Drama and Intelligence: A Cognitive Theory

Richard Courtney

This work should prove useful to any who are interested in pursuing the relationship between cognition and communications media. Though Courtney remains cognizant that this relationship is fundamental to the development of metaphor, logic, intuition, symbol, and human learning, the book on the whole is focused upon drama, and in a number of ways, this limits its purview.

Courtney's position is developed through addressing each of the above figures of communication, and then wrapping the whole in a theoretical garment woven from the following tenets: (a) cognition is everywhere composed of sense-perceptions, which are (b) combined in various ways to produce mental images. On the basis of these images, (c) patterns of thought emerge, and (d) these patterns allow us to dream, remember, fantasize, live, and imagine. In turn, (e) our thought patterns are transformed into modes of action which are manifest in behaviour. Finally, (f ) the consequences of these actions serve as feedback which informs us as to any number of meanings which could, or have been, related to them. (See pp. 50 ff.).

While Courtney develops the notion of performance in a manner not unlike that made popular by Victor Turner in the 1970s and 1980s, he does not dwell upon it. Instead, our attention is turned toward the significance of drama qua communications media as the basis of the transformation of elements of discourse into cognitive tools cum symbols. In demonstrating this, Courtney insists that figures of communication (i.e., allegory, sign, metaphor, metonymy, etc.) are externalized through dramatic action in such manner that each may be transformed into a cognitive symbol. Drama is thus, like any other communication medium, socially constructed. Hence for Courtney, drama is social activity and social activity is drama, whereby each embodies representations of the other. This recursive formation is propounded through a discussion of a number of axioms concerning the relationship between cognition and dramatic action, and he concludes the work by bringing these insights home to the more general discussion of the role of drama in the formation of character, intelligence, and behaviour.

While Drama and Intelligence fairly may be seen as a well-organized and penetrating discussion of drama as communication, it stops short in at least one respect. Courtney seems more concerned, initially, with defending drama, and later with privileging it, which stands over and against comprehending the art as a medium of communication among others. He thereby misses a more general view of the relationship between media and cognition. This latter area has been the topic of heated debate in recent years, especially in the computer journals, but as well in Cognition. Because of this limitation, Drama and Intelligence remains interesting to students of communication only as another instance of the relationship between thought, behaviour, and communication, thence leaving it to someone else to probe and assemble the overarching theoretical relationship between mind and media.



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