About the Book
The argument that this collection participates in a paradigm shift was expressed clearly and repeatedly in both the book's abstract and its introduction. If this shift is indeed happening in the humanities and arts, then it would be happening in the field of rhetoric, too. As such, this collection of essays stands to give us insight into our own shifting paradigms. But does it? Does this collection of essays, mostly coming from theater and performance scholars, reveal a current paradigm shift? And if so, what can this book teach us about shifting trends in rhetoric?
It is important to note that, within this collection, the term performance related specifically to the act of performing a character. However, the book discussed this process of performing a character in several other, rhetorical, ways. D.W. Zaidel, for example, described performance as a "temporary assuming of the other," as a process of "symbolic interaction," as well as a process of "symbolic self-transformation" (p. 12). Already in the book this idea of performance had begun to look rhetorical.
While most of the book was broken down into four parts, the first chapter, titled "Consciousness and the Brain: A Window to the Mind," stood alone. Written by Zaidel, a neuroscientist and neuropathologist, this chapter framed the rest of the collection with a neurological perspective of consciousness and of theater. Zaidel described performance as a complex process that requires "highly functioning frontal lobes" (p. 19). She also explained that, unlike controlled speech—which is housed mostly in the left side of the brain—the process of performing is actually "under the control of separate [neurological] pathways and localized neuronal processes" (p. 21).
Overall, this chapter demonstrated that performing a character is a cognitively demanding and complex neurological process, thus establishing performance as a cognitively credible process.
Even this first chapter provided useful insights for the field of rhetoric. For example, this chapter looked at the physical reality of the brain during performance, and, as such, accounted for the physical body during performance. Incorporating physical science into this collection made its attention to embodiment concrete. Many scholars in rhetoric discuss issues of embodiment—this collection is an example of how incorporating the knowledge of other disciplines, such as the physical and natural sciences, can help us to discuss the physical reality of bodies in our work. But perhaps the most useful thing this chapter has to offer rhetoric is the idea that engaging in movement and verbalization simultaneously may impact the brain more than engaging in verbalization alone.
Following this chapter, the remaining chapters are organized into four sections:
- Part 1: Pedagogy of Performance Training
- Part 2: Eastern Influences on Western Performance Training Technologies
- Part 3: Reception and Reflection in Contemporary Performance
- Part 4: Theorizing the Consciousness of Postmodern Performance