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The Cinema, or the Imaginary Man

2005
Author:

Edgar Morin
Translated by Lorraine Mortimer

The Cinema, or the Imaginary Man

A classic work exploring the nexus of the cinematic image and the human mind—at last available in English!

When The Cinema, or The Imaginary Man first appeared in 1956, Edgar Morin perceived in the cinema a complex phenomenon capable of illuminating truths about thought, imagination, and human nature. Now making its English-language debut, this provocative work draws on insights from poets, filmmakers, anthropologists, and philosophers to restore to the cinema the sense of magic first enjoyed at the dawn of the medium.

This fluid translation of and introduction to The Cinema, or The Imaginary Man by one of France's major thinkers is long overdue. Written at a time when film theory leaned to the reductive and severe, Edgar Morin instead embraced the broadest frameworks and wrote with great pleasure; his work on the subjectivity of participation in the experience of watching film is as current as ever.

Faye Ginsburg, author of Media Worlds: Anthropology on New Terrain

When The Cinema, or The Imaginary Man first appeared in 1956, the movies and the moviegoing experience were generally not regarded worthy of serious scholarly consideration. Yet, French critic and social theorist Edgar Morin perceived in the cinema a complex phenomenon capable of illuminating fundamental truths about thought, imagination, and human nature—which allowed him to connect the mythic universe of gods and spirits present within the most primitive societies to the hyper-reality emanating from the images projected on the screen.

Now making its English-language debut, this audacious, provocative work draws on insights from poets, filmmakers, anthropologists, and philosophers to restore to the cinema the sense of magic first enjoyed at the dawn of the medium. “We experience the cinema in a state of double consciousness,” Morin writes, “an astonishing phenomenon where the illusion of reality is inseparable from the awareness that it is really an illusion.”

The Cinema, or the Imaginary Man

Edgar Morin is emeritus director of research at France’s Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and president of the Association pour la Pensée Complexe.

Lorraine Mortimer is senior lecturer of sociology and anthropology at La Trobe University, Australia.

The Cinema, or the Imaginary Man

This fluid translation of and introduction to The Cinema, or The Imaginary Man by one of France's major thinkers is long overdue. Written at a time when film theory leaned to the reductive and severe, Edgar Morin instead embraced the broadest frameworks and wrote with great pleasure; his work on the subjectivity of participation in the experience of watching film is as current as ever.

Faye Ginsburg, author of Media Worlds: Anthropology on New Terrain

One of the hidden treasures of cinema and film theory. The long overdue English translation deserves celebration. Morin introduced a more complex approach to an understanding of the cinema and its audiences than has been dealt with before or since, which makes this work, among others, so contemporary and relevant. Morin reintroduces the imaginary as a fundamental human condition, exemplified in the process of cinema perception. The University of Minnesota Press is to be congratulated on this timely intervention.

Leonardo

The wonders of Morin, the prolific wunderkind, are undoubtedly abundant and often inspiring. The new availability of The Cinema and The Stars could help not only to discover some of the early writing of a highly interesting intellectual figure; they may also be an occasion to update the archaeology of film and media-culture studies with texts in which self-reflection and great prognostic potential meet with glaring rhetoric and disturbing ‘transdisciplinary’ amalgamations.

BookForum

His erudite, sometimes delirious book offers insights into life both in and outside the picture-house.

Film Comment

In foregrounding the structuring role of fantasy in our engagement with reality, The Cinema, or the Imaginary Man not only brings to the fore what is at stake in film theory’s shift away from Bazin’s claim for cinematic realism, but also allows for historiography of cinema which aligns the theories and practices of the narrative paradigm with that of its alternatives, the nonfictional and the avant-garde film.

Film Quarterly