School of Arts

 

About

Professor of Film Studies since 2000. Currently Director of Research, Faculty of Humanities (since 2008), and Director of the Aesthetics Research Centre (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 Centre 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).

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Publications

Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository

Book
Smith, M. (2002). Trainspotting. BFI Modern Classics.
Smith, M. (1995). Engaging Characters: Fiction, Emotion, and the Cinema. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Edited book
Smith, M. and Wartenburg, T. eds. (2006). The journal of aesthetics and art criticism: Film as Philosophy. Blackwell.
Smith, M. and Wartenburg, T. eds. (2006). Thinking Through Cinema. Blackwell.
Smith, M. and Neale, S. eds. (1998). Contemporary Hollywood Cinema. Routledge.
Smith, M. ed. (1997). Film Theory and Philosophy. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Book section
Smith, M. (2016). Film, Philosophy, and the Varieties of Artistic Value. in: Thomson-Jones, K. ed. Current Controversies in Philosophy of Film. Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Routledge, pp. 182-202. Available at: https://www.routledge.com/9781138789517.
Smith, M. (2011). Triangulating Aesthetic Experience. in: Shimamura, A. P. and Palmer, S. E. eds. Aesthetic Science: Connecting Minds, Brains, and Experience. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 80-102. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199732142.003.0026.
Smith, M. (2011). Just What Is It That Makes Tony Soprano Such an Appealing, Attractive Murderer? in: Jones, W. and Vice, S. eds. Ethics at the Cinema. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 66-90. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195320398.003.0003.
Smith, M. (2009). Consciousness. in: Livingston, P. and Plantinga, C. eds. The Routledge Companion to Philosophy and Film. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 39-51.
Smith, M. (2007). Was macht es fur einen Unterschied ? Wissenschaft, Gefuhl und Film. in: Bartsch, A., Eder, J. and Fahlenbrach, K. eds. Audiovisuelle Emotionen:Emotionsdarstellung und Emotionsvermittlung durch audiovisuelle Medienangebote . Cologne: Herbert von Halem, pp. 39-59.
Smith, M. (2005). Who's afraid of Charles Darwin? The art of film in the age of evolution. in: Brutsch, M. ed. Emotionalität und Film. Marburg: Schüren, pp. 287-310.
Smith, M. (2003). A reasonable guide to horrible noise (Part 2) listening to Lost Highway. in: Hojbjerg, L. and Schepelern, P. eds. Film Style and Story: A Tribute to Torben Groda. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, University of Copenhagen, pp. 153-170.
Article
Smith, M. (2014). Against Nature? or, Confessions of a Darwinian Modernist. Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement [Online] 75:151-182. Available at: http://doi.org/10.1017/S1358246114000174.
Smith, M. (2009). Double Trouble: On Film, Fiction, and Narrative. StoryWorlds: A Journal of Narrative Studies [Online] 1:1-23. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/stw.0.0014.
Smith, M. (2006). My Dinner with Noel; or, Can We Forget the Medium ? Film Studies: An International Review 8:140-148.
Smith, M. (1999). (Dis)engaging characters: a response to Lynne Pearce's review. Screen 40:358-362.
Smith, M. (1998). Regarding film spectatorship: A reply to Richard Allen. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism [Online] 56:63-65. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/431952.
Smith, M. (1995). Film Spectatorship and the Institution of Fiction. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism [Online] 53:113-127. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/431540.
Smith, M. (1994). Altered States - Character and Emotional Response in Cinema . Cinema Journal 33:34-56.
Smith, M. (1992). Society-for-cinema-studies conference, pittsburgh, 30-april 3-may, 1992. Screen 33:436-438.
Smith, M. (1992). Coming to terms - the rhetoric of narrative in fiction and film - Chatman,S . Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism [Online] 50:253-254. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/431236.
Review
Smith, M. (1998). Image and mind: Film, philosophy, and cognition science. British Journal of Aesthetics 38:325-327.
Conference or workshop item
Smith, M. (2005). Cinema and Cognition. in: Cinema and Cognition, Society for Cinema and Media Studies.
Smith, M. (2005). What Difference Does it Make. in: Representing and Conveying Emotions in Audio-Visual Forms of Media.
Smith, M. (2005). Against Nature. in: The Cognitive Neuroscience of Film.
Total publications in KAR: 26 [See all in KAR]

 

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Teaching

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.

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Research

    My research interests include:

  • 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 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.

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Supervision

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

The aesthetics of television

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 Lynch

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Last Updated: 13/10/2016