The Catholic University of America

Kelly Marie Wilson Defense

Final Examination of

Kelly Marie Wilson

for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy

Thursday, April 25, 2013

2:00p.m., Caldwell Room 125


A Performance-Critical Analysis of Lamentations


Director: Robert Miller II, Ph.D.

                That the biblical text was intended to be performed publicly and not read privately is an axiom in biblical scholarship, and yet, until recently, with the emergence of performance criticism, scholars have essentially ignored this axiom.  As an interdisciplinary methodology borrowed from theatre studies, performance criticism reframes the text within the context of performance and analyzes the roles of the text, performers, and audience.  This study provides a performance-critical analysis of the book of Lamentations, which has long been recognized as a text that lends itself toward dramatization.

                This study first analyzes the contribution of theatre studies and performance criticism to biblical studies, with particular attention focused on the role of the audience.  Utilizing Bernard Beckerman’s method of dramatic analysis, this dissertation considers the theatrical experience of the early audiences prior to the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem.  In doing so, the background of ancient Greek and Egyptian performances and the mourning ceremony in ancient Israel are presented which provide some defendable data that facilitate audience expectations of the performance.

                This study shifts the focus away from authorial intent toward an audience’s experience of the performance.  By focusing attention on the entire book as a performance, this study uncovers a trajectory in the performance that begins with an outsider’s perspective and moves toward an insider’s perspective, drawing the audience into the depths of suffering.  The study also highlights the social aspect of the mourning ceremony.  Although those suffering are without a comforter, the gathering of the performance provides the community something of great social value in detailing a shared suffering in a shared experience.