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date: 22 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter investigates scientists’ attempts to understand the workings of the mind through an exploration of mimicry, the near-universal urge to imitate, which has natural affinities with the stage. It explores the relationship between the scientific interest in mimicry during 1890‒1914 and the practices and problems of theatre, showing how scientific experimentation and theatrical performance mutually informed one another. At this time, psychologists ventured forth from their laboratories into music halls, circuses, and other theatrical venues, interviewed actors, and adopted performance techniques in their own experiments, while theatre itself was assimilating and reflecting scientific ideas about the processes of mind and thought. Tracing the connections running back and forth between theatre and scientific psychology at the fin de siècle, it is argued that, despite increased codification and professionalization, the sciences of mind remained embedded in their wider cultural context.

Keywords: psychology, mimicry, theatre, performance, James Sully, William James

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