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Meta-Emotion: How Films and Music Videos Communicate Emotions About Emotions

Anne Bartsch

This article outlines a conceptual framework for analyzing meta-emotions in audiovisual media. Meta-emotions are evaluative thoughts and feelings about emotions that are represented and/or elicited in the viewer. Based on a conceptual analysis of meta-emotion in terms of current emotion theory the essay concludes that meta-emotions are communicated on different levels of cognitive complexity. Cues to meta-emotion can be present in (1) the aesthetic representation of emotions; (2) the narrative context of emotions; and (3) symbolic elements that refer to cultural norms and values concerning emotions. The essay exemplifies this three-level framework using a film scene and a music video. Specifically, the essay analyzes the communication of meta-emotions about anger in Fight Club, and meta-emotions about sadness in Frozen.

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Book Reviews

Brendan Rooney, Hanna Kubicka, Carl Plantinga, James Kendrick, and Johannes Riis

(particularly via “meta-emotions,” which are the emotions we feel in response to our own or other people’s emotional reactions) and explores the always sticky issue of identification, one of the deepest theoretical quagmires in all of film studies. The second