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Ethical Engagement with Movies

Response to Carl Plantinga's Screen Stories

Cynthia Freeland

In Screen Stories, Carl Plantinga concedes that films have considerable power to manipulate our emotions, attitudes, and even action tendencies. Still, he believes that film viewers do consciously engage in various types of cognition and judgment, and thus he argues that they can resist films’ manipulations. The “engaged critic” he calls for can assist in assessing how films create and convey their moral messages. I raise some questions about the account Plantinga gives of how both character engagement and narrative structures contribute to filmic manipulation. First, I note that there is an unresolved active/passive tension in his picture of film viewers. Second, I suggest that his treatment of narrative paradigm scenarios does not offer a strong enough account of the specifically filmic aspects of screen stories and how they differ from literary stories. And finally, I raise some questions about his ideal of the ethically engaged film critic and the social role to be played by such a critic.

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Cynthia Freeland

The following three talks were originally delivered as part of the “Author Meets Critic” session on Thomas E. Wartenberg’s Thinking on Screen: Film as Philosophy (2007)* at the American Philosophical Association Central Division Meeting in Chicago. The session was sponsored by the Society for the Philosophical Study of the Contemporary Visual Arts on 17 April 2008.

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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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Paul Messaris, Cynthia Freeland, Sheena Rogers, Malcolm Turvey, Greg M. Smith, Daniel T. Levin, Alicia M. Hymel and Tim J. Smith

CONTINUITY AND ITS DISCONTENTS

Paul Messaris

CONTINUITY, NARRATIVE, AND CROSS-MODAL CUING OF ATTENTION

Cynthia Freeland

AUTEUR OF ATTENTION: THE FILMMAKER AS COGNITIVE SCIENTIST

Sheena Rogers

THE CONTINUITY OF NARRATIVE COMPREHENSION

Malcolm Turvey

CONTINUITY IS NOT CONTINUOUS

Greg M. Smith

MAKING THE CASE FOR NONPREDICTIVE CONTINUITY PERCEPTION

Daniel T. Levin and Alicia M. Hymel

EXTENDING ATOCC: A REPLY

Tim J. Smith