ ἐπὶ ἀρρώστους χεῖρας ἐπιθήσουσιν καὶ καλῶς ἕξουσιν}

sunrise over ocean with a wave

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Strongly misreading Thomas Malory’s medieval romance The Death of Arthur {Le Morte d’Arthur}, Roland Barthes made himself a celebrity author with his 1967 essay, “The Death of the Author {La mort de l’auteur}.” Malory’s romance built upon Geoffrey of Monmouth’s twelfth-century account of horrific violence against men, The History of the Kings of Britain {Historia regum Britanniae}. Barthes’s essay begins with discussing a castrato dressed as a woman and has nothing to say about castration culture.

The above play adapts an early tenth-century Easter trope from the monastery of St. Martial at Limoges in present-day France. For that text and related ones, with English translation, Bevington (1975). For biblical roots of the “quem quaeritis” trope, John 18:4,7; 20:15. Scholars have struggled to recognize that Christianity from its origins has been dramatic, but not objectively so. For an example of Biblical drama, Acts 3:1-4:31. On the history of medieval Christian drama, Forse (2002) and Norton (2017). The final text, translated from the Greek, is Mark 16:17-8.

[images] (1) Whom do you seek {Quem quaeritis}?: angel questions women at Jesus’s tomb. Illumination in tenth-century Missel de Limoges. From folio 76v of Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS Latin 9438. (2) Sunrise over the ocean at Dong Hae, South Korea, on 28 September 2010. Source image thanks to Belinda and Wikimedia Commons.


Barthes, Roland. 1967. “The Death of the Author {La mort de l’auteur}.” Aspen. no. 5 + 6. New York, N.Y.: Roaring Fork Press.

Bevington, David M. 1975. Medieval Drama. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Forse, James H. 2002. “Religious Drama and Ecclesiastical Reform in the Tenth Century.” Early Theatre. 5 (2): 47-70.

Norton, Michael Lee. 2017. Liturgical Drama and the Reimagining of Medieval Theater. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan University.

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