Overall, I found this collection to be innovative, compelling, and insightful.
One of the major strengths of this book is its interdisciplinarity. While many of the contributors are currently involved in theater and performance departments, the contributors section was dotted with degrees in English, philosophy, public relations, and even neuroscience. As such, this collection spoke to many different disciplines, rhetoric included. Just by looking through the table of contents we see words such as pedagogy, practice, consciousness, contemplative, aesthetic, collective, biopolitics, public performance, reception, and the self. Theorists such as Foucault, Derrida, Butler, and Heidegger were also discussed in various sections. Theater’s ability to connect to so many different disciplines doesn’t necessarily reveal that a paradigm shift towards the performative is occurring in the liberal arts and humanities, but it does reveal that such a shift could very well be possible.
This collection not only spoke to conversations in the humanities and liberal arts, it also spoke to current conversations in the humanities and liberal arts. Many universities and colleges have goals of increasing global awareness and incorporating viewpoints from other cultures into our classrooms—this collection included a whole section on Eastern influences. Digital humanities and feminist studies often emphasize issues of embodiment and the collective—both concepts explored at length in this collection. Interdisciplinarity itself is a pretty current trend in academia—again, something featured in this collection. Of course, some conversations that have been around for a while were invoked in this collection as well, such as the concept of the self, the concept of the other, symbolic expression, and of course, some of the theorists mentioned.
However, it is the concepts of consciousness and symbolizing that really act as a bridge between this collection and rhetoric. This book framed performance as something that reflects, impacts, and is impacted by consciousness, as something that requires multiple levels of consciousness to be engaged at once, and as something that allows us to symbolically interact with embodied experience, with the other, and with ourselves.
One of the most impressive aspects of this collection is how it gave body to many of the concepts it discussed. For example, consciousness was not only theorized, it was discussed in physical, neurological terms, drawing attention to the actual embodied reality of consciousness. It discussed—explicitly—the dangers of viewing the body as a "concept" and instead argued that we discuss it as "content" (Calchi-Novati, p. 133). This collection successfully accomplished that: It discussed the body as content. In fact, I think this collection provided us with useful examples of what it means to really incorporate bodies and issues of embodiment into writing—and we might have to get a little interdisciplinary to follow suit. In the end, if this book is any indicator of what a shift towards the performative would be like, I say bring it on.