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Feeling History: Emotion, Performance, and Meaning-Making in Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company

Nereson, Ariel (2014) Feeling History: Emotion, Performance, and Meaning-Making in Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation examines Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company’s Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Lincoln trilogy (works that deal with explicitly with American historical narratives) in the context of the cognitive science behind such sense-making tools as narrative, metaphor, and causation. Within this cognition-based theoretical framework, making the past meaningful in the present necessarily involves emotional response; making and understanding historical narratives are not simply “objective” endeavors. I argue that BTJ/AZ’s engagement with historical narratives, events, and figures within their choreographies happens through the relationship of emotional response and embodiment, and provides a corporeal route into history that critiques previous formulations of archive, identity, narrative, time, and space that compose historical inquiry. My interest in “feeling history” is in yoking feeling and moving as complementary processes rooted in the materiality of the body that reveal how individuals both create narratives as sense-making tools and find meaning within inherited and reimagined histories. BTJ/AZ’s work manifests transhistorical human conditions of meaning-making that are nonetheless situated in particular spatio-temporalities. Specifically, their emphasis on embodied emotional response as choreographic methodology reflects the biological reality of concepts like mirror neurons, conceptual blending, and empathic concern that interact with cultural sense-making tools that are historically situated (for example, Lincoln’s metaphor of “a house divided”). BTJ/AZ propose a corporeal relationship to history, one of interanimation through embodied cognition. We are moved, literally and figuratively, by the past and, in the archival repertory of BTJ/AZ, we move the past, choreographing historical events and figures into our present so that we might re-route our current paths.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMcConachie, Brucebamcco@pitt.eduBAMCCO
Committee MemberAnderson, Mark Lynnandersml@pitt.eduANDERSML
Committee MemberFavorini, Attiliobucfav@pitt.eduBUCFAV
Committee MemberJackson-Schebetta, Lisalisajsch@pitt.eduLISAJSCH
Date: 29 May 2014
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 25 March 2014
Approval Date: 29 May 2014
Submission Date: 24 April 2014
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 229
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Theater Arts
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Bill T. Jones, cognitive science, modern dance, historiography, Abraham Lincoln
Date Deposited: 29 May 2014 21:55
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:19


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