Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Faces of the Captives: Aesthetic Distance and Emotional Absorption in Young Children's Engagement with Theatre

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posted on 2021-11-12, 20:20 authored by Swallow, Catherine

When Captain Hook has the lost boys tied up on his ship he cannot recognise that the sparkle on the ‘faces of the captives’ is the thrill of mimesis. It has been suggested that if young children cannot distinguish between reality and illusion then instead of suspending disbelief in the stage world, they will actually believe and therefore experience a dangerous level of emotional absorption.  Using Peter Pan as a frame of reference, this thesis examines responses to three contemporary theatre works, Capital E National Theatre for Children’s Songs of the Sea and Boxes and Scottish company Catherine Wheels’ White to challenge the idea that aesthetic distance provides a necessary protective function. Instead, it will be argued that the imagination, empathy and emotion contagion provide the conditions in which children can capably enter the aesthetic space of fictional worlds on stage.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Master of Arts

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies


Evans, Megan; Tweddle, Bronwyn