The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NZ, T +44 (0)1227 764000
Prof. Murray Smith
- 01227 82(3529)
Murray Smith directs the Aesthetics Research Group and his interests include film theory and the philosophy of film.
Professor of Film Studies since 2000. Currently Director of Research, Faculty of Humanities (since 2008), and Director of the Aesthetics Research Group (since 2007). Head of Film Studies 1999-2003, 2007-8; Director of Research for Drama, Film and Visual Arts, 2001-4. Leverhulme Research Fellow, 2005-6.
My first degree was in English Language and Literature at the University of Liverpool; subsequently I gained an MA and PhD in Film Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, under the supervision of David Bordwell. I joined Film Studies at the University of Kent in 1992.
I am a member of the advisory editorial board of Screen; a corresponding editor for Northern Lights, the yearbook for the Film and Media Studies department of the University of Copenhagen; and a member of the editorial board of Cinema: Journal of Philosophy and the Moving Image. From 2002-6 I was an editor of Film Studies: an International Review, and from 2003-7 a member of the Arts and Humanities Research Council College of Peers.
I am a Fellow and advisory board member of the Society for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image, and have been active as board member since the organization was founded in 1995. I am also a member of the editorial board of the journal Projections: the Journal for Movies and Mind, with which SCSMI is affiliated. SCSMI was founded to promote work on film and video drawing on cognitive theory and psychology, the philosophy of mind, and kindred areas of research.
I am a member of the organizing committees for several upcoming conferences: the annual SCSMI conference to be held in Budapest, June 8-11, 2011, the annual American Society for Aesthetics conference to be held in Tampa Bay, October 26-9, 2011; and conference on ‘Aesthetics, Art and Pornography,’ hosted by the Aesthetics Research Group at the Institute for Philosophy in London, June 16-18, 2011.
Within the University of Kent, I am a member of a number of research groups based in other departments and faculties, reflecting the range and foci of my research interests: the Centre for Reasoning (based in Philosophy); the Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience and Cognitive Systems (based in Psychology and Computer Science); and the Evolutionary Social Sciences Group (based in Psychology).back to top
Thinking Through Cinema: Film as Philosophy, ed. Murray Smith and Thomas E. Wartenberg (Cambridge: Blackwell, 2006).
Trainspotting (BFI Modern Classics, 2002), pp95.
Contemporary Hollywood Cinema, ed. Steve Neale and Murray Smith (London: Routledge, 1998), pp338.
Film Theory and Philosophy, ed. Richard Allen and Murray Smith (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), pp474.
Engaging Characters: Fiction, Emotion, and the Cinema (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), pp265.
Antichrist (Lars Von Trier, 2009; DVD released January 2010; the commentary takes the form of a dialogue between myself and Von Trier)
Recent and upcoming papers
‘The Pit of Naturalism: On Neuroscience and Naturalized Aesthetics,’ Centre for World Cinemas, University of Leeds, November 17, 2010.
‘Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know? On Soprano and The Sopranos,’ Department of Philosophy, University of Leeds, November 17, 2010.
‘Cognitive Theory and the Avant–garde,’ to be delivered at the symposium on Cognitive Science and the Moving Image, Chelsea College of Art and Design, March 30, 2011.
‘Reflexivity and Transparency in Film’, to be delivered at the Fiction on Fiction conference at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, University of Cambridge, April 15–16, 2011.
‘Triangulating Aesthetic Experience,’ to be delivered at the annual Society for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image conference, Budapest, June 8–11, 2011.
‘On the Twofoldness of Character,’ New Literary History (forthcoming 2011).
‘Empathy, Expansionism, and the Extended Mind,’ Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2011), ed. Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie.
‘Just what is it that makes Tony Soprano such an appealing, attractive murderer ?’ Ethics at the Cinema (Oxford University Press, 2010), ed. Ward Jones and Samantha Vice.
‘Engaging Characters: Further Reflections,’ in Characters in Fictional Worlds: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (Berlin: DeGruyter, 2010), ed. Jens Eder, Fotis Jannidis, and Ralf Schneider.
‘Feeling Prufish,’ Midwest Studies in Philosophy XXXIV (2010), 261–79.
‘Double Trouble: On Film, Fiction, and Narrative,’ Storyworlds 1:1 (2009), pp1–24.
‘Film and Consciousness,’ Routledge Companion to Philosophy and Film (2009), ed. Paisley Livingston and Carl Plantinga, pp39–51.
