The Theology of Dorothy L. Sayers' Dramatic Works: Dramatic Performance and the 'continual showing forth of God's act in history'
Clemson, Frances Vida Amy
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
I am still in the process of seeking permission to reproduce copyrighted material in the thesis. I also intend to publish material from the thesis.
This thesis explores the potential fruitfulness of drama for Christian theology through a close analysis of particular dramatic works by Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957). This project contends that to determine the extent to which drama can be more than a mere metaphor in theological writing, it is vitally important for theologians to attend to specific instances of dramatic performance. The approach of this project is, therefore, one of taking time over particular plays, examined with sensitivity to the circumstances of the original productions of these works. Through such close study of Sayers’ plays, a case is made for drama’s capacity to show forth God’s action in history. At the heart of the theology which emerges from the plays is an incarnational and participatory dynamic: a movement which brings embodied, time-bound specificities into an intimate relationship with the excessive, uncontainable, superabundance of divine being. This thesis aims to contribute to the growing body of work which is discovering deep resonances between drama and theology. It also makes a significant contribution to the study of Sayers’ writings. Whilst Sayers’ detective fiction and other prose, in particular her book The Mind of the Maker, has received attention from scholars interested in theology, the theological significance of her plays has been overlooked. The thesis examines in detail four of Sayers’ dramatic works. Chapters Two and Three each treat works written for broadcast on BBC radio: first, Sayers’ 1938 nativity play, He That Should Come; second, her series of twelve plays depicting the life of Christ, The Man Born to Be King, broadcast between 1941 and 1942. Chapters Four and Five discuss plays written for performance in ecclesial settings: The Just Vengeance, commissioned as part of a festival at Lichfield Cathedral in 1946, and The Zeal of Thy House, the Canterbury Cathedral Festival play for 1937.
PhD in Theology