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Joerg Fingerhut

I will argue that the ambition to provide a naturalized aesthetics of film in Murray Smith’s Film, Art, and the Third Culture is not fully matched by the actual explanatory work done. This is because it converges too much on the emotional engagement with character at the expense of other features of film. I will make three related points to back up my claim. I will argue (1) that Smith does not adequately capture in what ways the phenomenon of seeing-in, introduced early in the book, could explain our complex engagement with moving images; (2) that because of this oversight he also misconstrues the role of the mirror neuron system in our engagement with filmic scenes; and (3) that an account of embodied seeing-in could be a remedy for the above. In order to demonstrate the latter point, I will show how such an account could contribute to the analysis of a central sequence in Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train (1951) that Smith also discusses.

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Psalms 113-118

Qualified Praise?

Jeremy Schonfield

Psalms 113–118, known collectively as ‘Hallel’, are recited by Jews on New Moons and festivals and are thought to have formed part of Temple practice. I outline the historical development of this unit from two psalms to its full complement of six. Although its rabbinic title suggests that it expresses praise, other more complex associations of the word are explored in the context of reviewing the underlining ‘narrative’ traced by the texts. This spans episodes from patriarchal times to exile, ending with the eventual messianic advent. I propose here that the practice of occasionally abbreviating two of the psalms reflects sympathy for the Egyptian foe, based on rabbinic views concerning the sanctity of human life.

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Selective Empathy

Workers, Colonial Subjects, and the Affective Politics of French Romantic Socialism

Naomi J. Andrews

During the 1830s and 1840s, romantic socialists in France wrote about three subjugated groups in the French empire: metropolitan workers, slaves in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean colonies, and Algerian civilians. Although these three groups ostensibly shared similar conditions of deprivation and violent treatment at the hands of the French state, socialists depicted them in importantly different terms, with the effect of humanizing workers and slaves, while dehumanizing the Algerians suffering French conquest and colonization. This article explores these presentations and examines the way they worked together to champion the socialist priority, the emergent working classes of the July Monarchy, and to indirectly endorse the settler colonial project in Algeria.

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Whitewashing History

Pinker’s (Mis)Representation of the Enlightenment and Violence

Philip Dwyer

In Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature, there is a before and an after. Before the Enlightenment, the world was superstitious, cruel, and violent; after the Enlightenment, the world was rational and more peaceful. Pinker thus reduces violence to a fairly simplistic concept: all violence can be equated with irrationality, unreason, and ignorance. History is never as straightforward as Pinker would have his readers believe, and violence is a much more complex notion that is often driven not by superstition or unreason, but perfectly “rational” motives. This article argues that there is little causal connection between Enlightenment values and the decline in violence and that changes came about as a result of a complex series of reasons, some of them less than edifying. It raises the interesting question of whether ideas drive history, or whether they are simply the “ideological” bedrock on which change is grounded.

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Between the Lines

Communication with People with Dementia in Creative Movement Sessions

Elisabeth Zeindlinger

This article explores the various ways of communicating with people with dementia during dance sessions and how creative movement can support people to create meaning in the moment. The following did not originate in conventional research but is a reflection on my work as a dancer in healthcare. I took notes about my observations for my own development. After some time I felt the need to dig deeper and search for theories affiliated to my thoughts and find out more about dementia.

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Michael Smith

Many disciplines in the social sciences and humanities can offer profound insights into what it means to be human. History, however, encompasses the totality of human experience: economics, politics, philosophy, art, ethics, sociology, science - all of it becomes part of history eventually. Therefore, the opportunities for incorporating service-learning (carefully integrating community service with academic inquiry and reflecting on insights derived from such integration) into history courses abound. Many historians have taken advantage of this opportunity. Few historians have undertaken a scholarly investigation of the learning taking place in their service-learning courses, however. Indeed, despite the fact that the reflective process so central to service-learning lends itself remarkably well to the scholarship of teaching and learning (it generates very rich data on both the affective and content-based learning students are experiencing), there has been little published SoTL research from any discipline about service-learning. Drawing on qualitative evidence from an honours course comprised of 16 students at a private liberal arts college in the northeastern United States, I argue that not only does service-learning in history lead to more active citizenship, but that it also leads to deeper appreciation of an historical perspective as a key ingredient for being an engaged citizen.

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The Cine-Fist

Eisenstein’s Attractions, Mirror Neurons, and Contemporary Action Cinema

Maria Belodubrovskaya

This article investigates the concept of cinematic attractions through an analysis of current research on mirror neurons. It suggests that when developing his conception of attractions, Sergei Eisenstein isolated the effect of visceral spectatorship, which today’s science associates with mirror neurons. The involuntary nature of some of Eisenstein’s attractions helps to dissociate them from Tom Gunning’s later conception of the cinema of attractions. Whereas Gunning’s attractions targeted viewers’ conscious engagement, Eisenstein’s attractions tapped into preconscious and automatic responses. Moreover, while Gunning contrasted the cinema of attractions with the cinema of narrative integration, Eisenstein’s attractions were compatible with narrative. Eisenstein’s attractions were a closer precursor to the contemporary impact aesthetic than Gunning’s cinema of spectacle and display, and the concept of attractions, returned to its original sense and paired with the literature on mirroring, may better explain the functions and effects of contemporary action cinema.

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Murray Smith

In this article, I reply to the eleven commentaries on Film, Art, and the Third Culture gathered here, organizing my responses thematically and seeking to find points of similarity and difference among the commentators as well as with my own perspective. I address arguments on embodied simulation; the analogy between films and dreams; aesthetic experience and the “expansion” of ordinary experience; the relationships between culture and cognition and between fiction and emotion; theories of the extended mind and of niche construction; the place of neuroscience in aesthetics; and the relationship between naturalism and normativity. I conclude with some reflections on naturalistic methodology.

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Jens Eder

This article shows in what ways Matthew Ratcliffe’s phenomenological theory of existential feelings is relevant to film and media studies. Existential feelings are “feelings in the body, which are experienced as one‘s relationship with the world as a whole.” They are related to other concepts in film theory; however, their relation to films has never been systematically examined. The article discusses how audiovisual media are able to represent, express, and evoke existential feelings, and even work as “qualia machines” in making viewers partially share feelings of characters. Focusing on the paradigmatic case of depression and on exemplary films like Dominik Graf’s Deine besten Jahre, the article identifies different aesthetic strategies to express existential feelings. Building on that, the article argues that the power of films to evoke related feelings in the viewers is a crucial factor in spreading ideas about how others feel and conveying collective structures of feeling.

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Antagonistic Insights

Evolving Soviet Atheist Critiques of Religion and Why They Matter for Anthropology

Sonja Luehrmann

This article offers a critique of the common notion in contemporary anthropology that a positive attitude toward the people under study is a necessary precondition for a sophisticated understanding of their social world. The empirical sociology of religion that evolved during the last decades of the Soviet Union's existence started from the premise that religion was a harmful phenomenon slated for disappearance. Nonetheless, atheist sociologists produced increasingly complex accounts of religious life in modern socialist societies. Their ideological framework simultaneously constrained Soviet scholars and forced them to pay closer attention to religious phenomena that contradicted political expectations. Drawing on this extreme example of militant atheist scholarship, I argue that studying 'repugnant cultural others' always requires some form of affective motivation. Antagonism can be as powerful, and as problematic, a motivating force as empathetic suspension of judgment.