Over fifty years ago, it became unfashionable—even forbidden—for students of literature to talk about an author’s intentions for a given work. In Murder by Accident, Jody Enders boldly resurrects the long-disgraced concept of intentionality, especially as it relates to the theater.
Drawing on four fascinating medieval events in which a theatrical performance precipitated deadly consequences, Enders contends that the marginalization of intention in critical discourse is a mirror for the marginalization—and misunderstanding—of theater. Murder by Accident revisits the legal, moral, ethical, and aesthetic limits of the living arts of the past, pairing them with examples from the present, whether they be reality television, snuff films, the “accidental” live broadcast of a suicide on a Los Angeles freeway, or an actor who jokingly fired a stage revolver at his temple, causing his eventual death. This book will force scholars and students to rethink their assumptions about theory, intention, and performance, both past and present.