Movie Projectors and Machine Guns: Rapid-Fire Art Education and the Essence of the Modern

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In 1916, Hugo Münsterberg published a book on the new, but already immensely popular social phenomenon of film. In this book, “The Photoplay: A Psychological Study,” Münsterberg takes on criticisms of the new medium that portray it as, at best, little more than a low-class petty distraction, and at worst, a corrupting agent within civil society. Münsterberg, a pioneer of both experimental and occupational psychology, through both a psychological and philosophical analysis of film as a phenomenon, comes to the conclusion that the new medium represents a powerful new tool for the aesthetic education of the masses. In my analysis of Münsterberg’s study and proposal, I explore the metaphysical presuppositions of a thinker who touches on one of the very nerves of modernity itself, at a point where technology, mass society, mass culture, the assembly line, aesthetics, and death intersect.


Keywords: Art, Education, Film, Aesthetics, Psychology, Technology, Cinema, Modern, Modernity, Modernism, Hugo Muensterberg, Philosophy
Stream: Art and Education
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Mason Tattersall

Graduate Student / Teaching Assistant, Department of History, University of British Columbia
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

My primary research interests are in the area of European Intellectual History, with special emphasis on German thought and the work of Martin Heidegger in particular. Some of my major projects have included an analysis of the implications for historiographical theory in Heidegger’s “Being and Time,” a look into the role of certain understandings of science and truth in Heidegger’s failed political project during his time as an active member of the NSDAP, explorations of early film theory and its relations to art history, philosophy and psychology, and my current thesis, which deals with the concept of authenticity in Heidegger’s thought of the 1920s. I have given conference presentations on the philosophy of history, the history of the evolution of physics, and Walter Benjamin’s theories of film, among other topics.

Ref: A07P0056