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Beyond the Individual Body

Spinoza's Radical Enactivism and You Were Never Really Here

Francesco Sticchi

Since the emergence of embodied cognitive theories, there has been an ever-growing interest in the application of these theories to media studies, generating a large number of analyses focusing on the affective and intellectual features of viewers’ participation. The body of the viewer has become the central object of study for film and media scholars, who examine the conceptual physicality of the viewing experience by associating body states with parallel intellectual and moral constructions. In this article, I contribute to the study of embodied cognition and cinema by drawing upon Baruch Spinoza’s philosophy, especially from his process-based notion of the body. I will put this ecological and dynamic concept of the body in connection with recent studies on enactive cognition, and define a radical enactivist approach to be applied in the discussion of the experiential dynamics of Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here.

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Gianni Barchiesi, Laura T. Di Summa, Joseph G. Kickasola and Peter Verstraten

Paul Taberham, Lessons in Perception: The Avant-Garde Filmmaker as Practical Psychologist (New York: Berghahn Books, 2018), xii + 214 pp., $120 (hardback), ISBN: 978-1-78533-641-6. [Also available for free under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license with support from Knowledge Unlatched, ISBN: 978-1-78533-642-3].

Catalin Brylla and Mette Kramer, eds., Cognitive Theory and Documentary Film (London: Palgrave McMillan, 2019), xxi + 343 pp., $119.99 (hardback), ISBN: 9783319903316.

Julian Hanich, The Audience Effect: On the Collective Cinema Experience (Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press, 2019), 256 pp., $29.95 (paperback), ISBN: 9781474431774.

Frank Hakemulder, Moniek M. Kuijpers, Ed S. Tan, Katalin Bálint and Miruna M. Doicaru, ed. Narrative Absorption (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2017), 319 pp., $149.00 (hardback), ISBN: 9789027234162.

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Alan Voodla, Elen Lotman, Martin Kolnes, Richard Naar and Andero Uusberg

Do cinematographic lighting techniques affect film viewers’ empathic reactions? We investigated the effect of high- and low-contrast lighting on affective empathy toward depicted actors. Forty one participants watched short clips of professional actors expressing happiness, anger, and disgust, and rated the valence and intensity of their own and actors’ emotional states. Affective empathy was assessed through the extent of the facial mimicry of actors’ emotional expressions and quantified through electromyographic activation of expression-specific facial muscles. We managed to elicit facial mimicry for happiness and anger, but not for disgust. High-contrast lighting further amplified empathic mimicry for happy but not for angry expressions. High-contrast lighting also amplified subjective feelings elicited by angry and disgusted but not happy expressions. We conclude that high-contrast lighting can be an effective means for influencing film viewers’ empathic reactions through the low road to empathy, even as the overall impact of lighting also relies on the high road to empathy.

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Ted Nannicelli

Welcome to our second three-issue volume of Projections. As with the first issue of the previous volume, I would like to acknowledge everyone who served as a referee for Projections last year. A list of their names follows below. I would also like to emphasize my gratitude for the outstanding work that associate editors Tim Smith and Aaron Taylor have been doing to make the review and production processes seamless.

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Jonathan Frome

Over the last thirty years, Noël Carroll has elaborated his theory of erotetic narration, which holds that most films have a narrative structure in which early scenes raise questions and later scenes answer them. Carroll’s prolific publishing about this theory and his expansion of the theory to issues such as audience engagement, narrative closure, and film genre have bolstered its profile, but, despite its high visibility in the field, virtually no other scholars have either criticized or built upon the theory. This article uses Carroll’s own criteria for evaluating film theories—evidentiary support, falsifiability, and explanatory power—to argue that erotetic theory’s strange position in the field is due to its intuitive examples and equivocal descriptions, which make the theory appear highly plausible even though it is ultimately indefensible.

