Dr. Petronilla Whitfield’s professional output

Embodied cognition: the affordances offered by the physical, visual and tangible constructs created by some acting students with dyslexia in realization of the written text towards performance at The Embodied Learning Conference at Bathspa University

Conference – Published 19th Oct 19

Title: Embodied cognition:  the affordances offered by the physical, visual and tangible constructs created by some acting students with dyslexia in realization of the written text towards performance

 

This presentation describes a transformative experience (for student and teacher) in the devised performance of a Shakespeare sonnet by David, an acting student with dyslexia.  The presentation describes his breakthrough and unique performance, through his manipulation of handwritten signs, actions and place stations, directly emerging from his interpretation of the words of the text.  Similarly, other dyslexic acting students’physical action sequences are highlighted, working as mnemonic devices in translating the words from their alphabetic form, experienced through their bodies and image schemas. Others create a parallel text through drawing and altering the written paper’s materiality. This presentation considers how these methods reveal and support the dyslexic individuals’ abilities, hidden by their dyslexia, generating processes and innovative performance styles when conventional teaching approaches have accentuated a disability (dyslexia). An analysis of the function of Amelia and Callum’s physical storyboards and Hollie’s drawings are considered through Englekamp’s multimodal enactment theory where word and pictures nodes merge to form a concept, which is embedded in memory through the actions of the body. With regard to circumventing challenges of dyslexia, David’s idiosyncratic performance of the sonnet offers an example of philosopher Andy Clark’s extended mind and cognition theory, where thinking and cognizing do not remain brain bound. There is an extension into the world built on a cycle of perceptuomotor capacities, enlarging the capability of the mind. Clark labels such methods and tools as epistemic artefacts, engineering and actions. In summary, this paper shares the background of the author’s research with her dyslexic acting students, leading to the publication of her book, entitled Teaching Strategies for those with Neurodiversity and Dyslexia in Actor Training: Sensing Shakespeare, published by Routledge this summer (2019).

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