Aesthetics and the Cinematic Narrative: An Introduction

This is a guest post by Michael Peter Bolus, Ph.D. Author of Aesthetics and the Cinematic Narrative: An Introduction, out on Anthem Press this month. 

acnThe welcome and entertaining distraction that defines most movie-going experiences has become the default expectation for general audiences. The commercial cinema, as a pop-cultural phenomenon, is rooted in an Escapist tradition that requires nothing from its audiences, other than a desire and willingness to be temporarily transported into another realm; to be fleetingly hypnotized by a viscerally enveloping, emotionally satisfying encounter. But cinema can also operate as a complex and demanding art form — one which requires a certain degree and type of effort on the part of its spectators. This effort issues from a given film’s adherence to a set of aesthetic strategies which might not be in alignment with a viewer’s prefabricated assumptions regarding commonly-held notions of what comprises a rewarding cinematic experience. Just as 17th-century Chinese lute music operates under a different set of aesthetic templates than 21st-century Hip-Hop, so too do different films and cinematic traditions employ various structural, stylistic, and thematic designs that might differ from one another in jarring ways.

An audience’s lack of familiarity with a specific film’s aesthetic foundations might result in a casual dismissal, a more resentful rejection, or even worse. As the 20th-century philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset observed in his seminal essay, The Dehumanization of Art, if someone doesn’t like a work of art, but understands it, he feels superior to it. If he doesn’t like a work of art, and doesn’t understand it, he becomes hostile to it.

This, of course, implies that a comprehensive and accurate appreciation of certain artworks requires a brand of knowledge and understanding — an aesthetic sensitivity that, presumably, is denied to most people. This “organ of comprehension” (to use Ortega y Gasset’s own idiomatic phrasing) must be acquired and cultivated, lest our own organic, instinctual responses to art prevent us from apprehending the complexities of its ambitions. These “high-brow” assumptions smack of elitism in the pejorative sense; the problematic notion that great art is reserved for a rarefied realm that denies access to the uninformed mass.

But while our knee-jerk response to such apparently exclusionary attitudes is often abject dismissal, one must concede that many art objects do, in fact, demand a significant degree of familiarity — if not intimacy — with the uncommon aesthetic grammars which inform them.

Despite its profound and widespread appeal, the cinema is no exception.

Unfortunately, most film analyses which examine aesthetics as a philosophical discipline and/or artistic system tend to investigate and explicate the aesthetics of film rather than aesthetics and film. In other words, they work inductively to tease out and elucidate those filmic elements which are unique to the cinema, or, at least, are idiosyncratic components of cinema as a stand-alone art form. But how does cinema fit into the more over-arching evolution of the arts as both a creative and intellectual endeavor?

Aesthetics and the Cinematic Narrative: An Introduction attempts to place cinema in a much wider historical and aesthetic context that is too often overlooked by both filmmakers and audiences alike. By examining an array of traditional and diverse aesthetic traditions and stratagems — and, in some cases, the socio-political cultural contexts in which they are cultivated — the book makes connections between Aesthetics as a practical discipline and filmmaking as a creative process, while simultaneously providing interpretive strategies for the spectator who might be unfamiliar with the artistic heritages from which idiosyncratic strains of cinema emerge.

Spring is in Full Swing at Anthem Press: New Titles

It has been a busy season here at Anthem Press and we want to share some information about our exciting new titles and authors.

Sustainability Is the New Advantage: Leadership, Change, and the Future of Business by Peter McAteer


Peter McAteer’s excellent new title, Sustainability Is the New Advantage, expertly answers the question: “How can leaders accelerate business transformation in the face of climate change and other environmental issues?” Transformation is a difficult process for any company and Sustainability provides a straightforward approach for incorporating sustainable business practices while ensuring profitability.

Peter McAteer is managing director of SustainLearning and member of the board of directors for KPPM Global. Peter’s prior work includes service as CEO of Corporate University Research and CEO of the Corporate University Xchange.


Private Equity: A Casebook by Paul Gompers, Victoria Ivashina and Richard Ruback


Private Equity: A Casebook is an advanced applied corporate finance book dedicated to educating investors and students on practices delivering sustained future profitability. This title features a collection of cases written from private equity investors’ perspectives, detailing actual investments and outcomes.

Paul A. Gompers, Victoria Ivashina and Richard S. Ruback are distinguished Professors of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.




