Embodied Visions: Evolution, Emotion, Culture, and Film

Embodied Visions: Evolution, Emotion, Culture, and Film

Embodied Visions: Evolution, Emotion, Culture, and Film

Embodied Visions: Evolution, Emotion, Culture, and Film

Synopsis

Embodied Visions presents a groundbreaking analysis of film through the lens of bioculturalism, revealing how human biology as well as human culture determine how films are made and experienced. Throughout his study, Torben Grodal uses the breakthroughs of modern brain science to explain central features of film aesthetics and to construct a general model of aesthetic experience-what he terms the PECMA flow model-that demonstrates the movement of information and emotions in the brain when viewing film. Examining a wide array of genres-animation, romance, pornography, fantasy, horror-from evolutionary and psychological perspectives, Grodal also reflects on social issues at the intersection of film theory and neuropsychology. These include moral problems in film viewing, how we experience realism and character identification, and the value of the subjective forms that cinema uniquely elaborates.

Excerpt

Like other fields of research within the humanities and social sciences, film studies are in the midst of a major shift away from the paradigm that has dominated most of the 20th century. That paradigm is based on the assumption that the human mind has no intrinsic nature, no biological architecture, so that humans are entirely socially constructed and infinitely malleable. The extreme version of the social constructivist paradigm claims that humans are controlled exclusively by socially induced systems that are disembodied and abstract, analogous, for example, to linguistic systems or the working of computers. According to this view, biological events in brains play no part in the discussion of culture. Humans are born with what one might call a double blank slate: humans emerged by a kind of virgin birth that erased all traces of our animal past, and the individual is born with no inherent dispositions. For extreme constructivists, minds have only a short history: the product of socialization from birth onward combined with recent cultural history, but not with the long foregoing history of evolution (see Leda Cosmides and John Tooby’s critique of the blank slate theory in Barkow et al. 1992). The extreme versions are tacit and implicit and not many will believe them in full. If asked, most humanists or social scientists would admit that at some fundamental level, culture is influenced by biology. However, cultural products are discussed without any reference to research done within a natural science framework.

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