Sunday, 24 October 2010

Cognitive Film Studies

An empirical approach? Guy Pearce as Leonard Shelby in Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000)
Scholars often resist the cognitive approach to art because they're reluctant to mount causal or functional explanations. Instead of asking how films work or how spectators understand films, many scholars prefer to offer interpretive commentary on films. Even what's called film theory is largely a mixture of received doctrines, highly selective evidence, and more or less free association. Which is to say that many humanists treat doing film theory as a sort of abstract version of doing film criticism. They don't embrace the practices of rational inquiry, which includes assessing a wide body of evidence, seeking out counterexamples, and showing how a line of argument is more adequate than its rivals.  [David Bordwell, introducing a free download of his article 'A Case for Cognitivism: Further Reflections', Iris no. 11 (Summer 1990): 107–112.]
Film Studies For Free has previously only touched on the burgeoning field of cognitivist film studies in passing. Today, however, it has decided to gather together links to some excellent online resources, above all from two journals -- Film Studies and The Journal of Moving Image Studies -- in order to provide a good introduction to this field, as well as to the related field of analytic (film) philosophy, two increasingly influential sets of approaches to our discipline.

As one of the most eloquent and persuasive champions of cognitivism is film scholar extraordinaire David Bordwell, one of the very best places to begin such an introduction is with a selection of openly accessible writings on this topic by that author. For instance, here, Bordwell summarises the history of cognitive film studies and discusses some recent work as a prelude to the second annual meeting of The Society for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image (note: link now updated).  Scroll down for lots more great work...

(Note: David Bordwell is probably the most generous of scholars in relation to making his invaluable work freely available online. As always, FSFF thanks him very sincerely for helping to make online film studies such a rewarding focus. This entry is dedicated to his work).

Introductions to Cognitivist Film Studies:
Film Studies
Volume 8, Summer 2006

The Journal of Moving Image Studies -
Note: Apologies but there's currently a problem with the links set out below, which FSFF will fix as soon as it can. But in the meantime, all the below articles can be accessed via this page.

Vol. 1, 2002
Vol. 2, 203

Vol. 3, 2004

Vol. 4, 2005

Vol. 5, 2006

Vol. 6, 2007

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