The Cinema and its Spectatorship
: The Spiritual Dimension of the 'Human Apparatus'

  • Martha Blassnigg

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis undertakes an excursion into the network of science, art, and popular culture at the end of the 19th century to examine the interrelations between these various strands in relation to the emerging cinema and its so-called spiritual dimension. Instead of an ontology of the image, or a cultural (metaphorical) analysis of spirits, phantoms or spectres as immaterial manifestations, this thesis proposes an ontology of the spectators' perception through which the spiritual dimension, frequently associated with audio-visual media, should be sought within the perceptual processes of the mind.

    It takes the cinema spectators' experience into the centre of this investigation and argues for their active participation in and understanding of the cinema as philosophical dispositive from the very beginnings of its inception. It looks into the interconnections between the various constituencies that shaped the projecting image technologies and their reception at the time. In particular the context of a broader intellectual framework and concerns about time, movement, memory and consciousness, reveal a thickness and complexity especially in the interrelations of the oeuvres of Jules-Etienne Marey and Aby Warburg. Henri Bergson's system of thought, germane to these concerns, will be elaborated in detail and used to build an onto logical/ anthropological model of the cinema spectator in order to suggest how the contradictory forces of the rational and the 'irrational' can help us understand the spiritual dimension of the emerging cinema.

    The cinema dispositifm this approach appears as a paradigm to exemplify the productivity of this nexus and provides a platform for further research into issues such as consciousness, precognition, intuition and psychic phenomena. The spectator in this anthropological/ ontological discussion treated in a conceptual way and grounded in a historical context appears in a fuller dimensionality that allows us to accommodate the so-called spiritual dimension beyond the dichotomy of the material and immaterial, the body and the mind.

    This model of the cinema spectator that this thesis proposes can be defined as an embodied, immanent and above all actively participant agent, which can be extended into a wider discussion of the perception, uses and interpretations of technology.
    Date of AwardJul 2007
    Original languageEnglish


    • spectatorship
    • cinema
    • 19th Century
    • Nineteenth Century

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