4. Interpretative and Methodological Framework

Following Todd's (2002) promising insights in a document-based performance-theory informed study of discipline in the Reformed Kirk, a performance-focused approach was considered to be the most suitable methodological framework for this project. Limited engagement in Todd's and earlier studies with both the material culture and the body promised multiple new layers of meaning extending far beyond social function and the visual world. Pearson and Shanks (2001, 24), describe these layers as structured into a stratigraphy that may be 'excavated' and which includes, among other things, physical actions, sounds, architecture and props. They point out that, at any given moment, any one layer may carry more or less of the overall narrative; likewise one might function as a 'carrier frequency' onto which other aspects of the performance may be mounted (Pearson and Shanks 2001, 24).

Putting this idea into practice, the performance of church discipline was 'excavated' by researching individual components as they became evident, with changes in religious doctrine considered the 'carrier frequency' in relation to which other aspects could be arranged. The specifics of these elements of doctrine are discussed within the experiment itself, under the heading 'Theorising Theology'. Individual components of the 'performance' were investigated primarily using techniques emphasising experience in the past, supported by rigorous investigation of artefact, architecture and landscape properties and histories. These methodologies were introduced to participants and justified throughout the mini-chapters within the experiment, following a brief outlining in the Methodology section.

The stratigraphy analogy provided a useful tool for identifying the many layers of meaning permeating and incorporating the material culture of discipline; however, it functioned only as a method for initial engagement. Even conceptual stratigraphy implies sequential relationships, and while the constituent elements of discipline performances and daily experiences could be excavated one at a time, they could not be arranged into any kind of sequence. Attempting to understand the material in this manner proved to be a dead end, with several initial chapters being written and discarded. Using the stratigraphy model it was not possible to collate, interpret and represent the data to their full potential. Everything, it was found, was inextricably, and by this model inexplicably, linked.

Matheson (2000) argues that a new approach to the study of the Reformation is required; shifting the focus onto what he calls the 'imaginative world'. Rather than the destructive power of iconoclasm, he emphasises its creative energies: the potent metaphors and allegories, like 'Living Word' which ' their novel connections and collocations, bedded together the hitherto incompatible and subverted one cosmos while paving the way for another' (2000, 6).

This insight resolved the difficulty of interpreting and representing the 'excavated' performance by directing the process away from the unsatisfactory stratigraphy metaphor and traditional methodologies. By understanding the material culture as a product of Matheson's imaginative connections and collocations, the discipline artefacts and everything in the world around them came to be seen as outcomes of 'collage-making'. Reform on an individual and local scale was seen as gradual, imaginative, and a culturally unique way of adapting to a changing world, founded upon unexpected juxtapositions of diverse elements, both familiar and new. It was the realisation of these juxtapositions in physical form that gave rise to the material culture of discipline; making these objects both manifestations of novel connections and items that could be drawn upon to create further tiers of connections and juxtapositions. Discipline object forms were, therefore, understood to be fluid and negotiable in meaning, owing to constant subjection to new juxtapositions as the process of adapting to Reform unfolded. The project aimed to access not the finished collage in which juxtapositions were finalised, but the period in which they were negotiated, by allowing participants to experiment and make connections.

The idea of collage-making generated great movement within the study. Juxtaposing the artefacts with evidence of iconoclasm, architecture, the human body, back to the Bible, to rural life, and so forth, proved a very rich source of insight into the material evidence of the discipline performance. Ultimately, this process also suggested the final presentation of the study. The project's emphasis on translation required that the idea of both past discipline practices and archaeological interpretative processes as experiences emerging from the collage of novel connections and collocations be communicated, in a participatory way, to the reader — hence the collage-making format.


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