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Workshop MEDEM (Mediated Emotions)

November 2013, Wednesday 20th & Thursday 21st

Salle Conf IV (2nd floor), ENS - Physics Department, 24, rue Lhomond 75005, Paris.

Organizers: Margherita Arcangeli (IJN), Jérôme Dokic (EHESS, IJN) & Stéphane Lemaire (University of Rennes 1, IJN)

 

Invited speakers:

Dorothea Debus (University of York): Being Emotionally Involved

Sabine Döring (University of Tübingen): From expressive action to expression of emotion in art

Stacie Friend (Heythrop College): Reconstructing Radford

Robert Hopkins (University of Sheffield, New York University): Pictures and Non-Conformity

Jérôme Pelletier (University of Brest, IJN): Distal vs Fictional Emotions

Jean-Marie Schaeffer (CNRS, EHESS, CRAL): Projective imaginings and emotions

Fabrice Teroni (University of Bern): Emotions at anchor

George Wilson (University of Southern California): Imagined Seeing and The Rhetoric of Narrative Film

 

Conference Theme:

Presently there is no consensus on the intentional content of emotions. Some authors claim that emotions are first and foremost about the body, whereas others argue that they are primarily about external worldly entities, or about relationships between the body and the world. The aim of the workshop is to address and revisit these issues about emotional content with respect to mediated emotions, that is, emotions which are experienced with the help of representational media or proxies. In such contexts, which involve imagination, memory, physical representations (films, pictures, recordings, documents, etc.) and narratives of various sorts, intuitively the external target of the emotion is not directly given and may not even exist (for instance in the case of fiction). What relationship is there between feeling an emotion toward a present, say scary, object and imagining (or remembering) an object as scary? What is the nature of emotions felt towards real objects but only mediated via a representation? What effect does the spatio-temporal/modal distance of the object produce on our emotions? For example, are we differently moved by a scene believed to be recent, in contrast to a scene in which the protagonists have long since disappeared or do not even exist? The latter question is connected with the well-known “paradox of fiction”, which concerns the nature of emotions with respect to fictional entities, but our aim in this workshop is to broaden the scope of enquiry and understand the nature of emotions in various representational contexts, including but not limited to fiction.

 

Abstracts:

Dorothea Debus (University of York): Being Emotionally Involved

At the core of the present workshop stands the distinction between 'mediated' and 'unmediated' emotions. 'Unmediated' emotions are emotions which are directed towards an object (or event) which a subject perceives at the time at which the emotion is experienced; 'mediated' emotions are emotions which are directed towards an object (or event) whicht the subject does not perceive at the time at which the emotion is experienced, but which is presented to the subject in some other way (e.g. in memory, in imagination, or by means of a description). Thus, unmediated and mediated emotions differ with respect to their 'cognitive base' (Deonna & Teroni), that is, they differ with respect to the means by which the object towards which the emotion is directed is presented to the subject first of all. In my own workshop contribution I consider the question whether un­me­di­a­ted emotions and mediated emotions differ only in this respect, or whether we should also hold that, in addition to the difference in their 'cognitive base', unmediated emotions and mediated emotions are them­sel­ves mental occurrences of a different kind. I address this question with special re­­­ference to one particular type of mediated emotions, namely the case of auto­bi­ographical past-directed emo­tions.

 

Sabine Döring (University of Tübingen): From expressive action to expression of emotion in art

It is common ground that emotions are expressed, be it through facial expression, expressive action or, in the most sophisticated way, through art. Nevertheless, it is still an open question what it means to ‘express’ an emotion—as opposed to ‘state’, ‘describe’, or ‘report’ it—and whether different ways of expression can be integrated into a unified theory. My aim in this talk is to contribute to answering this question, whereby my focus is on the intentional expression of emotion. I begin by presenting an approach to expressive action according to which this type of action both shows and signals the agent’s emotional state, yet without this requiring any means-end reasoning on the part of the agent. Expressive action rather is completion and clarification of the emotion itself which often is not even known before it is expressed. Starting on from this, I argue that expression of emotion in art is a special case of expressive action: in so far as it does express emotions, art, like any expressive action, shows and signals not just a mental state but also how the world is evaluated in that state, thereby enabling us to share our point of view and to let each other know what matters to us.

 

Stacie Friend (Heythrop College): Reconstructing Radford

In a series of papers starting in the 1970s, Colin Radford famously argued that emotions toward fictional characters are irrational. Nearly everyone rejects his conclusion. I argue, however, that critics have fundamentally misinterpreted Radford's challenge. Whether or not we ultimately agree with him, Radford's argument has important implications for the ways we think about emotions in response to fiction as well as in other mediated contexts.

 

Robert Hopkins (University of Sheffield, New York University): Pictures and Non-Conformity

Do pictures of various kinds (including handmade pictures, photographs and cinema images) invite the same affective responses as the scenes they depict? Some do not. To see why, we must first examine seeing-in, the experience in which we grasp depicted content. In such experience, we are visually presented with the depicted scene. That visual presentation is sui generis: it cannot be identified with any other way of being visually presented with things, such as seeing or visualizing. For the visual presentation of scene is partly constituted by our awareness of properties of the marks. While these claims apply to the visual presentation of scene itself, they open up a possibility: that other properties of the marks partly constitute what I call the ‘stance’ towards that scene the picture embodies – the way we are invited to see it, the attitude towards it expressed, and/or the affective responses to the scene the picture invites. With the aid of an example, I argue that this possibility is one some pictures realise. Thus at least some pictures exhibit non-conformity. In the rest of the paper I explain how this phenomenon fits into the project of representational art, explore how wide a range of pictures might exhibit it, and briefly discuss the prospects for things other than pictures to attain non-conformity by parallel means.

