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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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Cartesian Plots, Dramatic Theory, and Emotional Wonder

Cartesian Plots, Dramatic Theory, and Emotional Wonder

Chapter:
(p.48) 2 Cartesian Plots, Dramatic Theory, and Emotional Wonder
Source:
The Mind-Body Stage
Author(s):

R. Darren Gobert

Publisher:
Stanford University Press
DOI:10.11126/stanford/9780804786386.003.0003

This chapter concerns playwriting and dramatic theory after Descartes. It demonstrates how the much-discussed problem of dramatic catharsis originates in an incommensurability produced by Cartesianism, since the universal experience of pity and fear theorized by Aristotle cannot be reconciled with an audience of individualized subjects. Pierre Corneille responded to this incommensurability in Nicomède, whose script is analyzed alongside two of its performances: at the Hôtel de Bourgogne in 1651, and at the Louvre in 1658. Corneille reconfigured tragedy in order to foreground wonder, the precise emotion that Descartes located at the center of his emotional physics and moral philosophy. These Cartesian innovations, theorized in Corneille's copious theoretical writings, were in turn mimicked in English theater and dramatic theory of the period, especially that of John Dryden, whose essays "Of Dramatick Poesy" and "Conquest of Granada" are discussed.

Keywords:   Descartes, Pierre Corneille, Dryden, wonder, admiration, Nicomède, Of Dramatic Poetry, Conquest of Granada, catharsis, dramatic theory

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