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Marc Hye-Knudsen

In 1964, near the height of Cold War nuclear anxiety, millions of Americans flocked to movie theatres to see their own nuclear annihilation hilariously enacted for them in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove. How did Kubrick transform one of his time’s most pressing causes of psychological distress into a source of humorous pleasure? To answer this question, I offer a cognitive account of how comic distance works on film, building on research indicating humor to be an evolved response to benign violations. I show that Kubrick consistently optimized for psychological distance in Dr. Strangelove, comparing his narrative and stylistic choices to those of Sidney Lumet in Fail Safe, a contemporaneous film that plays the same essential story for drama instead of laughs.

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Lu Yang

An Artist in Transformation

Ari Heinrich, Livia Monnet, and Gabriel Remy-Handfield

Lu Yang (陆扬, 1984) is a critically acclaimed new media artist and rising star based in Shanghai, China, who works across film, games, performance, and installation. His work has been exhibited at numerous biennales and exhibitions in China and around the world, including the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022. He has collaborated on videos with high-profile rock bands like The 1975, and one of his videos featured in a 2020 fashion show of the Chinese sportswear company Li-Ning.1 Lu Yang has also won prestigious awards, including the BMW Art Journey Culture award in 2019, and Deutsche Bank’s Artist of the Year award in 2022, and the artist was anthologized in Barbara London’s critical history of video and the digital arts, Video Art: The First Fifty Years (2020), as well as in Dominique Moulon’s Chefs d’oeuvre du 21e siècle : l’art à l’ère digitale (Masterworks of the 21st Century: Art in the Digital Era, 2021). In contemporary art and popular culture, Lu Yang is clearly a force to be reckoned with.

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Andrea Waling and Jennifer Power

It was difficult to determine the right cover for this special issue. The purpose of the issue was to encourage new ways of thinking about the phallus, and the aim was to find an image that did just this—ask people to wonder what the image is telling us. What does it represent? What is the story? It is perhaps ironic that the image we found most appealing is a device designed to prevent a penis from functioning. In the late nineteenth century, masturbation was believed to cause mental illness, and solo ejaculation was considered a form of sexual dysfunction, and this is one example of many, often brutal, devices created to physically prevent erections and masturbation. Sitting over modern blue jeans, however, the image is erotic and evokes BDSM or kink culture. The old and the new, repression and eroticism, are one and the same.

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Dramatic Irony

A Case Study in the Mutual Benefit of Combining Social Neuroscience with Film Theory

Cynthia Cabañas, Atsushi Senju, and Tim J. Smith

Abstract

How do we understand the experiences of characters in a movie? Similar to real life, viewers attribute mental states to characters through a process known as Theory of Mind (ToM). Filmmakers commonly use Dramatic Irony, a narrative device where the audience knows something that at least one characters does not. From a social neuroscience perspective, understanding the cognitive mechanisms that underlie dramatic irony can provide a remarkable opportunity to study ToM in a more ecologically relevant context. While descriptive narrative theories of dramatic irony exist, these have never been studied in relation to contemporary social neuroscience. In this opinion piece, we aim to bring together these two traditionally isolated disciplines to propose a cross-disciplinary research roadmap for investigating the social neuroscience of dramatic irony in cinema.

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Masculinity, Sex, and Dicks

New Understandings of the Phallus

Andrea Waling and Jennifer Power

This special issue brings together interdisciplinary work exploring the relationship between bodies, masculinity, and the penis or phallus. The symbolism, significance, and meaning of the phallus or penis has varied historically and across disciplines. In the psychoanalytic tradition, “the subject…can only assume its identity through the adoption of a sexed identity, and the subject can only take up a sexed identity with reference to the phallus, for ‘the phallus is the privileged signifier’” (Segal 2007: 85). Jacques Lacan’s work has inspired feminist critiques of “phallocentrism” in high and popular cultural texts since the 1970s (Segal 2007). Elizabeth Stephens (2007) describes the ancient Greek ideal of small penises as indexing self-control and rationality, while the Romans celebrated virility and power, which they associated with a large penis. Other scholarship has explored the racialization of penis size, such as the stereotype of Black men as possessing large penises, indexing hypersexuality and often depicted in racist terms as representing aggression or lack of civility (Lehman 2006).

