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UNNATURAL NATURE

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An editorial in the New York Times comments upon another attempted solution of the discussion as to whether an actor should try to "feel his part" the solvent is William James's physiological psychology. The James psychology is that there is a strong and inevitable connection between emotion and action or gesture between gesture and emotion: a person cannot feel an emotion without making the appropriate gesture, and he cannot make the gesture without feeling the emotion. This is to be sure almost the same as saying that the argument was decided in favor of an actor's "feeling his part" before it was begun: he cannot help putting himself into the mood: it is inevitable that he be in the mood, feel the emotion, if he goes through the appropriate gestures.

But it is disheartening to discover that this psychology, which has proved true in the situations of undramatized life has been proved inapplicable to the emotions of the stage. The experience of the greatest actors has shown that really sincere emotion has failed to produce a convincing portrayal on the stage. After this evidence it appears logically necessary, in spite of the disappointment to those who believe in progress through the ages to revert to Diderot's paradoxical dogma that art is not nature but nature intensified and sublimated through the medium of the imagination. If our actors can not feel and portray their emotions at the same moment, by all means do away with their feelings: if a man cannot be natural and artistic at the same time, let there be an end of nature. After which, strangely enough art, which is the sublimation of nature will reign supreme, and all is well.

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