Feb. 27: Theatre Circle Presents Dr. Amy E. Cook on King Lear and Cognitive Science

Cook_Staging-nothingStaging Nothing, Staging Science: King Lear and the Theatricality of What is Absent

Being and seeing bodies speak onstage is powerful—it manages to change minds. The seemingly simple ability to watch, understand, appreciate, and be moved by a theatrical production is, in fact, an extraordinary cognitive and biological feat. In this, the final Theatre Circle Lecture of the season, Dr. Amy Cook focuses on the performance of science and the science of performance in Shakespeare’s language, examining how conceptual linguistics illuminates Cordelia’s invocation of “nothing,” in the King Lear’s opening scene and Lear’s desperate attempt to capture some sign of life from his daughter at the play’s end.

Thursday, February 27 | 5:30 pm
Studio Theatre
2nd Floor, Lee Norvelle Theatre & Drama Center
Corner of 7th and Jordan

Dr. Amy Cook, Theatre History, Theory, & Literature


AMY COOK is Associate Professor of Theatre History, Theory, and Literature at Indiana University. She specializes in the intersection of cognitive science (particularly cognitive linguistics, theories of embodied and embedded cognition, and empathy), and theories of performance, theatre history and dramaturgy, early modern drama, and contemporary productions of Shakespeare. Her book, Shakespearean Neuroplay: Reinvigorating the Study of Dramatic Texts and Performance through Cognitive Science, provides a methodology for applying cognitive science to the study of drama and performance. With Shakespeare’s Hamlet as a test subject and the cognitive linguistic theory of conceptual blending as a tool, Cook unravels the “mirror held up to nature” at the center of Shakespeare’s play. She is co-chair, with John Lutterbie, of the Cognitive Science in Theatre and Performance Working Group at the American Society of Theatre Research conference (2010 and 2011).

She was a Mellon Fellow in dramaturgy, directing, and dramatic literature at Emory University in Atlanta, where she was commissioned to write a documentary theatre piece on race at Emory University, presented at the Brave New Works Festival in February of 2009. She received her Ph.D. in Theatre and Drama at University of California, San Diego where she studied with Louis Montrose, Bryan Reynolds, Jim Carmody, Janet Smarr, and cognitive scientists Gilles Fauconnier, Rafael Núñez, and Seana Coulson. She got received her B.A. in theatre directing and psychology (a self-designed individual concentration through the Honors Program) from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Sept. 26: Theatre Circle presents Dr. Alison Calhoun on Molière’s Imaginary Invalid

Courtesy of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France

“‘This Fatal Marriage’: The Critique of Opera in Molière’s Imaginary Invalid”

Molière’s Imaginary Invalid draws a very fine line between fact and fiction, since it not only presents illness and dying as its subject matter, it has gone down in the history of theater as the play during which its dramatist, playing the title role, met his own death. But Molière’s final performance was not just brought about because of bad health. His fame and the future of his comedies were also severely threatened by his once collaborator, turned rival, the opera composer Lully. This talk will look at how the more obvious subject matter of quack doctors and ridiculous medicine doubled as a clever strike at Lully and the rise of opera.

Dr. Alison Calhoun, Department of French & Italian

Dr. Alison Calhoun, Department of French & Italian

Alison Calhoun is Assistant Professor of French in IU’s Department of French and Italian. Her research focuses on the cultural and intellectual history of the Renaissance and extends to the 17th and 18th centuries to study genre, reception (theater), and morality. Her approach is interdisciplinary (philosophy and literature, music and literature) and often fits into the categories of history of the book, reception theory, and genre studies. Her forthcoming book, A Transverse Self: Montaigne and the Lives of the Philosophers, situates Montaigne and Diogenes Laertius in the history of life writing in the Renaissance and Classical Age in France.

In Calhoun’s latest research project, Motion and Emotion in Early Modern French Drama, she explores the reading, staging and stagecraft of composite drama (court ballet, machine plays, comedy-ballets, and opera). With key authors like Balthasar de Beaujoyeulx, Honorat de Bueil de Racan, Honoré D’Urfé, Jean Mairet, Pierre Corneille, Isaac de Benserade and Philippe Quinault, she aims to show that the libretto, parallel to and concurrently with the novel, trained readers not only to imagine greater fictional possibilities than before, but also to feel (sometimes to practice) more diverse emotions.