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The Mind-Body StagePassion and Interaction in the Cartesian Theater$
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R. Darren Gobert

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780804786386

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804786386.001.0001

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Mind-Body Union; or, The Cartesian Ballet

Mind-Body Union; or, The Cartesian Ballet

(p.17) 1 Mind-Body Union; or, The Cartesian Ballet
The Mind-Body Stage

R. Darren Gobert

Stanford University Press

This chapter addresses the poetics of performance that emerges from Descartes's epistolary dialogue with Elisabeth of Bohemia. Elisabeth had pressed Descartes on the inadequacies of dualism, pushing him to the refined positions he takes in Passions of the Soul. Meanwhile, its theoretical ideas find expression in The Birth of Peace, the ballet whose libretto Descartes is said to have written and whose 1649 performance at the court of Queen Christina of Sweden the chapter analyzes. Like Descartes's correspondence with Elisabeth, the ballet restores the body to a place of prominence by demonstrating how it serves as the repository of experience and memory. And if experience (especially emotional experience) reshapes the body, as Descartes showed as early as his mechanistic Treatise on Man, theater like ballet could encourage salutary physical effects by providing joyful experience and building joyful memories.

Keywords:   Descartes, Elisabeth of Bohemia, Passions of the Soul, The Birth of Peace, court ballet, memory, mind-body union, dualism, intersubjectivity, Cartesianism

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