Diderot’s body and cognitive science: sensation, impulse and action in performer training

Rea Dennis*, Lisa Lewis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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This essay places Diderot’s materialist philosophy articulated in Paradox of the Actor in the late nineteenth century, alongside emerging thinking from neurobiology. Taking Diderot’s pursuit for the recognition acting as an art as a point of departure, it reflects on the labour of the actor as awareness within multiple cognitions: impulse, sensation and action. The discussion maps various examples including Stanislavsky in the early 1900s through to contemporary more regulated techniques like Susana Bloch’s Alba Emoting method and Phillip Zarrilli’s psychophysical approach. It considers the language of neuroscience in explicating the nuances of technique in acting and proposes that good acting requires a mastery of self at a neural level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalStudies in Theatre and Performance
Early online date29 Dec 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Dec 2016


  • acting and cognitive science
  • actor training
  • Alba Emoting
  • Diderot
  • Neuroscience and acting
  • psychophysical acting
  • Stanislavksy
  • Zarilli


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