Article ID: CBB001251565

Self-Projection: Hugo Münsterberg on Empathy and Oscillation in Cinema Spectatorship (2012)


Brain, Robert Michael (Author)

Science in Context
Volume: 25, no. 3
Issue: 3
Pages: 329-353

Publication Date: 2012
Edition Details: Part of the special issue, “The Varieties of Empathy in Science, Art, and History”
Language: English

This essay considers the metaphors of projection in Hugo Münsterberg's theory of cinema spectatorship. Münsterberg (1863--1916), a German born and educated professor of psychology at Harvard University, turned his attention to cinema only a few years before his untimely death at the age of fifty-three. But he brought to the new medium certain lasting preoccupations. This account begins with the contention that Münsterberg's intervention in the cinema discussion pursued his well-established strategy of pitting a laboratory model against a clinical one, in this case the master-trope of early cinema a spectatorship drawn from hysteria, hypnosis, and related phenomena like double-consciousness. Münsterberg's laboratory-oriented account also flowed from his account of cinema technology as an outgrowth of the apparatus of his own discipline of experimental psycho-physiology, which entailed a model of cinema spectatorship continuous with the epistemological setting of laboratory relations. I argue that in The Photoplay and related writings projection functioned in three registers: material, psychological, and philosophical. Münsterberg's primary concern was with psychological projection, where he drew upon his own work in experimental aesthetics to articulate an account of how the basic automatisms of cinema produce a state of oscillation between immersion and distraction. I show how Münsterberg's experimental aesthetics drew upon German doctrines of aesthetic empathy, or Einfühlung, which Münsterberg sought to modify in accordance with the dynamic and temporal characteristics of psycho-physiological experiment. Finally, I argue that Münsterberg's cinema theory was enfolded in his action or double-standpoint theory, in which the transcendental self posits the material, objective conditions of laboratory experience as a means to know itself. This philosophical projection explained cinema's uncanny ability to suspend ordinary perceptions of space, time, and causality. It also made cinema uniquely suited for the philosophical emancipation of a popular mass audience

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Article Lanzoni, Susan (2012) Introduction: Emotion and the Sciences: Varieties of Empathy in Science, Art, and History. Science in Context (pp. 287-300). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Lanzoni, Susan Marie
Stoffers, Manuel
Osten, Philipp
Malin, Brenton J.
Jacobi, Eva Anne
Wazeck, Milena
Science in Context
Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences
Technology and Culture
Würzburger Medizinhistorische Mitteilungen
Physics in Perspective
Amsterdam University Press
Princeton University Press
Oxford University Press
MA, Belknap Press
Yale University Press
Columbia University Press
Motion pictures; cinema; movies
Emotions; passions
National Socialism
Physiological psychology
Münsterberg, Hugo
Einstein, Albert
Ward, James
Titchener, Edward Bradford
Brentano, Franz Clemens
Hitler, Adolf
Time Periods
20th century, early
19th century
20th century
20th century, late
21st century
United States
Weimar Republic (1919-1933)

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