 

Jérôme Pelletier (University of Brest, IJN): Distal vs Fictional Emotions

Emotion in fiction, emotion in real: is there here a distinction to draw? And if it is the case, is it a distinction of kind or of degree? I try to defend the claim that there is a distinction of kind between emotion in fiction and emotion in real and that the way the self is involved in the emotion may constitute the basis of the distinction.
I suggest that taking a narrative to be fictional provides an emotional frame of detachment for what is to be experienced. Taking a narrative to be fictional follows a fictional appraisal of the narrative and is associated to a representation of the events narrated as being internal to the narrative, not as being distal events. By contrast, the same narrated events would have been represented as external to the narrative, as distal events if the narrative had been appraised as real and taken to be real.
The fictional appraisal of a narrative constitutes the basis of the individual’s sense of detachment or ‘cutoffness’, his or her sense that he or she has no power to affect the events narrated or to be affected  by their consequences. This emotional frame of detachment explains why so often we are not moved by fictional narratives. Only a powerful narrative, a narrative which induces various self-involving simulative states of immersion or transportation, may cause a subject to feel concerned by events simultaneously appraised as fictional and internal to the narrative. A powerful narrative is a precondition of emotion in fiction. Emotion in fiction – when it happens - has the peculiar characteristic of engaging the self in relation to content appraised as non self-relevant. By contrast, emotion elicited by a narrative appraised as real results from a self-engagement towards content appraised as self-relevant and distal.
To explain the phenomenon of emotion in fiction, I suggest to recruit a technical notion from cognitive psychology of memory, ‘semantisation’, a notion which refers to a process by which episodic memories (memories of personal events and experiences) may become gradually ‘semantised’, that is remembered as facts, like semantic memories. One may surmise that the processing of narratives (taken to be real or fictional) engages, at the cognitive level, the capacity to use the episodic system (a capacity to  recall previous experiences or to imagine potential experiences) to drive various simulations. My hypothesis is that when the narrative is taken to be fictional, the narrative processing is associated with a ‘semantisation’ process, giving rise to so-called ‘semantised emotion’.

 

Jean-Marie Schaeffer (CNRS, EHESS, CRAL): Projective imaginings and emotions

Taking as a starting point a passage of The adventures of Tom Sawyer which tells us how Tom imagines his future death as a paradoxical  revenge against what he sees as an unjust punishment inflicted upon him by his aunt Polly, I try to show that the existence  of such projective imaginings with their associated emotions can help us to work our way out of the classical dichotomy between real  emotions and emotions caused by fiction. It seems to me that this dichotomy has biased our understanding of the relationship between emotions and the status of their representational component. I  will argue more precisely that the relationship between emotions and (mental) representations  is a complex one : emotions can cause representations, and representations can cause emotions. I will also ask myself if emotions caused by (conscious) mental representations always belong to the class of mediated emotions or if one could argue that sometimes such  representations directly produce emotions, acting as their « ultimate » cause. Fiction could perhaps be understood as one among several types of imaginings functioning as such ultimate causes of emotions.

 

Fabrice Teroni (University of Bern): Emotions at anchor

An investigation into the nature of those emotions that are typically elicited by fictional works should be premised on an understanding of the relation that emotions bear to the mental states – perceptions, beliefs, episodes of imagining and so on – that provide them with their objects. After all, the question of the nature of our emotional responses to fiction is more in fact the question of the nature of the emotions elicited by our cognitive engagement with fiction. In the first part of my presentation, I shall offer reasons to think that the best way of understanding the relation at stake is the following one: an emotion is an evaluative attitude one takes towards the content provided by these other mental states.  In the process, I shall emphasize how an approach along these lines differs from well-known alternative accounts of the emotions and explain why it fosters an original understanding of the correctness conditions of emotions. This will provide the background for the second part in which I shall explore the impact of such an approach on some of the traditional issues surrounding affective responses to fiction. I shall more specifically be concerned with the relations between the attitudes that provide emotions with their objects and the nature of the emotional attitudes themselves – e.g., can we distinguish ‘serious’ and ‘non-serious’ emotional attitudes? – as well as the variety of reasons one may have for one’s emotional responses to fiction.

 

George Wilson (University of Southern California): Imagined Seeing and The Rhetoric of Narrative Film

In my recent book, Seeing Fictions in Film, I argued that the basic normal mode of apprehending fiction films is ‘imagining seeing’ the fictional constituents of the narrative. I also try at some length to say what kind of ‘imagined seeing’ I have in mind.  (The phrase is dangerously ambiguous.)  Assuming that this thesis is largely correct, it follows that the strategies of a movie will generally be addressed at persuading members of the audience to imagine seeing certain fictional objects and events in this or that determinate way.  Although it has been traditional to think of ‘rhetoric’ as a matter of persuading an audience to adopt certain convictions or emotions, there is no reason to deny that that there is also rhetoric of visual apprehension in film.  In fact, it is quite natural to think that many aspects of character construction and plot significance arise as the upshot of such a rhetoric of narration and not as matters of some kind of narrative ‘semantics.’  In this talk, I will develop these and related points, and I will illustrate the points with some notably rhetorical moments from some classic films.

Attached documents

ANR