The Matter of Vision: Affective Neurobiology and Cinema

The Matter of Vision: Affective Neurobiology and Cinema

The Matter of Vision: Affective Neurobiology and Cinema

The Matter of Vision: Affective Neurobiology and Cinema


Cinematic analysis has often supported the notion that cinema can be understood by drawing parallels with language. Peter Wyeth contends that this analytical framework often fails to consider the fundamental fact of cinema's visual nature. In The Matter of Vision, Wyeth seeks to redress this oversight by grounding his analysis in neuroscience and evolutionary biology, finding herein the potential for a qualitatively superior understanding of the cinematic medium.


There is a covert war raging in our culture, a secret hidden even from its most committed warriors, and for whom this conflict is so deep in their psyches that it is unconscious. If their allegiance is challenged they react with ferocity, utter conviction and total disparagement towards the enemy. These are ideal soldiers in any war, largely unaware of their dedication to the cause, virtually automatons unable to question it.

Such a war exists and furthermore is at the heart of our culture. No one is unaffected by it, every single person strides its battlefields every day of their lives. No one dies in this war, it is after all a cultural war, but its effects go so deep and so far back in time as to dwarf human history. You are a victim of this war and you have been so all your life, but you will very probably be unaware of it. Most wars have their -isms, such as National-ism or Imperial-ism, and this war has its own-ism too, Logocentrism, the war of the Word against Vision.

Logocentrism, in the sense it has here, places a greatly exaggerated value on the Word, creating a status for it far above its real capacities, glorifying it whilst at the same time viciously denigrating potential opponents, in particular its oldest adversary, Vision. Logocentrism places the Word at the centre of culture and attributes magical powers to it. It is almost unheard of for a voice to be raised in opposition to its universal rule, so pervasive is its influence. This project at last raises the standard for its most noble and ancient opponent, Vision. The day is near when Vision will be restored to its pre-eminence. I see therefore I am.

This book started from a couple of ideas, hunches might be a better word. The first is that Vision is much more powerful than we realise. The second is that the vast majority of information we take in from a film is absorbed unconsciously.

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