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Professor emeritus edits Middle English book

by Jeanne Baron

Nov. 9, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of Dr. Clifford Davidson, WMU.
KALAMAZOO--A retired Western Michigan University scholar has edited a new book published by the University's Medieval Institute Publications.

Dr. Clifford Davidson, professor emeritus of English and medieval studies, produced "The York Corpus Christi Plays" as part of the Middle English Texts series published for the Consortium for the Teaching of the Middle Ages in association with the University of Rochester.

The book examines the more than 13,000 lines of verse known as the York Corpus Christi Plays, which form the only existing complete play cycle verified as being associated with the feast of Corpus Christi that was performed at a specific location in England.

York's cycle is of particular interest for its completeness as medieval religious street theater mounted nearly on an annual basis on wagons at stations throughout the city.

Davidson uses the existing texts of the York Corpus Christi plays and records of their performance to offer readers an introduction to Middle English religious drama, including its suppression in the late 16th century and modern revivals of the tradition.

He discusses the origins of the mystery plays, the wagon stages on which they were performed, their relationship to the city guilds that sponsored the various plays, and what clues exist about their authorship and sources.

Like other volumes in the series, the book features a lightly modernized text of the plays, marginal glosses for words that might be confusing for non-specialists, extensive explanatory and textual notes, and a useful bibliography of primary sources and scholarship on the plays.

Davidson, who received WMU's first Distinguished Scholar Award in 1985, retired in 2003 after more than 37 years on the faculty. He has written, edited, co-written or co-edited more than three dozen books.

During his tenure at WMU, Davidson co-edited a popular international journal, Comparative Drama, for 33 years and founded the Early Drama, Art, and Music Project. He directed the now-discontinued EDAM project for 27 years and while serving as its lead editor, oversaw two book series published by Medieval Institute Publications.

In addition, Davidson spent many years editing WMU's Early Drama, Art and Music Review as well as helping to organize the University's world-renowned International Congress on Medieval Studies.