Prof Sarah Cooper on Merleau-Ponty and Film Theory

Edinburgh Film Seminar: Merleau-Ponty and Film Theory
Thursday 2 April, 5.15 – 7pm
Screening Room, 50 George Square
Professor Sarah Cooper, King’s College London

The Soul of Film TheoryFrom the mid-1940s, when Maurice Merleau-Ponty gave a lecture on film at the Institut des hautes études cinématographiques in Paris, which was subsequently published as ‘Le Cinéma et la nouvelle psychologie’ (‘Cinema and the New Psychology’), film scholars have shown a keen interest in the relationship between his philosophy and cinema. During his lifetime, his thinking influenced a number of important film theorists, from Amédée Ayfre, who was a student of his, through André Bazin to Henri Agel. More recently, and largely due to the pioneering work of Vivian Sobchack, his phenomenology has been the source of inspiration for thinking about the film experience as one of embodied vision. In this paper, and in tandem with this history of scholarship, I revisit my own fascination with his philosophy and its legacy to film theory as touched on in my book The Soul of Film Theory, shifting my focus now from a concern with the soul to consideration of the imagination. Although his work on perception is more widely discussed by film theorists, I explore here what we can learn from Merleau-Ponty about the imagination and how this might enhance our understanding of cinema.

Sarah Cooper is Professor of Film Studies at King’s College London and works on film theory, continental philosophy and French cinema. She has published on Chris Marker, queer theory and French documentary. Her latest book is The Soul of Film Theory (Palgrave, 2013).

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