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The ethics of imagining and the dramaturgy of spectatorship

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This article will address the ethical aspects of imagination and spectating. Since Plato’s denunciation of imagination in The Republic and Aristotle’s judgement in De Anima that ‘imaginings are for the most part false’, the notion of the human imagination has been controversial. In relation to theatrical performance, key issues concern how performance acts on the imagination of the spectator ‐ and what actions of the spectator’s imagination might perform in return. In this article, I will address the ethics of imagination: as an examination of truth and falseness, as an issue of responsibility and choice, as a social imaginary and a narrative imagination that allows one to relate to the other, and finally as an exploration of the embodied basis of imagination, which again involves a questioning of the line between the real and the imaginary. In conclusion, I will take Sarah Kane’s Cleansed and Tim Crouch’s The Author as examples of two plays that explicitly address the ethics of imagining.

Keywords: Sarah Kane; Tim Crouch; dramaturgy; ethics; imagination; spectator

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 0000000419367443University of Bergen

Publication date: December 1, 2020

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  • Performing Ethos is a refereed, interdisciplinary journal which considers ethical questions relating to contemporary theatre and live performance. Global in scope, it provides a unique forum for rigorous scholarship and serious reflection on the ethical dimensions of a wide range of performance practices from the politically and aesthetically radical to the mainstream.
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