Boltanski’s dilemma: mimetics, distance and spectating suffering

Keefe, John (2021) Boltanski’s dilemma: mimetics, distance and spectating suffering. Performing Ethos: International Journal of Ethics in Theatre & Performance, 11 (1). pp. 3-22. ISSN 1757-1987

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Abstract / Description

Working from the Crucifixion episode or pageant from the York Corpus Christi Play, two questions were asked of the spectator: 1. How do they look at such a theatre (scene) from their own time and culture and experiences? 2. How do we look at such a theatre (scene) from our own time and culture and experiences? A third question may now be asked by following what we may call ‘Boltanski’s dilemma’: what sort of pity can we really feel for an imaginary scene on the stage? This article will revisit the earlier piece (2010) as archive material to develop key themes now encapsulated by Boltanski’s question and challenge. The article will draw on current neuro-cognitive research that challenges and re-grounds our understanding of empathy and projection of self in the embodied mind. This informs the spectatorial experience, the spectator’s ability to see and accept the ‘double reality’ of the theatre and other visual (mimetic) experience, and the issues of ‘moral distance’ represented by Boltanski, Bandura and others. Boltanski’s dilemma confronts us as knowing spectators with the inherent ethical paradox of any and all representations of suffering in any given cultural and social context. The article will draw on case studies from theatre(s), film and art to illustrate and exemplify the position of the spectator: in the spirit of ethos, a series of musings, of questions and signposts as well as arguments.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: complicity; disruption; distance; empathy; knowing spectator; mimetics
Subjects: 700 The arts; fine & decorative arts > 790 Recreational & performing arts
Department: The School of Art, Architecture and Design
SWORD Depositor: Pub Router
Depositing User: Pub Router
Date Deposited: 30 Jun 2023 15:33
Last Modified: 30 Jun 2023 15:33

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