“Mind the Gap”

Between Movies and Mind, Affective Neuroscience, and the Philosophy of Film

in Projections
Author: Jane Stadler1
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  • 1 Swinburne University jstadler@swin.edu.au
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Murray Smith’s Film, Art, and the Third Culture makes a significant contribution to cognitive film theory and philosophical aesthetics, expanding the conceptual tools of film analysis to include perspectives from neuroscience and evolutionary psychology. Smith probes assumptions about how cinema affects spectators by examining aspects of experience and neurophysiological responses that are unavailable to conscious, systematic reflection. This article interrogates Smith’s account of emotion, empathy, and imagination in cinematic representation and film spectatorship, placing his work in dialogue with other recent interventions in the fields of cinema studies and embodied cognition. Smith’s contribution to understanding the role of emotion in screen studies is vital, and when read in conjunction with recent publications by Carl Plantinga and Mark Johnson on ethical engagement and the moral imagination, this new work constitutes a notable advance in film theory.

Contributor Notes

Jane Stadler is Professor of Film and Media Studies and Chair of the Department of Media and Communication at Swinburne University, Australia. She led a collaborative Australian Research Council research project about landscape and location in Australian cinema, literature, and theater (2011–2014) and coauthored Imagined Landscapes: Geovisualizing Australian Spatial Narratives (2016). She is the author of Pulling Focus: Intersubjective Experience, Narrative Film and Ethics (2008) and coauthor of Screen Media (2009) and Media and Society (2016). Her current research interests include visceral cinema, phenomenological and philosophical approaches to screen aesthetics, ethics, imagination and spectatorship, and neurocinematic studies of audience responses. Email: jstadler@swin.edu.au


The Journal for Movies and Mind

  • Gallese, Vittorio. 2016. “Finding the Body in the Brain: From Simulation Theory to Embodied Simulation.” In Goldman and His Critics, ed. Brian P. McLaughlin and Hilary Kornblith, 297317. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.

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  • Johnson, Mark. 2017. Embodied Mind, Meaning, and Reason: How Our Bodies Give Rise to Understanding. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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  • Johnson, Mark. 2018. The Aesthetics of Meaning and Thought: The Bodily Roots of Philosophy, Science, Morality, and Art. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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  • Nussbaum, Martha. 1990. Love’s Knowledge: Essays on Philosophy and Literature. New York: Oxford University Press.

  • Plantinga, Carl. 2018. Screen Stories: Emotion and the Ethics of Engagement. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Smith, Murray. 1995. Engaging Characters: Fiction, Emotion, and the Cinema. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

  • Smith, Murray. 2017. Film, Art, and the Third Culture: A Naturalized Aesthetics of Film. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Sobchack, Vivian. 1992. Address of the Eye: A Phenomenology of Film Experience. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


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