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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Marking the boundaries : explorations of meaning and identity in the York Corpus Christi cycle Christie, Sheila


This thesis explores the implications of the relationships between building trade guilds and the pageants they produced in York, and examines this relationship over the two-hundred-year production of the York Cycle. Because this relationship and the reception of any dramatic performance is heavily influenced by context, we need to look closer at the social, political, and economic environment of late medieval York in order to better understand the range of interpretations available to the Cycle's original audience. Doing so also allows us to witness the issues of identity and community that are negotiated throughout these plays. Chapter 1 examines the guilds responsible for most day-to-day construction (the plasters, tilers, and carpenters) and explores the interpretations that the conjunction of guild casting, play text, and historical context invites. The Plasterers' "Creation" deals with issues of labour and political power, economic fluctuations influence representations of family and community in the Tilers' "Nativity," and the Carpenters' "Resurrection" explores issues of integrity and urban corruption, while also representing a struggle for social authority. Chapter Two considers the participation of groups outside of civic jurisdiction, most particularly the Masons, and investigates the ways in which the York Cycle may have cut across boundaries (or united "separate" groups) instead of, or as well as, reinforcing them. Finally, the changing contexts that in turn changed (or re-focused) the meanings of these texts reveal the boundaries over and through which concepts of identity and community were negotiated.

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