Norbert Wiley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This is a comparison of the emotions we have in watching a movie with those we have in everyday life. Everyday emotion is loose in frame or context but rather controlled and regulated in content. Movie emotion, in contrast, is tightly framed and boundaried but permissive and uncontrolled in content. Movie emotion is therefore quite safe and inconsequential but can still be unusually satisfying and pleasurable. I think of the movie emotions as modeling clay that can symbolize all sorts of human troubles. A major function of movies then is catharsis, a term I use more inclusively than usual. Throughout I use a pragmatist approach to film theory. This position gives the optimal distance to the study of ordinary, middle-level emotion. In contrast psychoanalysis is too close and cognitive theory too distant. This middle position is similar to Arlie Hochschild's symbolic interactionist approach to the sociology of emotions, which also mediates between psychoanalysis and cognitive theories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-187
Number of pages19
JournalStudies in Symbolic Interaction
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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