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Héctor J. Pérez

This article explores the use of the plot twist in screen fictions. This is a largely unexplored area, as interest in this phenomenon has largely focused on the so-called “plot twist movie,” which is an older narrative tradition. In order to explain this aesthetic phenomenon, it draws on the model of surprise originally proposed by the cognitive psychologists Wulf Meyer, Rainer Reisenzein, and Achim Schützwohl. Plot twists are characterized by three distinct but intimately intertwined temporal segments and their corresponding functions, which are explained by this model. The objective of this article is to explore how cognitive-emotional interactions shape the aesthetic viewing experience and to identify how that experience relates to shows’ artistic qualities. Game of Thrones (S01 and S03), Homeland (S01), and Westworld (S01) will be used as test cases. In each of the three plot segments, there are specific processes that distinguish the experience of surprise as an aesthetic phenomenon.

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Christopher Blake Evernden, Cynthia A. Freeland, Thomas Schatz and Frank P. Tomasulo

Rikke Schubart, Mastering Fear: Women, Emotions, and Contemporary Horror (New York: Bloomsbury, 2018), 384 pp., $117 (hardback), ISBN: 9781501336713.

Xavier Aldana Reyes, Horror Film and Affect: Towards a Corporeal Model of Viewership (New York: Routledge, 2016), xii + 206 pp., $49.95 (paperback), ISBN: 9781138599611.

David Bordwell, Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017), 592 pp., $30.00 (paperback), ISBN: 9780226639550.

Todd Berliner, Hollywood Aesthetic: Pleasure in American Cinema (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 320 pp., $39.95 (paperback), ISBN: 9780190658755.

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Designing a New Method of Studying Feature-Length Films

An Empirical Study and its Critical Analysis

Jose Cañas-Bajo, Teresa Cañas-Bajo, Eleni Berki, Juri-Petri Valtanen and Pertti Saariluoma

Measuring viewers’ experiences of films has become a critical issue for filmmakers because all kinds of audiences now have access to new releases from all over the world. Some approaches have focused on the cognitive level of the experience, while others have emphasized the structure of films. Additionally, some have used quantitative objective methods to examine audience reactions to short film sequences, while others have applied qualitative approaches to study feature-length films. However, an integrated method that combines the features of these approaches is needed. In this article, we describe a new method that combines quantitative and qualitative data to study viewers’ experiences of different structural features of films. This method involves an online subjective response mechanism that can be used to capture and measure the experiences of different target audiences as they watch movies of different lengths.

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Carl Plantinga

This article is a discussion of and rejoinder to the comments of three respondents on my book, Screen Stories: Emotion and the Ethics of Engagement. Jane Stadler argues that the book would profit from more attention to the “temporal prolongation” made possible by multi-episode television, especially as it relates to the nature of character engagement. While I have reservations about the notion of medium specificity in relation to television and film (and thus prefer the term “screen stories”), I agree that temporal prolongation in relation to an ethics of screen stories is a vital topic. Malcolm Turvey argues that Screen Stories promotes moral intuition and emotion at the expense of moral reasoning and that an ethics of engagement should pay equal attention to reasoning. In my response, I enumerate four reasons why, despite my belief in the importance of reasoning, I focus on emotion and intuition. I do agree that, once we can decide just what moral reasoning is, it should become a focus of an ethics of engagement. Cynthia Freeland focuses her remarks on various aspects of the third part of my book, “The Contours of Engagement,” in which I examine how the features of screen stories can lead to viewer experiences with ethical implications. In response, I discuss three issues: medium specificity once more, the supposed tension between conceptions of the active and passive spectator, and the psychological underpinnings of various sorts of character engagement.

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Carl Plantinga

In this overview and discussion of my recent book, I outline its major topics and arguments and ruminate on its purpose, its implications, and possible objections to the very idea of an ethics of screen stories. Screen stories are narratives that appear on screens, and in this book I focus on long-form screen stories. The book has three parts. Part I develops a theory of the persuasive or rhetorical power of screen stories. Part 2 argues that while one dominant response to that power in film and media studies has been what I call “estrangement theory,” it is in fact an “engagement theory” that offers more promise for the development of an ethics of screen storytelling. Part 3 examines some of the contours of engagement, or, in other words, some of the means by which screen stories engage the viewer in ethical thinking and moral persuasion. There, I focus on character engagement, narrative structure (and especially endings), and narrative paradigm scenarios.