Once More, with Feeling: Cinema and Cinesthesia


Asked to characterize the critical history of cinema studies over the past several decades, one could do much worse than to speak of the age of affect of affect.  This is a big claim, of course, but it’s not without precedent or parallel. The engagement with affect describes a remarkably widespread shift in the humanities, social sciences, and the neurosciences. Cinema studies is among a number of disciplines that have sought to prioritize matters of sensation and feeling, and for roughly the past thirty years the persistence of affect has played a critical role in the field. In the historicist recovery of the “cinema of attractions” and the feminist reappraisal of film melodrama (“weepies”), in the cognitivist study of film emotion and the growing neuroscience of cinematic experience, in the renewal of film phenomenology and the avowal of cinephilia—in all these instances, and still others, cinema studies has declared its “affective turn.”

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