Studies in Learning, Evaluation, Innovation and Development > Vol. 8, No. 2 (2011)

Oh brave new age: the rhetoric of holistic actor training

Ian Gaskell, School of Creative and Performing Arts, CQUniversity Australia


Attempts to describe the ineffable mystery that lies at the heart of the acting experience are invariably metaphoric. In addition to its figurative and cognitive functions, metaphor also operates as a form of rhetoric. Much of the rhetoric applied to acting theory and practice is an attempt to address (and rectify) the acknowledged dual consciousness that constitutes the central subjective experience of the actor. Whether these metaphoric explanations are ‘neuroscientific’ or ‘mystical’ they work to re-introduce ‘wholeness’ to the acting process. As a form of tropological argument, metaphor can serve as a form of constitutive rhetoric creating a discourse community of shared language and beliefs. This community is a ‘rhetorical audience’ called into being through language, which, in the process of addressing it, actually constructs it. The phenomenon of ‘self-help’ books, particularly those based on New Age philosophies, serves as a model for this kind of rhetoric.

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