The Plight of Potential: Embracing Solitude in Millennial Life and Modern Work by Emerson Csorba

plightThe Plight of Potential is a field guide for the millennial worker searching for career satisfaction without sacrificing personal enrichment. In the modern world, millennials experience constant pressure to grow professionally without advancing emotionally. Csorba uses scholarly research, his first-hand experience with intergenerational engagement and case studies of millennials from networks like the Global Shapers Community to show how hitting the pause button for inward meditation will benefit the individual.

Emerson Csorba is president of Csorba & Company Ltd., where he leads projects involving social network analysis, intergenerational engagement and political campaign management.


Iron Men: How One London Factory Powered the Industrial Revolution and Shaped the Modern World by David Waller, Foreword by Norman Foster

ironIron Men centers around Henry Maudslay and his followers, whose factory on Westminster Bridge Road in London, England attracted the country’s top engineering talent during the early nineteenth century. Their contributions to precision engineering and machine tools helped Great Britain become the workshop of the world.

David Waller is an author, business consultant and former Financial Times journalist specialising in business and the nineteenth century.





For full catalogue, please visit

The Post-Truth About Fake News

This is a guest post by Anthem Press author Steve Fuller, University of Warwick. His new book, Post-Truth: Knowledge As A Power Game, is now availableSteve recently spoke to the BBC. Check out his interview here:

In Post-Truth: Knowledge as a Power Game, I argue that the post-truth condition was first understood by Plato nearly 2500 years ago. His most diligent latter-day student has been Walter Lippmann, the man who set the tone for ‘objective’ and ‘professional’ journalism in the twentieth century.  Both Plato and Lippmann agreed that that key to political stability was a public belief in a generally stable reality, with the remaining uncertainties left to be managed by experts, which in Lippmann’s case included journalists.

‘The present crisis in democracy is a crisis in journalism’ is a statement about what we now call ‘fake news’, but it was made not today but in 1920. It appeared in Liberty and the News, one of Lippmann’s early books. He was reflecting on The New York Times’ coverage of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, which at the time was heralded as the most detailed, up to-the-minute reporting of any major overseas political event. His analysis had originally appeared as a forty-page supplement to an issue of the progressive US magazine, The Nation.

The New York Times’ reporters had been drawn from the ranks of ‘muckrakers’, the prototype of today’s investigative journalists, whose credibility came from their eyewitness accounts of what was happening ‘in the field’, channelling the mood and feel of the major players. The result was that print readers were subject to an unprecedented immediacy, as editors in New York rapidly reconstructed the accounts they received from the field, mainly by telegram. Keep in mind that this was just before the advent of radio broadcasts, and more than a generation before television.

However, once the dust had settled from the conflict, Lippmann concluded that the reporters had radically misrepresented the course of events. Largely sympathetic to the Bolshevik cause, they ended up trusting Bolshevik press releases and read their own wishful thoughts into what they managed to witness first hand. There may have even been a touch of narcissism, as many of the revolutionaries – not least Lenin and Trotsky – had been very able publicists, appropriating much of the rhetoric that the muckrakers had used to describe poverty, corruption and injustice in America.

Indeed, Lenin is reputed to have coined the phrase ‘useful idiots’ for the journalists that Lippmann went on to criticize. Today we would simply say that Lippmann discovered that they had been ‘spun’.  But what does ‘unspinning’ mean? It is here that Lippmann, a philosophy student at Harvard, shows his mastery of Plato – and the post-truth horizon.

Lippmann was clear that The New York Times’ breathless coverage of the Bolshevik Revolution got enough of the basic facts wrong to undermine the newspaper’s credibility. However, Lippmann’s solution was arguably more about publicizing journalistic credibility than validating specific facts, especially in an increasingly uncertain and complex world. The legacy is that even today newsreaders are normally careful not to display too much affect as they read news copy, which is itself scrupulously written to downplay or neutralize any values at play, unless they can be attributed to specific parties, preferably in their own words. Even more than speaking the truth, it would seem that one must appear to speak the truth. This is the post-truth condition in its most naked form.

Interested in more on the topic? Check out Steve’s interview with Virtual Futures.

Steve Fuller is the Auguste Comte Professor of Social Epistemology in the Department of Sociology at the University of Warwick, UK. Originally trained in history and philosophy of science, Fuller pioneered the field of ‘social epistemology’ in a quarterly journal that he founded in 1987 as well as in more than twenty books. His most recent books are Knowledge: The Philosophical Quest in History (2015) and The Academic Caesar (2016). Connect with Steve on Twitter and Academia.

2018 Award Winning Books and Authors

Several Anthem Press authors have received awards this year. Our congratulations to these authors for this well-deserved recognition!

