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Screen Stories, Ethics, and Practical Reason

Malcolm Turvey

Abstract

This article questions the priority that Carl Plantinga accords to the viewer's emotions in his theory of the rhetorical power of screen stories, and makes the case that reason, in the sense of practical reasoning, plays just as important a role as emotion in our ethical response to such fictions. Practical reasoning is the form of reasoning concerned with the actions of agents and what they should do in specific situations. The protagonists of screen stories often engage in practical reasoning, articulating and deliberating about the reasons for their actions, and secondary characters around them regularly question their reasons. In this way, these stories prompt us to understand and question their reasons too and thereby to engage in practical reasoning, a species of which is moral reasoning. Screen stories also often stage a confrontation between divergent ethical perspectives and ask audiences to reflect about which one is more morally compelling.

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Engagement, Psychological Fit, and Evolution in Movies on Our Minds

Malcolm Turvey

Abstract

Cutting's quantitative approach to analyzing films enables him to discover many fascinating and important design features of mainstream movies as well as how they have changed over cinema's history. Cutting also proposes plausible psychological explanations for some of these features and changes. However, Cutting places his empirical findings and his psychological explanations of them within a broader account of what he calls the evolution of cinematic engagement. For Cutting, movies have “evolved” to better “fit” our psychological capacities and have therefore become more “absorbing.” While some aspects of this account are plausible, others are less so. In this article, I therefore focus critically on Cutting's use of the concepts of “evolution,” “psychological fit,” and “engagement.”

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Mirror Neurons and Film Studies

A Cautionary Tale from a Serious Pessimist

Malcolm Turvey

Abstract

This article surveys some of the major criticisms of mirror neuron explanations of human behavior within neuroscience and philosophy of mind. It then shows how these criticisms pertain to the recent application of mirror neuron research to account for some of our responses to movies, particularly our empathic response to film characters and our putative simulation of anthropomorphic camera movements. It focuses especially on the “egocentric” conception of the film viewer that mirror neuron research appears to license. In doing so, it develops a position called “serious pessimism” about the potential contribution of neuroscience to the study of film and art by building upon the “moderate pessimism” recently proposed by philosopher David Davies. It also offers some methodological recommendations for how film scholars should engage with the sciences.

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Introduction

Malcolm Turvey

James E. Cutting (S. L. Sage Professor of Psychology Emeritus at Cornell) has made an outsize contribution to the Society for the Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image. Since he first attended the society's yearly conference in 2010 to give the keynote address, titled “Attention, Intensity, and the Evolution of Hollywood Film,” Cutting has presented at every SCSMI conference, often in collaboration with his students, and he was elected a Fellow of SCSMI in 2013. Some of his numerous articles on film have been published in Projections, and his work has become highly influential on our membership. In its integration of film aesthetics and psychology, Cutting's work exemplifies the “consilience” that the founders of SCSMI hoped would occur in bringing together humanistic film scholars and psychologists.

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Introduction

Malcolm Turvey

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In Memoriam: Stephen Prince

(1955–2020)

Carl Plantinga and Malcolm Turvey

Friends and colleagues of Stephen Prince were shocked and saddened to learn of his death at the age of sixty-five on 30 December 2020 in Blacksburg, Virginia, after a brief illness. Steve was a good friend to many, a prolific scholar with a deep love of cinema, a beloved teacher, a trusted and valued colleague, and a generous mentor to younger scholars.

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Book Reviews

Jeffrey M. Zacks, Trevor Ponech, Jane Stadler, and Malcolm Turvey

Gallese, Vittorio, and Michele Guerra. The Empathic Screen: Cinema and Neuroscience. Trans. Frances Anderson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019, 272 pp., $45.00, ISBN: 9780198793533.

Rawls, Christina, Diana Neiva, and Steven S. Gouveia, eds. Philosophy and Film: Bridging Divides. New York: Routledge, 2019, 389 pp., $160 (hardback), ISBN: 978-1-138-35169-1.

Moss-Wellington, Wyatt. Narrative Humanism: Kindness and Complexity in Fiction and Film. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2019, 256 pp., $29.95 (paperback), ISBN: 9781474454322.

Perez, Gilberto. The Eloquent Screen. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2019, 448 pp., $29.95, ISBN: 978-0-8166-4133-8.

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Book Reviews

Malcolm Turvey, Mette Hjort, Julian Hanich, and Christopher T. Gonzalez

ELEGY FOR THEORY by D.N. RODOWICK

Malcolm Turvey

COGNITIVE MEDIA THEORY by TED NANNICELLI AND PAUL TABERHAM (EDS.)

Mette Hjort

THE FORMS OF THE AFFECTS by EUGENIE BRINKEMA

Julian Hanich

MEX-CINÉ: MEXICAN FILMMAKING, PRODUCTION, AND CONSUMPTION IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY by FREDERICK LUIS ALDAMA

Christopher T. Gonzalez

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Scholars Roundtable on Continuity Editing

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