Murray Smith (University of Kent)
From Reflex to Reflection: Experience and Explanation in the Study of Cinema
What is cinema? Does it afford us distinctive artistic possibilities and a unique type of experience? And if so, what method or methods are appropriate for the study of cinema? These questions thread their way through the history of film and film theory. I advance the case for a naturalized aesthetics of film in investigating the multifaceted nature of film experience. Films engage us, perhaps to a unique extent among the arts, on a multitude of levels, from the most ‘unthinking’ reflexes, through the many layers of everyday perception, problem solving, memory and emotion, to the most abstract forms of metacognition, including the one known as ‘philosophical reflection.’ These various layers of cognition and experience in cinema are best explored, I contend, through a naturalistic approach that seeks to integrate our understanding of human behavior in general – and artistic phenomena in particular – with our larger knowledge of the world as it is revealed by the natural and social sciences.
In cooperation with the Exzellenzcluster „Die Herausbildung normativer Ordnungen“.
Murray Smith is Professor of Film Studies at the University of Kent, Canterbury, UK, co-director of the Aesthetics Research Centre at Kent, and President of the Society for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image. He has published widely on film, art, and aesthetics. His publications include Engaging Characters: Fiction, Emotion, and the Cinema (Oxford, 1995); Trainspotting (BFI, 2002); Film Theory and Philosophy (co-edited with Richard Allen) (Oxford, 1997); Contemporary Hollywood Cinema (co-edited with Steve Neale) (Routledge, 1998); and Thinking through Cinema (co-edited with Tom Wartenberg) (Blackwell, 2006). He is currently at work on Film, Art, and the Third Culture (forthcoming with Oxford).