‘Film and Philosophy,’ The Sage Handbook of Film Studies, ed. James Donald and Michael Renov (Sage, 2008), pp147–63.
‘Funny Games,’ Dekalog 1 (2008), special issue on The Five Obstructions, 11740.
‘What Difference does it Make ? Science, Sentiment and Film,’ Projections 2:1 (2008) (revised and translated version of ‘Was macht es fur einen Unterschied ?’).
‘The Evolutionary Paradigm: The View from Film Studies,’ Style 42:2/3 (Summer/Fall 2008), 277–84.
‘Empathie und das erweiterte Denken,’ in Emotion – Empathie – Figur: Spielformen der Filmwahrnehmung (Vistas Verlag, 2008).
‘Was macht es fur einen Unterschied ? Wissenschaft, Gefuhl und Film,’in Bartsch, Anne and Eder, Jens and Fahlenbrach, Kathrin, eds. Audiovisuelle Emotionen: Emotionsdarstellung und Emotionsvermittlung durch audiovisuelle Medienangebote. Herbert von Halem, Cologne, 2007, 39–59.
‘The Philosophy of Film,’ The Macmillan Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2006) ed. Donald M. Borchert, pp381–6.
‘The Sound of Sentiment: Popular Music, Film and Emotion,’ 16:9 19 (2006).
‘Film Art, Argument, and Ambiguity,’ The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 64:1 (Winter 2006), 33–42 (special issue noted above, for which I acted as co–editor).
‘Who’s Afraid of Charles Darwin ? The Art of Film in the Age of Evolution,’ in Matthias Brutsch et al (eds.), Emotionalität und Film (Marburg: Schüren, 2005), 289–312.
‘Lars Von Trier: Sentimental Surrealist,’ in Mette Hjort and Scott MacKenzie (ed.), Purity and Provocation: Dogma 95 (London: BFI, 2003), 111–21.
‘Darwin and the Directors – Film, emotion and the face in the age of evolution,’ Times Literary Supplement February 7, 2003, 13–15; reprinted in Brian Boyd, Joseph Carroll, and Jonathan Gottschall (eds.), Evolutionary Literary Theory (Columbia University Press, forthcoming 2009).
‘A Reasonable Guide to Horrible Noise (Part 2) – Listening to Lost Highway,’ in Lennard Hojbjerg and Peter Schepelern (eds.), Film Style and Story: A Tribute to Torben Grodal (Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, University of Copenhagen, 2003), 153–70.
‘Smoke 'til your Blue in the Face’, in Jon Lewis (ed.), The End of Cinema as We Know It (New York: New York University Press, 2001), 277–84.
‘Parallel Lines’, in Jim Hillier, ed., American Independent Cinema: A Sight and Sound Reader (London: Britsh Film Institute, 2001), 155–61.
‘Film ‘, in Berys Gaut and Dominic Lopes, eds., The Routledge Companion to Aesthetics (London: Routledge, 2001), 463–75.
‘Aesthetics and the Rhetorical Power of Narrative’, in Ib Bondebjerg, ed., Moving Images, Culture and the Mind (Luton: University of Luton Press, 2000), 157–66.
‘(A)moral Monstrosity’, in Michael Grant, ed., The Modern Fantastic: The Films of David Cronenberg (Trowbridge: Flicks Books, 2000), 69–83.
‘(Dis)Engaging Characters: a response to Lynne Pearce’s review’, Screen 40: 3 (Autumn 1999), 358–62; extended version on–line at http://speke.ukc.ac.uk/sais.
‘Superfiends, Surrealism and Sublation: on the dialectic of avant–garde and popular culture’, Film Studies: An International Review 1 (Spring 1999), 14–31.
‘Transnational Trainspotting’, in Jane Stokes and Anna Reading, eds., The Media in Britain (London: Macmillan, 1999), 219–27.
‘The Battle of Algiers: Colonial Struggle and Collective Allegiance,’ Iris 24 (Autumn 1997), 105–24.
‘Theses on the Philosophy of Hollywood History’, in Steve Neale and Murray Smith, eds., Contemporary Hollywood Cinema (London: Routledge, 1998), 3–20.
‘Regarding Film Spectatorship: A Reply to Richard Allen,’ Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 56: 1 (Winter 1998), 63–5.
‘Modernism and the Avant–Gardes,’ in John Hill and Pamela Church Gibson, eds., The Oxford Guide to Film Studies (Oxford University Press, 1998), 395–412.
‘Gangsters, Cannibals, Aesthetes; or, Apparently Perverse Allegiances,’ in Carl Plantinga and Greg Smith, eds., Passionate Views: Thinking About Film and Emotion (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), 217–38.