2018 Schumpeter Prize - John MatthewsGlobal Green Shift: When Ceres Meets Gaia

Schumpeter 3The International Schumpeter Society (ISS) announced John Mathews (Global Green Shift: When CERES Meets GAIA) as co-winner of the 2018 Schumpeter Prize.  The prize winners were announced at the gala dinner of the Schumpeter Society held at Seoul National University, Korea, on July 1, 2018. The prize is supported by 10,000 Euro provided by the prize sponsor, Aurora World, a Korean firm whose founder and chair Noh Hee-Yoel awarded the prize at the gala dinner. Also in attendance were Professor Keun Lee, President of the Schumpeter Society and Chair of the Society’s 2018 conference, and Emeritus Professor Massimo Egidi, of the LUISS Guido Carli university in Rome, chair of the prize selection panel and president-elect of the Schumpeter Society. For more information, click here.


2018 Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought - Dr. Mariana Mazzucato

Dr. Mariana Mazzucato has been awarded the 2018 Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought for her research on the role of governments in innovation. GDAE Co-Director Neva Goodwin remarked: “The topic of innovation receives a lot of attention these days. What has been insufficiently recognized, before the work of Mariana Mazzucato, is the critical role of governments in innovation and hence the role of the public sector in the process of wealth creation. Her work argues for concrete ways to make sure both the risks and the rewards are better shared so that smart growth is also more inclusive growth.” Mariana is the author of The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths, original version published by Anthem Press in 2015. For more information on the prize, click here.


2018 AGBA International Book Award - The Unglobals: Groundbreakers in the Age of Economic Nationalism, J. Mark Munoz

IMG_4227The Unglobals: Groundbreakers in the Age of Economic Nationalism by J. Mark Munoz has won the 2018 AGBA International Book Award. The award was presented to J. Mark Munoz at the Academy for Global Business Advancement 15th Annual World Congress, Thailand.  For more information, click here.

Middlebrow – Feelings and Fury

This is a guest post by Faye Hammill, University of Glasgow. She is an editorial board member for Anthem Studies in Book History, Publishing and Print Culture.  

What does “middlebrow” mean? Is it a label for a particular kind of book, film or artwork – one that is unchallenging, conventional, perhaps mediocre, yet with visible aspirations to be taken seriously? This is the way the word is most often used by reviewers and journalists – usually with a derogatory tone. Or is it a set of practices and institutions: a mode of education, a route to self-improvement? This is what cultural and literary historians tend to mean by “middlebrow”.

One thing is certain: it is a provocative word. A 2015 piece on highbrow and middlebrow in The Conversation by an Australian professor of creative writing, John Dale, sparked an extensive debate, ranging from a verbally dextrous attack on an allegedly middlebrow novel (“What words suffice to describe it… mawkish? pompous? orotund? turgid?”) to a contemptuous dismissal of critical expertise (” John cuts through the academic waffle that surrounds the so-called study of English literature”). Some of the most vigorous commentary related to Dale’s claim that: “The distinctions between highbrow and middlebrow fiction are as old as literature itself.” I do not think that makes any sense. For one thing, fiction is a genre that emerged much later than poetry or drama. For another, the discourse of “brows”, which fragmented readerships into different levels, was generated by the industrialisation of the publishing industry in modern times.

Ah – here I go, entering the fray. I hadn’t meant to, but “Middlebrow” is a word that makes people want to fight. Three Australian writers recently reacted with (controlled) fury to an article by Beth Driscoll in the Sydney Review of Books that cited their novels as examples of books that “slip in and out of the middlebrow”. According to Driscoll, the work of Susan Johnson, Antonia Hayes, and Stephanie Bishop demonstrates that “middlebrow” should be understood “as a set of practices, rather than a label permanently affixed to a cultural product or institution.” The three writers upbraid Driscoll for reinforcing the association of the middlebrow with the feminine, and for apparently accepting the idea that anything that sells well must be of inferior quality.  However, in this case, both the original article and the responses are thoughtful, measured and insightful, with none of the flippant or hasty reaction evident in the Dale example.

