The Social Form of Alphabetic Psychology. de Kerckhove’s “Neurocultural Hypothesis” and Theatre

  • Fabrizio Deriu Università di Teramo
Keywords: theater, Greek theater, alphabetic literacy, neurocultural theory, performing arts


Following the studies of Marshall McLuhan and Eric Havelock, Derrick De Kerchkove argues that the invention of theater by the Athenian community between the sixth and fifth centuries BC marks a decisive moment in the formation of Western mind, to be closely connected with the contemporary invention of alphabetic writing. Since attending to the theatrical performance requires attention and behavior characterized by immobility, distance and mental reflection, theater would have contributed to the emergence of modes of perception and participation in social life dependent on the increasing value of eye and sight, while promoting the decline of the oral and tribal ear. Theater was indeed one of the main instruments of what de Kerckhove call “desensorialization” of knowledge and experience. Has the profound transformation of communication media brought to some change? Signals from experimental theater of the second half of the twentieth century seem to suggest a significant change in the status of the performing arts, if not a true reversal. In the context of contemporary communicaton, characterized by virtuality and digital networks, the practice of performing arts (theatre, music, dance) acquires a predominantly opposite value as a potential "accelerator" of “ri-sensorialization” of knowledge.


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Author Biography

Fabrizio Deriu, Università di Teramo

FABRIZIO DERIU (Ph.D. Sapienza University of Rome) is Senior Lecturer in Theatre History and Performance Studies at the University of Teramo, Faculty of Media Studies. He is a member of the board of the Ph.D. Program in “Music and Performing Art”, Sapienza University of Rome. He has previously taught at the University of Calabria, at the Sapienza University of Rome, at the University of Roma Tre, and at the Scuola Nazionale di Cinema in Rome. His main fields of interest are Performance Studies and the History of Actors and Acting in XX Century theatre, film and audiovisual media. Among his publications: Il paradigma teatrale. Teoria della performance e scienze sociali (1988), Gian Maria Volonté. Il lavoro d’attore (1997), Lo schermo e la scena (ed., 1999), Opere e flussi. Osservazioni sullo spettacolo come oggetto di studio (2004); Metropoli e nuovi consumi culturali (ed. with A. Ruggiero, L. Esposito, 2009); Performático. Teoria delle arti dinamiche (2012), Mediologia della performance. Arti performatiche nell’epoca della riproducibilità digitale (2013). He has also translated and edited an anthology of texts by Richard Schechner (Magnitudini della performance, 1999).


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How to Cite
Deriu, F. (2014). The Social Form of Alphabetic Psychology. de Kerckhove’s “Neurocultural Hypothesis” and Theatre. Between, 4(8).
Theoretical Frameworks: Orality, Media, Digital Memory

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