Call for Papers Ekphrasis. Images, Cinema, Theory, Media

Aftermaths of Critical Theory in Cinema, Literature, Art and Visual Culture

Volume 18, issue 1/2018


Critical theory has remained one of, if not the most important branch of theory in recent decades. Its roots coincided with the advent of social critical theory in the works of the members of the Frankfurt School and it subsequently intersected, influenced or even dominated most of the areas of theory in the last part of the 20th century. These are the areas that have resisted the reductive cultural and ideological narratives often brought about by postmodernism and by the concept of “post-history”. French Theory – especially in its coupling with a Marxist tradition rejuvenated after the Second World War – has influenced the dominant modes of interpretation in visual studies, literary studies and performance studies alike, mainly through the critique of representation and of the subject. Except for a short crisis in the early 1990s (especially under the neoliberal influence of Francis Fukuyama's end-of-history thesis), the last decade has seen a resurgence of critical theory, which placed itself at the center of contemporary thought in its response to the changing world (the crisis of neoliberalism and the new forms of politics). Authors like Jacques Rancière, Georges Didi-Huberman, Bruno Latour, Hal Foster, Ariella Azoulay, Judith Butler, Slavoj Žižek, Boris Groys or Marshall Berman are just a few of those who (along with the still relevant Ernesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe, Alain Badiou or Fredric Jameson) have delineated and made possible the (re)turn of contemporary art to a politically-conscious discourse.

The difference that current critical theory maintains from its 20th century forms can also be found in alternative approaches – as in the case of Latour – to what has been called “critique”, such as the actor-network theory and the “compositionist” method. In keeping with Latour’s suggestions, philosopher Graham Harman argues for an object-oriented criticism. Another perspective is developed by the literary historian Rita Felski, who takes a polemical stance against the “school of suspicion” and engages in a “curatorial”, restorative method of literary and aesthetic interpretation. Different scholars propound the development of new interpretive concepts inspired by the particularities of the analyzed texts, rather than of concepts derived from a pre-existing critical-ideological apparatus. Thus, a post-critical turn has also been hailed in the aftermath of critical theory, as a “descriptive turn” (proposed by the literary theorist Heather Love), as another hermeneutics of recollection (following the one advocated by Paul Ricoeur, who opposes it to the hermeneutics of suspicion), as a mode of “reading with the grain” (propounded by Timothy Bewes, in a contestatory approach to the critique that goes against the grain), or as a kind of “reparative reading” (derived from the work of Melanie Klein and promoted by Eve Sedgwick). All these are, however, still part of what critical theory made possible as early as Theodor Adorno's texts and Walter Benjamin's concepts.

The next issue, 1/2018, of Ekphrasis proposes a dialogue about the state of critical theory nowadays and invites reflection on the relevance of new post-critical readings in the field of cinema and visual studies, literary studies, and performance studies. Also, we encourage contributions upon the ways in which critical theory has influenced the domain of aesthetics and art theory and has also pervaded artistic practices and discourses, such as the socially oriented performance and installation art, or the so-called “theory novel”.

Papers may include, but are not limited to:

  1. The post- in “post-critical”: divergent or convergent with “critique” and the hermeneutics of suspicion

  2. Critique and the relationship between aesthetics and ideology

  3. Critical and post-critical perspectives inspired by a politics of aesthetics (in the line of Jacques Rancière’s thought)

  4. The post- or non-critical approaches in art theory and visual studies

  5. Performativity: the subversion of cultural canons and identity patterns

  6. Aftermaths of critique in performance studies and cinema studies

  7. Post-critical readings of literature and new approaches in literary theory

  8. The image of critical theory in contemporary fiction: The “theory novels” of Zadie Smith, Jonathan Franzen, Laurent Binet


Please submit an original proposal of up to 300 words that contributes to or revises and recontextualizes the research methods and directions which focus upon critical theory and upon the interpretive approaches that have developed in the aftermath of critical theory, with a special attention to their consequences in cinema studies, art and visual studies, literary studies, and cultural theory.

Issue editors: Laura Pavel, Horea Poenar

Deadline for abstracts (150-300 words, 5-7 keywords), and a 150-word bio: 30 February 2018

Acceptance notice: 15 March 2018

Deadline for accepted full papers (5,000-8,000 words for articles, 2,000-3,000 words for book reviews): 15 April 2018


Both proposals and final texts should be in English and should follow the style sheet available on our website ( The final submission should include: a 5,000-7,000-word article, including a 150-word abstract, 5-7 keywords, a list of references (only the cited works), a 150-word author's bio and the author’s photo-portrait (jpg, separate file). Proposals and final submissions should be formatted as Word documents and sent to:,


Useful references:

Azoulay, Ariella, The Civil Contract of Photography, Zone Books and MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2008

Bewes, Timothy, “Reading with the Grain: A New World in Literary Criticism.” Differences. A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, 2010, 21 (3)

Cusset, François (2003), French Theory. How Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, & co. Transformed the Intellectual Life of the United States, translated by Jeff Fort, with Josephine Berganza and Marlon Jones, Minneapolis/ London, University of Minnesota Press, 2008


