chapter  3
A Home among the Moderns
Movies and Modern Aesthetics
WithPeter M. Catapano
Pages 22

This chapter provides an implicit nod toward Hugo Munsterberg by demanding that film theory "redirect attention to the movie as it is seen, by shifting the emphasis back from creation to perception". His work in social psychology must be placed in the context of progressivism and the emergence of the modern research university. He constructs a subject position for the film spectator that is consistent with neo-Kantian aestheticism. The film historian Miriam Hansen has characterized his theory as an "aesthetics of autonomy", while Donald Fredericksen has called it an "aesthetic of isolation". The cinematic innovation that Munsterberg felt best represented a "new perspective", independent of the other arts, was the close-up. The moving picture could therefore be distinguished as an art and sever any connection the new medium may have had with the theater. Munsterberg's formalist aesthetic resembled that of the many modernists in the art world who rallied around the idea of "art for art's sake".