‘Homicide,’ (critical analysis of David Mamet's Homicide), in Pam Book and Steve Neale, eds., The Cinema Book New Edition (London: BFI, 1999).
‘Film Studies and L’Affaire Sokal,’ an essay posted on two internet sites: Film–Philosophy (based at Birbeck College, University of London), and the Institute for Cognitive Studies in Film and Video (based at the University of Kansas, Lawrence), November 1997.
‘Imagining from the Inside,’ in Film Theory and Philosophy, Richard Allen and Murray Smith, eds., (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), 412–30.
‘The Logic and Legacy of Brechtianism,’ in David Bordwell and Noel Carroll, eds., Post Theory: Reconstructing Film Studies (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, forthcoming 1995), pp136–54.
‘The Influence of Socialist Realism on Soviet Montage,’ in The Journal of Ukrainian Studies 19, 1 (Summer 1994), pp45–65.
‘Film Spectatorship and the Institution of Fiction.' Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 53, 2 (Spring 1995), pp113–27.
‘Altered States: Character and Emotional Response in the Cinema.’ Cinema Journal 33, 4 (Summer 1994), pp34–56.
‘Cognition, Emotion and Cinematic Narrative.’ Post–Script 13, 1 (Fall, 1993), pp30–45.
‘Technological Determination, Aesthetic Resistance.’ Wide Angle Vol.12, No.3 (Summer 1990), pp80–97.
‘The Young Ones, Inoculation, and Emesis.’ Television Studies Vol.1, No.1 (March, 1989), pp57–77.
‘Film Noir, the Female Gothic and Deception’ Wide Angle Vol.10, No.1, (January 1988), pp62–75.
Reprints and Translations
‘The Battle of Algiers: Colonial Struggle and Collective Allegiance,’ Iris 24 (Autumn 1997), 105–24; reprinted in J. David Slocum, Terrorism, Media, Liberation (Rutgers University Press, 2005).
Engaging Characters, various extracts, in Thomas E. Wartenberg and Angela Curran (eds.), The Philosophy of Film: Introductory Text and Readings (Blackwell, 2005).
‘Film Spectatorship and the Institution of Fiction,’ Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 53, 2 (Spring 1995), pp113–27; translated and reprinted in Fernao Pessoa Ramos, Teoria Contemporanea do Cinema I (Editora Senac, 2005).
“Parallel Lines”, in Jim Hillier, ed., American Independent Cinema: A Sight and Sound Reader (London: Britsh Film Institute, 2001), 155–61; translated and reprinted as , Montage A/V (2006).
‘The Coin and the Screwdriver,’ review of Paisley Livingston, Cinema, Bergman, Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 2009), Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, 19 May 2010.
‘Creative Spectator, Rich Text,’ review of Per Persson, Understanding Cinema: Constructivism and Spectator Psychology (University of Stockholm, 2000), Norwegian Journal of Media 1: 2001, pp147–51.
Review of Carl Plantinga, Rhetoric and Representation in Non–fiction Film (Harvard University Press, 1997), British Journal of Aesthetics 41: 2 (April 2001), pp222–5.
‘Back to Cinematic Basics,’ review of Gregory Currie, Image and Mind: Film, Philosophy and Cognitive Science (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995), British Journal of Aesthetics 38: 3 (July 1998), pp325–7.
Review of Society for Cinema Studies Conference, Pittsburgh, 1992, in Screen 33, 4 (Winter '92), pp436–8.
Review of Seymour Chatman, Coming to Terms: The Rhetoric of Narrative in Fiction and Film, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism Vol.50 (1992), pp253–4.
Review of Screen/Play: Derrida and Film Theory by Peter Brunette and David Wills. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism Vol. 49 (Summer 1991), pp268–9.
Review of French Film Theory and Criticism, 1907–39 by Richard Abel, Iris Vol.6, No.2 (Fall 1990), pp117–24.back to top
My teaching over the past decade or so has been characterized by the following emphases, all of which are directly connected with my research interests:
Film and philosophy: throughout my career, but particularly since the publication of Film Theory and Philosophy, I have worked to develop a distinctive brand of film theory informed by analytic philosophy, in contrast to the mostly 'Continental' film theory dominant since the 1960s. In my teaching and research on this area, my focus is on the aesthetics of cinema, but I draw upon many sub-domains of philosophy – including philosophy of mind, language, and ethics – in addition to philosophical aesthetics. The principal course in which these interests surface is FI811 Conceptualizing Film.
