chapter
Introduction
Pages 8

There cannot be many people left on this planet whose life has not been, and continues to be, shaped by audiovisual texts. Their impact, it is fair to say, has not always been presented in the most positive light. Writing about fi lms, the only form of audiovisual text available in his time, the infl uential literary critic F. R. Leavis notoriously asserted that motion pictures make ‘active recreation, especially active use of the mind, more diffi cult’ (1930: 20) – echoing earlier claims that audiences can only react to, but not refl ect on what fi lms show (Mann 1928/1978). This might explain why viewers of the Lumières’ Train Pulling into a Station (1896) were so frightened by the sight of a life-sized train heading towards them and, reportedly, stampeded away from the screen (Loiperdinger 2004). One century later, our constant and routinized exposure to audiovisual texts would appear to have neutralized, to some extent, the ‘affective response’ that typically follows the advent of new media (Littau 2006: 3). Today, large sections of audiences all over the world still consume audiovisual texts in search of aesthetic experiences that tap into their emotions, memories or intimacy. However, it is also evident that the viewing experiences we derive from audiovisual texts have become more varied and sophisticated.