Vol. 16, N. 1/2022 Cinema, thought and language (guest editor Alessia Cervini)


Call for papers - