Ranging from France and Russia to America in the throes of world war and revolution, "Medieval Roles for Modern Times" investigates how critics and creative artists made medieval culture a part of their modern world through the-atrical role playing. On both the Left and the Right across Europe, partisans used medieval drama to express the ideological struggles dividing them. Helen Solterer explores the case of the Theophiliens, a Parisian youth group in the 1930s and '40s whose members included Roland Barthes and Alain Resnais. This troupe began performing the earliest dramas known in France - from the Adam play to the Mystery of the Passion - with surprising popular success. The book focuses on two key figures of the Theophilien troupe: founder Gustave Cohen and actor Moussa Abadi. While Cohen eventually went into exile in America, Abadi went underground in France. He established a network for refugee families and taught Jewish children role-playing skills to help them evade detection by the Gestapo. Abadi helped save hundreds of children from deportation, and his compelling story has never before been published.
Helen Solterer is Associate Professor of French at Duke University. She is the author of The Master and Minerva: Disputing Women in French Medieval Culture (1995).