Department of Art and Media Studies, NTNU

Symposium on the moral psychology of fiction

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
20. – 21. September 2012

This symposium will explore the moral psychology of engagement with fictional narratives.

  • What guides the spectator's engagement in fictional narratives where the main characters are morally transgressive?
  • Is liking a fictional character grounded in a moral evaluation of the character?
  • Why do we, as spectators, not sympathize with morally transgressive antagonists, while we do with morally transgressive protagonists?
  • Are there some actions or attitudes that are always perceived as immoral and antagonistic, or can a narrative make the spectator engage with any action or attitude – and, in the case of the latter, what narrative techniques are employed to achieve this?
  • What difference does it make morally for the spectator's engagement that a narrative is fiction?

These questions call for a variety of case studies – for example, the many contemporary television series with morally transgressive main characters (e.g., The Sopranos, Mad Men, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Dexter, The Wire, Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, Damages, The Shield, etc).

The symposium will bring together scholars from cognitive film theory, analytic philosophy and media psychology.

The confirmed speakers are:

Noël Carroll, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, The City University of New York

Gregory Currie, Professor of Philosophy, University of Nottingham

Anne Gjelsvik, Professor of Film Studies, NTNU

Carl Plantinga, Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences, Calvin College

Arthur A. Raney, Professor of Mass Communication, The State University of Florida

Rikke Schubart, Associate Professor of Film Studies, University of Southern Denmark

Murray Smith, Professor of Film Studies, University of Kent

Ed S. Tan, Professor of Media Entertainment, University of Amsterdam

Margrethe Bruun Vaage, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Film Studies, NTNU