Daniel Yacavone is Associate Professor of Film Studies at the University of Edinburgh, where he has been Director of the Film Studies Programme.
His research interests include film aesthetics, film theory (and its history), modern and contemporary cinema, intermediality, film emotion and affect, the philosophy of film and art (both Continental and analytic traditions), and semiotics and symbol theory. Prior to coming to Cinepoetics he was a Fellow-in-residence at The Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences, and his research has been supported by The British Academy. His current transdisciplinary research project deals with reflexivity and self-consciousness in cinema from various cognitive, affective and intermedial perspectives, and will result in a book published by Oxford University Press. He is also co-editing a book collection (with Steffen Hven) on cinematic atmospheres.
Yacavone is the author of Film Worlds: A Philosophical Aesthetics of Cinema (Columbia University Press, 2015) and – among other articles and book chapters – the influential "Film and the Phenomenology of Art: Reappraising Merleau-Ponty on Cinema as Form, Medium, and Expression" in New Literary History: A Journal of Theory and Interpretation.
Three Quick Questions:
In a few words, can you tell us about your current research interest?
I am currently pursuing a systematic and up-to-date understanding of the various processes through which narrative films reflect upon themselves, and upon cinema as an art/medium, in direct and implicit ways. In addition to creating a new typology of (self-)reflexive forms found throughout the history of analog and digital cinema, I am exploring considerably under-theorized immersive and affective/emotional aspects of reflexivity, self-consciousness, and 'metareference,' in films, as well as cognitive-semiotic and intermedial ones. This research will result in a book entitled Reflexive Cinema: Rethinking Self-Consciousness, Affect and Intermediality in the Moving Image (Oxford University Press).
How do you relate the term poiesis to your work?
As relevant to the ancient meaning of the term and its more recent uses – and as I have discussed in detail in my account of cinema as 'worldmaking' (Film Worlds, 2015) – I conceive of filmmaking as the creative, symbolic transformation and de-familiarization of experience. As such, and like all art, it is a powerful means of expressing truths about experience and the world in especially concrete perceptual, affective, and imaginative ways. My work is devoted to better illuminating the many forms and functions of this transformation in cinema, including in comparison with other arts, from various theoretical and philosophical standpoints.
Which film or other audiovisual format has resonated with you lately and why?
Recently watching (or re-watching) several films by Andrzej Zulawski, including his maniacal 2015 adaptation of Witold Gombrowicz's Cosmos, I have been struck by the utter singularity of the affective tone and atmosphere of his work, in comparison with any other filmmaker – or artist, more generally – with whom I am familiar. And by his films' ability to provide (for myself, at least) a trance-like or 'ecstatic' experience. While seemingly a holistic property, irreducible to any specific formal or representational features, rhythm, of various kinds, appears central to this 'Zulawski effect,' as it is to cinema, more generally.