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Languages: English
Types: Doctoral thesis
Subjects: PN2000
This thesis examines how mental illness has been represented in British theatre from c. 1960 to the present day. It is particularly concerned with the roles played by space and embodiment in these representations, and what emerges as bodies interact in space. It adopts a mixed methodology, drawing on theoretical models from both continental philosophy and contemporary cognitive and neuroscientific research, in order to address these questions from the broadest possible range of perspectives.\ud The first part of the thesis draws on the work of Michel Foucault and Henri Lefebvre to explore the role of institutional space, and in particular its gendered implications, in staging madness. The second part introduces approaches to the body drawn from the cognitive turn in theatre and performance studies. These are connected to the approaches of the first section through phenomenology’s concern with lived experience. Dan Zahavi and Shaun Gallagher’s work on ‘the phenomenological mind’ provides important context here. In addition, Emmanuel Levinas’s critique of ontology offers a solid basis from which to think about how to act ethically as both a producer of, and an audience member for, representations of mental illness.\ud Through these explorations, this thesis suggests a model of madness, not as something to be bracketed as ‘other’ and belonging to a deviant individual, but as emerging between bodies in space – there is no madness outside of social, spatial and embodied contexts. This in turn suggests a new approach to understanding the role theatre can play in addressing the lived experience of mental illness.\ud While many productions currently attempt, unilaterally, to reduce the ‘stigma’ of mental illness, this thesis suggests that that, in fact, discrimination against people experiencing mental illness is more likely to be reduced through the interaction between an ethically minded production and an ethical spectator. Such a model does not claim to be able to reduce the experience of madness to a totalising concept which can be communicated through theatre, but rather insists that it is only through an embodied, empathic interaction that a true concern for the (‘mad’ or ‘sane’) Other can emerge.
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