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Vittorio Gallese and Michele Guerra

Abstract

In the last decades, the contribution of cognitive neuroscience to film studies has been invested in at least three different lines of research. The first one has to do with film theory and history: the new attention, inspired by cognitive neuroscience, to the viewer's brain-body, the sensorimotor basis of film cognition, and the forms of embodied simulation elicited by the cinematic experience has stimulated a profound rethinking of a relevant part of the theoretical discourse on cinema, from the very beginning of the twentieth century to the most recent reflections within cognitive film studies and the phenomenology of film. The second line has to do with the intersubjective relationship between the movie—its style, rhythm, characters, and narrative—and the viewer, and it is characterized by an empirical approach that yields very interesting results, useful for rethinking and problematizing our ideas about editing, camera movements, and film reception. The third line concerns a possible experimental approach to the new life of film, focusing on the digital image, the innovative forms of technological mediation, and the inscription of a new film spectatorship within a completely different medial frame. The goal of this special issue is to offer insights across these lines of research.

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Toward a Politics of “Raw Dicks”

Authenticity, the Alt-Self, and New Understandings of the Phallus

Chris Ashford and Gareth Longstaff

Law arguably shapes contemporary culture and phallic politics. In England and Wales, like much of the Global North, the second half of the twentieth century and early twenty-first century saw a general shift from a criminal legal framework that understood sexuality as sexual acts to a civil law framework that seeks to privilege institutions - notably marriage - and lifestyle as signifiers of sexuality. This article contributes to legal and cultural understandings of the phallus, specifically the “raw dick,” as key to understanding the self-representational spaces of “authentic” and “alt” selves on social media. It situates the “raw dick” as the locus of this cultural, legal, and social exchange in which the legal outlaw of male phallic desire has been incorporated into queer citizenship. We argue that the aesthetics of the alt-self provides us with new and important ways to understand the phallus and its relationship to sex and sexuality.

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Editor's Introduction

Screening Transgression

Andrew J. Ball

The final issue of Screen Bodies Volume 6 offers readers an ideal combination of the diverse kinds of work we feature, from a macroscopic theory that proposes a new discipline, to a set of articles that rigorously examine a small number of artworks with respect to a shared topic, to a piece of curatorial criticism on a recent media arts exhibition. The articles collected here offer a fitting cross section of the topics and media we cover, discussing such varied subjects as prehistoric art, Pink Film, artificial intelligence, and video art.

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Phillip Joy

This image, Challenging Masculine Constructs by Oliver, is part of a photovoice project (see the article by Phillip Joy, Matthew Numer, Sara F. L. Kirk, and Megan Aston, Embracing a New Day: Exploring the Connections of Culture, Masculinities, Bodies, and Health for Gay Men through Photovoice, this issue) that explored the way culture and society shape the beliefs, values, and practices about food and bodies for gay men. Taken by the participant, this image is his way to challenge what he believes are limiting gender ideas for men and how masculine bodies should be dressed and presented to others. He disrupts these social constructs by dressing and presenting his body in ways he believed moved beyond typical masculine notions and by doing so reveals alternative gender expressions and new possibilities of living.

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Jonathan A. Allan, Chris Haywood, and Frank G. Karioris

We are delighted to introduce the second issue of volume 2. We are beginning to see a pattern in the various submissions that we receive for the journal. While the editors have backgrounds in Literary Studies, Sociology, and Anthropology, the journal has appealed to the traditional social sciences and has reached out and connected to other disciplines, such as Art, Film Studies, Historical Studies, and Literary Studies. The journal is therefore beginning to see the making sense of gender and sexuality, moving beyond the established and perhaps somewhat hegemonic disciplinary focus on sociology and psychology. It is also important to keep in mind that when we say “social sciences,” we are talking about not only a range of different disciplines, but also heterogeneous approaches within those disciplines. For example, a journal recently advised an author that they would only accept qualitative research papers if the minimal sample was 35. Although the logic and explanation for this number in terms of saturation of themes and rigor of analysis appeals to themes of validity and reliability (although why 35 and not 36 or 34 remains unexplained), the idea of research on gender and sexuality as being framed through the scientific method still endures. This is not to say that we need to abandon approaches that aspire to the scientific method. On the contrary, such approaches are important, often providing systematic mapping and documenting of gendered and sexual processes and practices. By being grounded in the possibilities that the existing epistemologies are able to deliver, they provide an internal logic of certainty and a feeling of confidence. However, the criteria of validity and reliability in themselves limit what can or cannot be captured. This is part of the reason why we welcome submissions from the Arts and Humanities, as much as we do submissions from all other disciplines: we argue that they are able to open up and explore gender and sexuality differently. We are hopeful that we can develop the journal further to facilitate a platform to share a wide range of driven disciplinary perspectives and support a range of epistemologies.