Acting, Spectating, and the Unconscious : A psychoanalytic perspective on unconscious processes of identification in the theatre book cover
1st Edition

Acting, Spectating, and the Unconscious
A psychoanalytic perspective on unconscious processes of identification in the theatre

ISBN 9781138699243
Published December 5, 2016 by Routledge
144 Pages

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USD $190.00

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Book Description

From Aristotle’s theory of tragic katharsis onwards, theorists of the theatre have long engaged with the question of what spectatorship entails. This question has, directly or indirectly, often been extended to the investigation of acting.

Acting, Spectating, and the Unconscious approaches the unconscious aspects of spectatorship and acting afresh. Interweaving psychoanalytic descriptions of processes such as transference, unconscious phantasy, and alpha-function with an in-depth survey of theories of spectating and acting from thinkers such as Brecht, Diderot, Rousseau and Plato, Maria Grazia Turri offers a significant insight into the emotions inherent in both the art of the actor, and the spectator’s experience.

A compelling investigation of the unconscious communication between spectators and actors, this volume is a must-read for students and scholars fascinated by theatre spectatorship.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Theorizing Theatre Spectatorship

Starting with Brecht

The epic theatre

Spectatorship, emotions and the unconscious

Spectatorship and psychoanalysis

The significance of the unconscious to psychic life

Psychoanalysis in context

A psychoanalytic perspective of theatre spectatorship

Chapter 2. Transference and Katharsis, Freud to Aristotle


Aristotle’s theory of mimēsis and tragic katharsis

Pity and fear

Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis from the cathartic method to the transference

Transference re-enactment and transference analysis

Repetition-compulsion – beyond the pleasure principle

An interpretation of tragic katharsis as transference dynamic

Tragic katharsis as transference dynamic

Chapter 3 – The Paradoxe inside out


The Paradoxe of the actor

The Paradoxe analysed

About David Garrick

Dual consciousness and the psychology of acting

Diderot’s ideas on acting preceding the Paradoxe

Chapter 4 – The emotionalist theory of acting


Genetic and trans-European links

The Emotionalist Texts on Acting

Le Comédien

The Actor

Garrick ou les acteurs anglois

A New Theory of Acting

Chapter 5 – Unconscious emotional processing in alpha-function

Freud’s theory of ego functioning

From the psychology of impulse to the psychology of the ego

The relationship between the ego, the id, and reality

Identification through introjection and projection

Kleinian theory of object-relations

Projection and introjection

Ego-splitting and integration

The birth of the self

Bion’s theory of alpha-function

Projective identification


The double nature of alpha-function

Chapter 6 – Acting and spectating in alpha-function

The art of the actor as alpha-function

The relationship between sensibility and understanding in the art of the actor

The spectator and the transpersonal dimension of acting

The severing of transpersonal alpha-function

Diderot’s unfeeling actor and the manic position

The envious spectator

Brecht’s ‘Verfremdungseffekt’ and autonomous alpha-function

Semiotics and the double game of the actor

Unconscious emotional processes of theatre spectatorship

Theatre for pleasure or theatre for instruction

Theatre spectatorship, emotions and pleasure

Theatre, empathy and sympathy

Semiotics and theatre’s feedback loop

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Maria Grazia Turri is a Lecturer at Queen Mary University of London and the co-director of the MSc Creative Arts and Mental Health. She is a critical psychiatrist, psychoanalytic psychotherapist and theatre scholar. She obtained her PhD in Drama at Exeter University in 2015. In her research, she applies psychoanalysis to the study of unconscious theatre processes.