Sandström, Karoliina (2013) Self and No-Self: An examination of the role of ideas about the self in actor training. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This thesis examines the notions of self and no-self, specifically in light of the actor’s
experience and manner of engagement in actor training. Arguing that the actor’s
assumptions and beliefs regarding self affect embodiment and engagement in training, the
thesis highlights the importance of considering these notions, and proposes some practical
explorations. Training experiences in theatrical biomechanics and the work of Nicolás Núñez
are reflected upon as practical references for the investigation.

The lack of a fixed ongoing self in experience is identified as a key stance in considerations
within philosophy, psychology and neuroscience, and the consequences, for the actor, of
conceiving an independent, on-going self as existing in experience are suggested to lead to
a perceived dualism that is at times considered to interfere in the actor’s work. The thesis
suggests an understanding of self as a ‘myth’ created through ‘storytelling,’
conceptualisation and embodied metaphor, and as a process of neurological mapping as
argued by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Antonio Damasio, Louis Hoffman and others.

For considering the notion of no-self and the actor’s potential for operating without a sense
of personal identity, the thesis draws on the no-self theory of Buddhism and ‘attunement’
and the ‘self-cultivation’ model proposed by Nagatomo Shigenori and Yuasa Yasuo. Drawing
on no-self theory, the questions regarding dualism in the actor’s experience, a
transformation of habitual patterns of movement and action, everyday consciousness and
the actor’s manner of engagement in training are examined.

Identifying actor-training as a process of self-exploration and self-definition in the work of
Phillip Zarrilli, Eugenio Barba and others, the thesis argues for the importance of considering
the notions of self and no-self and introduces alternative models for this examination.

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