Phenomenology and radio drama

British Journal of Aesthetics 45 (2):157-174 (2005)
Abstract
Radio drama is often considered an incomplete or ‘blind’ artform because it creates worlds through sound alone. The charge of incompleteness, I suggest, rests upon the orthodox empiricist conception of sensation as the receipt of separate modalities of sensory impression. However, alternative theories of sensation are offered by phenomenology and—of particular importance to this study—the restructuring of cognition that takes place in these theories plays a central role in phenomenology's account of artistic expression. The significance of this phenomenological link between cognition and expression is that it can provide the basis for a more positive evaluation of the aesthetics of radio drama. From a phenomenological perspective, the alleged ‘incompleteness’ of sound becomes an -exemplary form of the process whereby material elements in an artwork interact with or beckon towards one another to express a world. In this paper, I (i) show how Merleau-Ponty's ‘invitational’ account of the senses meets the charge of ‘blindness’, (ii) -demonstrate how radio drama employs the aesthetic interactions that, from the theoretical standpoints of Merleau-Ponty and Dufrenne, are definitive of expression in art, and (iii) indicate how some of my claims for the aesthetics of radio drama are supported by recent accounts of metaphor in music.
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