Introduction

By Meyer-Dinkgrafe, Daniel | Studies in the Literary Imagination, Fall 2001 | Go to article overview

Introduction


Meyer-Dinkgrafe, Daniel, Studies in the Literary Imagination


The study of human consciousness has become sufficiently mainstream over the last ten to fifteen years to make two print journals (Consciousness and Cognition and Journal of Consciousness Studies), and numerous books by leading publishers such as OUP and MIT Press, commercially successful. The Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson has led the field with its large biannual conferences (since 1994), and the British Psychological Society has approved new sections in Transpersonal Psychology and Consciousness and Experiential Psychology (each with annual conferences and their own peer-reviewed, though smaller-scale, journals) as late as 1997.

Whereas for a number of years most interdisciplinary research into human consciousness has been predominantly science-based, research into the relationship between consciousness and literature is clearly growing in strength. Thus, at the Tucson conferences, literature and the arts feature on the long list of consciousness-related topics. In 1997, Peter Malekin and Ralph Yarrow, whose ideas also are represented in this collection, published their seminal Consciousness, Literature and Theatre: Theory and Beyond, and, in 1999, the fourth and last issue of the short-lived peer-reviewed journal Performing Arts International was dedicated to Performance and Consciousness. In 2000, a peer-reviewed Web journal, Consciousness, Literature and the Arts, was founded, producing five issues by July 2001. (1)

The eight essays collected in this issue provide a genuine reflection of the range of approaches used by scholars interested in the relation between consciousness and literature (in this particular case, drama). John O'Connor argues that Slavomir Mrozek's 1965 play Tango becomes much more meaningful to us if we read it against the background of Freud's theories, because such a reading allows us to integrate the characters' personal psychologies with the plays' political implications and messages. James Harbeck applies Jung's concepts of the transcendent function broadly to aspects of intercultural theatre, drama, and theatrical performance. Terry Fairchild examines the multiple realities of Pirandello's play Henry IV. He deals with the main character's identity and, closely related, madness; with the concept of masks in the contexts of identity and the relationship of theatre to reality; and with the realm of time and its correlative, history. William S. Haney, II emphasizes the importance of consciousness devoid of content, an area of investigation central to Eastern philosophy in terms of the "pure consciousness event" and "dual mystical state." This dimension is only gradually beginning to emerge in the Western consciousness debate. Haney demonstrates that Beckett's Waiting for Godot and Endgame refine the mediation of what any conscious state feels like to a point of abstraction at which the awareness, if not altogether transcending mediation, verges on the pure consciousness event. Peter Malekin and Ralph Yarrow link this event--"stillness at the base of mind," in their terminology, which they theorize with reference mainly to Plotinus and the Indian Natyashastra--to the role, function, and potential of imagination within the contexts of drama and theatre. …

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