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Shakespeare, Performance and Embodied Cognition

Tunstall, Darren (2019) Shakespeare, Performance and Embodied Cognition Doctoral thesis, University of Surrey.

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This submission draws upon a range of evidence to account for the non-verbal features of theatrical performance. By blending rhetoric and gesture studies with psychology, I shed light on the acting of Shakespeare’s plays in the past, and ask what a scientifically-informed analysis of non-verbal communication can bring to actor training and performance theory. The centrepiece is a book which uncovers a key concept from Classical oratory of ‘decorum’ and explains how this concept became central to the development of the professional actor, including where it was translated as ‘smoothness’ in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The book traces a history of Shakespearean acting using a taxonomy drawn from psycholinguistics and manuals of gesture. I relate smoothness to Stereotype Content Theory within social psychology to show how non-verbal behaviour influences perceptions of warmth and competence and how actors have exploited this perceptual bias. The second item, a book chapter on the theatre pedagogue Jacques Lecoq, relates key concepts from his teaching to Shakespearean performance, in particular his insistence upon ‘élan’ in the embodiment of a role. I show how this concept is an extension of the idea of smoothness. The third item, a book chapter, asks upon what basis of evidence we can train an actor to improve their timing. I introduce evidence for the psychological present, a window of attention critical to the sense of timing, and connect it to smoothness. I draw on the Stereotype Content Model to show how signals of warmth and competence play a primary role in an encounter, where smoothness of movement is such a signal. Finally, in a book chapter I outline the philosophy of Embodied Cognition, and show how it can be used to articulate a series of strategies for the rehearsal of a Shakespearean text.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Divisions : Theses
Authors : Tunstall, Darren
Date : December 2019
DOI : 10.15126/thesis.00853217
Contributors :
Depositing User : Darren Tunstall
Date Deposited : 03 Jan 2020 15:05
Last Modified : 03 Jan 2020 15:05

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