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Patterns and Possibilities: The Brain, Imagination, and Creative Practice

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Title: Patterns and Possibilities: The Brain, Imagination, and Creative Practice
Author: East, Ronald A.
Department: School of English and Theatre Studies
Program: Theatre Studies
Advisor: Filewod, Alan
Abstract: This thesis investigates a set of theoretical principles concerning the imagination as cognitive function, based on scientific readings in neuroscience, cognitive science, and neurobiology, as well as experiential observations of creative practice pedagogy drawn from theatre training methods employed to develop the practice of creating original work for the theatre. Key to my investigation is acknowledging that the imagination is a function of the brain. Imaginative brain function is defined as an autonomous systemic, interconnected brain system capable of activating to produce specific outcomes enabling the human organism’s fitness for purpose. I contend that there are two interconnecting facets of imaginative functioning referred to as the biological imagination and the existential imagination, both active on a conscious and non-conscious level. From the first facet I focus on one aspect of biological imagining, which I refer to as the tactile imagination. The tactile imagination is that aspect of imaginative brain function associated with the sense of touch, at all levels of experience, here employed to stimulate the generation of original material for a style of performance known as physical theatre. In addition, I argue that creating, as an outcome, is trainable. While each creation engages in its own specific processes, I contend that there are practices common to creating in general. In this thesis I demonstrate that, at its source in the imagination as brain function, there may be certain processes common to most creative endeavors. This embodied analysis posits three imaginative processes – the provision of possibilities, the development of associative patterns, and image composition. Specific connections are posited with memory, emotion, and the senses, in support of embodied theatrical composition, involving a three-stage experiential process of identification, transference, and transformation. This embodied creative process, also engages the existential imagination, associated with consciousness and a sense of self. The engagement of the existential imagination in creative practice is initiated by an altered perceptual state, a cognitive reversal in which conscious cognition supports the imaginative process, initiating discovery and invention. I conclude, that there is experiential and scientific evidence to support a dynamic relationship between this three-function imaginative process and my three-stage creative process, opening up opportunities to develop more comprehensive training techniques for creative practice.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10214/10202
Date: 2016-12
Rights: Attribution 2.5 Canada
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Attribution 2.5 Canada Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as Attribution 2.5 Canada