Film as Embodied Art: Bodily Meaning in the Cinema of Stanley Kubrick

Film as Embodied Art: Bodily Meaning in the Cinema of Stanley Kubrick

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Maarten Coëgnarts

ISBN: 9781618118363 (hardcover), 9781644691120 (paperback)
Pages: 264 pp.; 118 figs.; 23 tables
Publication Date: October 2019


Forthcoming as an Open Access ebook

How do the visuals of Kubrick’s work convey complex concepts and abstractions without the traditional reliance on words? And how does the pure instrumental music in his films express meaning when music, in essence, is an abstract art form? Drawing on state-of-the-art research in embodied cognitive science, this book sets out to explore these questions by revealing Kubrick as a genuine conceptual artist, a filmmaker who perhaps more than any other director, uses all the non-verbal resources of filmmaking in such a controlled and dense manner as to elicit the bodily structures necessary to achieve a level of conceptual understanding.

Maarten Coëgnarts holds a PhD in Film Studies and Visual Culture and an MA in Sociology (University of Antwerp). Since 2010 he has researched the interplay between metaphor, image schemas, and cinema. The results have been published in various peer-reviewed journals such as Metaphor and SymbolNew Review of Film and Television Studies and Projections. He is also co-editor of the book Embodied Cognition and Cinema (Leuven University Press, 2015).


Ever seen cognitivist film criticism? Look at Maarten Coëgnarts interpreting Stanley Kubrick’s oeuvre. The cognitive paradigm (in film studies) has fruitfully explored the what and why of film viewer perception, comprehension, and emotion. Maarten Coëgnarts in a daring forward move broaches the subject of film interpretation and author criticism. Skillfully applying his profound knowledge of embodied metaphor in film, he charts procedures for creating referential meaning typical for Kubrick’s work. Visuals-supported, versatile and accurate analyses reveal concrete patterns of cinematic style technology. Thus, it is shown how exactly the Kubrick touch resonates in the viewers’ construction of complex meanings.
— Ed Tan, Emeritus Professor, University of Amsterdam and affiliate professor of Film, Media and Communication University of Copenhagen
Maarten Coëgnarts’s new book offers a fascinating look at the films of Stanley Kubrick and how these are representative of embodied art. He demonstrates the ways that cognitive semantics and inferential pragmatics help explain viewers’ cognitive and affective experiences of cinema, not only in terms of the words heard, but as importantly the sounds and moving images observed. Kubrick, was a master in designing distinctive films that relied on complex layers of embodied meanings, with linguistic, visual, and auditory metaphors playing a major role in people’s meaningful interpretations of film. This valuable book will surely be of great relevance to film scholars, and students of Kubrick, but should also be much appreciated by anyone with an interest in embodied cognition and art.
— Raymond W. Gibbs, Jr., author of Embodiment and Cognitive Science
A brilliant, in-depth analysis to account for our everlasting fascination with Stanley Kubrick’s oeuvre. Maarten Coëgnarts offers a clear explanation of the embodied turn in cognitive sciences and applies them to the cinematographic medium, a complex art in which the visual spectacle becomes one with language and music involving viewers in a mesmerizing, thought-provoking experience. His insightful, all-embracing approach elucidates why the director is one of the best conductors of the twentieth century with the artistry to perfectly harmonize the diverse components of his orchestra.
— Elisa Pezzotta, University of Bergamo, author of Stanley Kubrick: Adapting the Sublime
Film as Embodied Art is a towering achievement of scholarly insight on the work of one of cinema’s greatest directors, Stanley Kubrick. Providing new insights on ideas of cognition and cinematic meaning, the case study serves to further our understanding of audience perception of Kubrick’s work and contributes new perspectives to the field of film studies, cultural studies and beyond. This is a thought-provoking book that reveals Stanley Kubrick’s films in an original light and comprehends the director’s ability to communicate complex ideas through a purely visual means. Essential reading and a triumph of Kubrick Studies.
— James Fenwick, Senior Lecturer in Film Studies, University of the West of England

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

INTRODUCTION: The Theoretical Context of This Study
CHAPTER 1: Identifying the Meaning: In Search of the Concepts of Kubrick’s Films
CHAPTER 2: Embodying the Meaning: The Role of Image Schemas, Metaphors, and Metonymies
CHAPTER 3: Setting the Conditions of Embodied Meaning-Making in Film: The Role of Film Style and Acting
CHAPTER 4: Fleshing Out the Embodied Meaning Visually: The Art of Kubrick
CHAPTER 5: Seeing and Listening to Kubrick’s Films: The Embodied Film Viewer