Why has this debate reignited in Australia in particular? Does “middlebrow” have a distinctive resonance in Australia that is different from its meanings in other places? The question of the geography of the middlebrow is taken up in fascinating ways in Mitchell Rolls’s and Anna Johnston’s Travelling Home, Walkabout Magazine and Mid-Twentieth-Century Australia (Anthem, 2016). One of their key ideas is that Walkabout, which focused on travel and also on book culture – was used by its readers as a way of “finding their own place in the world” (43). They argue:

Throughout, the magazine mobilized the sentimental discourse common to middlebrow aesthetics, which encouraged personal engagement with others outside metropolitan readerships.  [The editors'] intentions to educate through travel and reading about travel situate Walkabout precisely in the realm of sentimental education typical of middlebrow culture. (52)

Yes. That’s what I think “middlebrow” means – or rather, that’s how I think the word can do useful work.  As a simple term of abuse, it only generates disagreements based on individual taste: for instance, about which books are or aren’t “middlebrow”.  But in Johnston and Rolls’ nuanced usage, “middlebrow names a phenomenon – a powerful force that we need to take account of when we try to understand contemporary and historical cultures of reading and entertainment.  Studying the middlebrow artefacts of the past, such as the novels chosen by the “Book of the Month” club, the syllabuses for university extension courses, or the magazines that presented a modernising, globalising culture to regional readerships, can help us understand how “sentimental education” might have worked in different times and places – and how it still works today.  Indeed, in this sense, middlebrow culture can be understood as a counter-practice to traditional academic criticism, with its emphasis on aesthetic form. In book clubs, emotional responses to literature are taken seriously; in university seminars, they are often seen as irrelevant. Yet the culture of the middlebrow is itself now a legitimate object of academic study, and professional critics are increasingly likely to reflect explicitly on their own tastes and biases, and to write in a personal voice about the effect of their upbringing and academic training on their responses to art. This makes their work more accessible beyond the academy. In this way, and through the online engagement – however fractious – between academics and wider audiences, we might be seeing a real erosion of the boundaries between elite and popular cultures of reading.

Faye Hammill is Professor of English at the University of Glasgow, and founder of a research group called the Middlebrow Network. She is author of six books, including Magazines, Travel and Middlebrow Culture (2015, with Michelle Smith).

Connect with Faye:

Twitter: @MidBrowNetwork



New and Forthcoming Titles from Anthem Press

We are pleased to announce the following newly released and forthcoming titles:


 Post-Truth: Knowledge As A Power GamePost-Truth: Knowledge As A Power Game

By Steve Fuller

‘Post-Truth’ was Oxford Dictionary’s 2016 word of the year. While the term was coined by its disparagers, especially in light of the Brexit and US Presidential campaigns, the roots of post-truth lie deep in the history of Western social and political theory. This book reaches back to Plato, ranges across theology and philosophy, and focuses on the Machiavellian tradition in classical sociology.


Athletic CEOs: Leadership in Turbulent TimesAthletic CEOs: Leadership in Turbulent Times

By Stanislav Shekshnia, Alexey Ulanovsky and Veronika Zagieva

‘Athletic CEOs is […] a must-read for every leader who’s facing a challenging transformation in today’s chaotic business world.’
—Morten T. Hansen, Professor, University of California Berkeley, USA; coauthor of Great by Choice; author of Great at Work



Environmental Problem-Solving – A Video-Enhanced Self-Instructional e-Book from MITEnvironmental Problem-Solving – A Video-Enhanced Self-Instructional e-Book from MIT

Edited by Lawrence Susskind, Bruno Verdini and Jessica Gordon

‘This remarkable e-book contains everything you need to teach a rich, dynamic course on the practical and theoretical dimensions of environmental policy as well as to evaluate your students’ work. It integrates classic readings, commentaries, scenarios and assignments, along with videos of talks by faculty and presentations by students.’
—Judith E. Innes, Professor Emerita, Department of City and Regional Planning, University of California Berkeley, USA


Worst-Case Economics: Extreme Events in Climate and FinanceWorst-Case Economics: Extreme Events in Climate and Finance

By Frank Ackerman

‘Old-fashioned economics has led to dangerously wrong-headed approaches to climate change and other “extreme event” situations, such as financial crises. In this highly accessible but profound book, Ackerman persuasively shows the urgency of smarter, more recent thinking about how natural and economic systems work and why we need to pay much more attention to worst cases. This is a must-read book for anyone who wants to understand the world we now inhabit.’
—Juliet Schor, author of Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth


The ImpactAssets Handbook for InvestorsThe ImpactAssets Handbook for Investors

Edited by Jed Emerson

‘The ImpactAssets Handbook for Investors’ offers an introductory overview for those interested in investing their capital in a sustainable, responsible and impactful manner. Offering insights and approaches to developing strategy as well as an understanding of the issues and considerations of impact investors in practice, this handbook discusses portfolio structure and strategy, an overview of due diligence necessary to assess potential investments, communications and performance measurement issues and other factors key to managing capital for multiple returns.