Didi-Huberman, Georges, Quand les images prennent position. L’œil de l’histoire, I, Paris, Minuit, 2009

Felski, Rita, The Limits of Critique, Chicago, Chicago University Press, 2015

Foster, Hal, Bad New Days: Art, Criticism, Emergency, London & New York, Verso, 2015

Latour, Bruno, “Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern“. Critical Inquiry, 2004, 30

Latour, Bruno, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2005

McKee, Yates, Strike Art, London & New York, Verso, 2016

Rancière, Jacques, Le spectateur émancipé, Paris, La Fabrique, 2008

Ţichindeleanu, Ovidiu, Contracultură. Rudimente de filosofie critică, Cluj, Idea Design & Print, 2016




Call for papers Ekphrasis. Images, Cinema, Theory, Media

Vol. 19, Issue 2/2018


Cinema, cognition and art

In recent years, we have been talking about semiopragmatics (Roger Odin), neuroesthetics (Murray Smith), psychocinematics (Arthur Shimamura) or bioculturalism (Torben Grodal). A number of scholars are associated with this approach to aesthetics and cinematographic discourse in terms of cognitive processes: Torben Grodal, Roger Odin, Noel Carroll, David Bordwell, Laurent Jullier, Edward Branigan, Joseph D. Anderson, Murray Smith, Ed Tan. This year we are editing a volume dedicated to the investigations related to the study of cinema and the visual arts from a cognitive framework.

Replacing accents, rephrasing questions, questioning the theoretical assumptions of the cognitive approach and testing them on different corpora, these are the few tracks that this issue proposes to initiate. Our volume intends to study, with an interdisciplinary perspective, the cognitive approaches acquired in neuroscience-related fields: psychology, philosophy, artificial intelligence or computer vision, literary theory, linguistics or sociology and their applications in the analysis of cinematographic discourse and the visual arts.

Between the film and the spectator arises a circuit of reciprocal influences. The purpose of the investigations to be developed in this issue on cinema is to present points of view on what is going on in the viewer's brain during the online cinematic experience and his post-event reconstruction / interpretation of this experience. The film analyst's task is to describe the mental architecture that gives meaning to audiovisual stimuli and to elaborate a theory of the perceptual, cognitive and emotional mechanisms that are active during and after the cinematic experience. Film exerts control over viewers’ brain activity as a function of movie conceptual content, perceptual patterns and editing constructions. Spectators bring their memories from personal and cultural knowledge to the film experience and acquire new ways of experiencing life experiences. In the cinema, viewers perceive fictional or documentary worlds, understand stories, experience immersive and powerful emotions, and learn life lessons.

The main questions of this issue of Ekphrasis are focusing on cognitive models that instantiate embodied mechanisms of incorporation and control. The processes operate at different levels of cognitive organization: perceptual and motor capture, embodied simulation (Gallese & Guerra 2012), narrative conceptual structures that activate narrative interest (Tan 1996), sensory-motor interaction with external stimuli, epistemic apprehension, but also successful brain interaction with the external world.

An important debate concerns the architecture of mental processes involved: one that is automatic, effortless, and heuristics-based and another one that is conscious, deliberate, and rule-based. Similarly, there can be a mixed sense of agency: on the one hand, that of an ‘online’ basic experience, sometimes without conscious intention and, on the other hand, that of ‘offline’ post-act judgments, which may actually distort the interpretation of one’s own agency. The knowledge of our actions and the sense of control we have on them should be reviewed – especially in view of the empirical findings from psychology and cognitive science regarding apparent mental causation (when we ‘interpret’ a conscious intention to perform a certain action as its cause). But we should also be aware of the fact that completely denying the role of mental representations would make it very difficult for us to account for our reasoning about abstract concepts, counterfactuals, and theoretical generalizations.




Main topics for debates and papers (non exclusive):





Issues related to the educational and persuasive function of film

Aesthetics and cognitive approaches of art and audiovisual media

New media, video games and embodied simulations

Immersion and absorption of the viewer in fiction and new media artifacts

Film embodiment mechanisms

Creative and receptive aspects of cinema form a synchronic / diachronic perspective

How emotions are made in cinema

How meaning can be grounded in visual form and bodily experience

Cognitive models of interpretation of film and visual art

The embodied and enactive approaches in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science

Movies conceptual content, perceptual patterns and editing constructions

Films as expressions of specific cultural experiences and their impact on society

Aesthetic experience and cognitive involvement of artworks

Aesthetic appreciation / emotion and aesthetic judgments


Issue editor: Mircea Deaca



Deadline for abstracts of up to 300 words: JULY 30th 2018.

Final submission is due August 15th 2018.

The articles should be written in English or French (for English, please use the MLA citation style and documenting sources). 



For the final essay, the word limit is 5000-8000 words of text (including references).


Please include a summary and key-words


The articles should be original material not published in any other media before.


Graduate students are particularly encouraged to submit papers.


Please send all correspondence;


Ekphrasis is a peer-reviewed academic journal, edited by the Faculty of Theatre and Television, “Babes-Bolyai” University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania.


For more information and submission guidelines, please visit: