SCSMI2017 Helsinki has ended
The annual conference of the Society for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image (SCSMI) welcomes you to the Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland, June 11th – 14th, 2017

SCSMI2017 Helsinki program is under construction and changes are to occur. Meanwhile you may complete your personal information with a photo and some tags, so the other attendees and speakers will get to know more of you and your interests, and vice versa.

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Monday, June 12 • 11:30 - 12:00
SP Tico Romao. Embodiment, Cognitive Linguistics and Character Interiority: A Critique

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Embodied cognition has become a dominant framework within cognitive film theory. One prominent strand of embodied cognition within cognitive film theory has been the application of cognitive linguistics to issues relating to film and spectatorship (Buckland 2000; 2015; Coëgnarts and Kravanja 2012). While the approach has been applied to a range of aspects concerning narrative and film form, attention recently has turned to providing accounts of the subjective states of characters (Coëgnarts and Kravanja 2015; Oritz 2015). This paper proposes that the theoretical grounds of such applications of cognitive linguistics to film and film characters are questionable. The conceptual underpinnings of cognitive linguistics as originally put forward by Lakoff (1987) and Johnson (1987) are significantly different from more recent accounts of embodiment. It is unclear how the multimodal representations advanced by Barsalou (1999) or the mirror neurons identified by Gallese (2007) offer support for the cognitive linguistics claim that metaphor and metonymy constitute distinct forms of conceptual structure. Nor is it apparent how these differing accounts of embodiment converge with respect to how abstract thought is conceived or how situated cognition is integrated into their distinct frameworks. The paper additionally reviews critiques of cognitive linguistics by Sperber and Wilson (2008) and Papafragou (1996) that dispute the claim that metaphor and metonymy are distinct forms of conceptual structure.

 The paper will demonstrate that there are problems with the manner in which cognitive linguistics has been applied to film and the subjective states of film characters as well. Critical to the validity of this approach is the claim that filmmakers and spectators rely upon image schemata – universal conceptual structures that derive from shared bodily experience. This approach purports that not only do filmmakers draw upon image schemata when constructing narrative films and depicting subjective states of characters, but also that they underpin a spectator’s cognitive processes through their metaphoric and metonymic extension. It shall be demonstrated that such applications are too rigid and have tended to result in top down approaches to film analysis and lack the ability to account for variations in spectatorial response. The recent reboot of The Magnificent Seven (2016) will be used as a practical example to illustrate the limitations of the cognitive linguistics approach and will demonstrate that the spectatorial understanding of the subjective states of characters can be much more economically explained through a folk psychology model that highlights the spectator’s discovery of implicatures and use of inference to unpack them. The paper will conclude with a reflection upon the superiority of models of social cognition that stress situated knowledge over those models that privilege the invariant.

Indicative Bibliography:
Barsalou, Lawrence W. 1999. ‘Perceptual Symbol Systems’, Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 22:4. 577-609.
Buckland, Warren. 2000. The Cognitive Semiotics of Film. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Coëgnarts, Maarten, and Kravanja, Peter. 2015. ‘Embodied Cinematic Subjectivity: Metaphorical and Metonymical Modes of Character Perception in Film’ in Maarten Coëgnarts and Peter Kravanja (eds.) Embodied Cognition and Cinema. Leuven: Leuven University Press. 221-243.
Gallese, Vittorio. 2007. ‘Before and Below ‘Theory of Mind’: Embodied Simulation and the Neural Correlates of Social Cognition’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences. 362, 659–669 
Sperber, Deirdre, and Wilson, Dan. 2008. ‘A Deflationary Account of Metaphors’, in Raymond W. Gibbs Jr. (ed.) The Cambridge Handbook of Metaphor and Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 84-105.

avatar for Tico Romao

Tico Romao

University of Gloucestershire
Tico Romao has a BFA from Concordia University, Canada and a PhD from the University of East Anglia, with expertise in American Cinema. He has authored several publications and his research interests include cognitive film theory, the representation of social types, and action cinema... Read More →

Monday June 12, 2017 11:30 - 12:00 EEST
A-306 Room, Töölö Campus, Aalto University (3rd floor) Runeberginkatu 14-16, Helsinki