Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Thesis


Oral reading; Oral interpretation; Poetry;


This investigation explores the relationship between a neurological model of information processing and a group performance of poetry. It focuses upon three considerations: construction of a neurological model of information processing, application of this model to group performance of poetry, and implications for adaptation of poetry and audience research.

A neurological model of information processing is constructed which explains perception in terms of the specialized functions of the left and right hemispheres. According to this model, certain aspects of the environment (stimuli) are more efficiently processed by each hemisphere: the left dealing largely with verbal material and the right with nonverbal, visual/spatial material. Furthermore, each hemisphere prefers to operate upon, or process, elements of the environment in a particular manner. The left hemisphere processes material in a sequential, linear and analytic fashion, while the right processes material in a simultaneous, holistic, and intuitive fashion. The model offers a summary of neurological research relevant to a discussion of probable hemisphere involvement for an audience experiencing a group performance of poetry.

This model is then applied to the components of group performance of poetry: the poem and its performance. The discussion indicates that although poetry is a linguistic system which contains syntactic order (a left hemisphere element) the language of poetry is such that its richest and most effective processing is realized in the right hemisphere. It is characteristically high in concrete words linked to a perceptual context, rich in imagery, metaphor, and appositional language; and is an evocative, subjective and multifaceted gestalt. Furthermore, performance enhances the right hemisphere elements inherent in poetic expression by giving the audience acoustic manifestations of tone and mood, rhythm and word texture as well as visual/ spatial manifestations of implicit movements. Because the right hemisphere is sensitive to auditory and visual stimuli which express affect (i.e., tone of voice and facial expression), it is involved fully in processing both the poem and its expression through the medium of performance.

Implications for adaptation of a text and for audience research are explored describing the audience experience of a group performance of poetry as a cognitive process, in which the synthesizing characteristics of the right hemisphere are crucial in the act of processing the poem at its most resonant and experiential level. Such a description offers the adapter-director a guide for making decisions in adaptation and staging of a poem. It offers the audience researcher a means of describing audience experience in quantifiable terms, of isolating variables which affect the experience, and a source of research methods and relevant data. The application of the neurological model to the field of oral interpretation in this thesis contributes another dimension to the study and appreciation of performance and the aesthetics of literary experience.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of Theatre


Department of Speech

First Advisor

Phyllis Scott


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Date Original


Object Description

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