Film and psychology: here my research and teaching is motivated by a career-long interest in the interdisciplinary field known as cognitive theory or cognitive psychology, a research community and programme defined by the attempt to develop a properly scientific account of the human mind, constituted by psychologists, philosophers, linguists, computer scientists, anthropologists – and even the odd interloper from the 'hard humanities' like myself. Given the very significant involvement of philosophers (such as Daniel Dennett and Jerry Fodor) in the enterprise of cognitive theory, there is considerable overlap between my interests in philosophy and psychology. The main course in which I teach in relation to these issues is FI577 Cognition and Emotion in Film.
Film form and aesthetics: if philosophy, psychology and cognitive theory constitute the methodological framework and intellectual community in which I pursue my research, then artistic and aesthetic phenomena – the making and experience of works of film art in particular – constitute the primary focus of my teaching and research. Thus I am interested in, for example, what makes artistic and aesthetic experience distinctive, and how such experience relates to our experience in other domains, including that of 'ordinary' life. This interest is manifest in all my teaching, including the more theoretical courses mentioned above, as well as in courses such as FI506 Avant-garde and Experimental Cinema, and FI531 Beyond Hollywood.
Sound and cinema: historically, the study and appreciation of the role of sound (dialogue, music, sound effects) in cinema has been much neglected, although the past fifteen years has seen that situation changing. Over the past decade I have honed what I hope is a distinctive perspective on the role of sound in cinema in my course FI559 Sound and Cinema, one which may eventually see the light of day in my proposed The Contemporary Soundscape. My related interest in various forms of music, especially blues, jazz, and rock, is also manifest in this course.back to top
- film theory broadly, but especially the 'philosophy of film' – film theory informed by analytic philosophy – and classical film theory;
cognitive and evolutionary approaches to cinema, and to art in general;
- philosophy, especially the philosophy of art, of mind, and ethical theory; music and the philosophy of music, especially popular music (blues, rock, jazz, soul, etc), and film music;
- avant-garde and experimental cinema;
- American cinema in general, 'independent' cinema in particular.
My research interests include:
My current research projects include:
Who's Afraid of Charles Darwin? Art and Culture in the Age of Evolution: a study of the relationship between the human and the natural sciences, and especially of the ways in which ideas and knowledge derived from evolutionary theory and neuroscience might have relevance for the study of art and culture. The theme of this work connects with a number of important research trends, including literary Darwinism and X-phi (experimental philosophy). The study will develop the arguments of the articles I've already published on this subject
Film and the Aesthetic Dimension: a more wide-ranging work, emphasizing the centrality of aesthetic questions to a wide range of types of filmmaking, and addressing both classical philosophical writings on art (eg. Kant, Hegel, Schiller, Nietzsche) and contemporary debate (eg. Danto, Walton, Carroll). Although the focus here is different, the central line of argument resonates with the argument of Who's Afraid of Charles Darwin? – to wit: notwithstanding the skepticism of contemporary critical theory, the making and appreciation of art is an evolved, cross-cultural constant. An adequate account of film art thus needs to be grounded not only in social, cultural and technological history, but also in an understanding of our evolved dispositions. I have published many essays taking up these issues (see the list below).
The Contemporary Soundscape: a study of the impact of modern technologies on the nature of music and the aural world in general. The project will focus upon the nature and development of sound in cinema, ranging across diverse forms of cinema, from Hollywood to the outer reaches of the avant-garde, and will situate film sound in relation to other uses of sound - in live performance, installations, clubs, music video, and so forth. I have published a few items in this area.back to top
I am interested in supervising research projects related to any of my research and teaching interests, as sketched out above – particularly those which engage with the intersection of philosophy, psychology and the arts in general, and cinema in particular. My current and past supervisees include:
Dr Lee Grieveson – the genealogy of early American cinema
Dr Andreas Polihronis – theories of film spectatorship
Dr Aaron Taylor – cinematic villainy
Dr Dan Barratt – film, emotion, and the paradox of fiction
Dr Gary Bettinson – the cinema of Wong Kar-Wai
Dr Margrethe Bruun Vaage – the role of empathy in film spectatorship
Dr Ted Nannicelli – the ontology and aesthetics of the screenplay
Paul Taberham – cognitive theory and avant-garde cinema
Matt Thorpe – imagination and ethical experience in the cinema
Dominic Topp – politics and aesthetics in the work of Godard
Neil McCartney – conceptions of selfhood in the films of David Lynchback to top