Introduction: thinking-feeling our way

Aragay, M., Delgado-García, C. and Middeke, M. (2021) Introduction: thinking-feeling our way. In: Aragay, M., Delgado-García, C. and Middeke, M. (eds.) Affects in 21st-Century British Theatre: Exploring Feeling on Page and Stage. Palgrave Macmillan: Cham, pp. 1-18. ISBN 9783030584856 (doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-58486-3_1)

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From Aristotle and Bharata Muni through Antonin Artaud, Bertolt Brecht and Augusto Boal, to a range of twenty-first-century scholars, there seems to be a widespread agreement that feeling is an essential part of what matters in the theatre. The cultural significance of theatre, Erin Hurley contends, lies in the fact that it performs both “feeling labour”—since it makes, manages and moves feelings—and “feeling work”—since it intervenes in how a society understands its values and, ultimately, itself (2010, 9–10). In this respect, Hurley argues elsewhere, theatre might be seen as a “Public Feeling Project” (2014a, 3). In his introduction to The Palgrave Handbook to Affect Studies and Textual Criticism, Donald R. Wehrs provides a detailed, highly informative genealogy—or, rather, genealogies, in the plural—of the study of the interface between feeling and textual dynamics from “pre-Axial” through “Axial” worldviews to twenty-first-century “post-Axial” perspectives (2017, 1–93). Rather than attempt a similar feat for the study of the relations between feeling and theatre, the aim of this introduction is far more modest. First, a brief overview of how twenty-first-century theatre scholarship has engaged with feelings enables us to delimit and justify this volume’s specific contribution to the field, namely, its focus on playwright’s theatre in the new millennium. This is followed by a succinct critical presentation of what seem to us to be, from the point of view of theatre studies, two particularly relevant strands within the early twenty-first-century “explosion of interest in how texts represent, reflect on, enact, and elicit affect, and in how affect/text dynamics bear on emotions, cognition, aesthetics, and culture’s relation to ethics and politics” (Wehrs 2017, 1). Each in its own way, as will be seen, the twelve chapters in this collection position themselves in relation to both the tensions and the resonances between these two strands. Finally, a brief conclusion draws their various explorations of feelings in/and theatre together around the notion of disturbance as an organising principle.

Item Type:Book Sections (Introduction)
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Delgado-Garcia, Dr Cristina
Authors: Aragay, M., Delgado-García, C., and Middeke, M.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Theatre Film and TV Studies
Publisher:Palgrave Macmillan
Published Online:10 April 2021

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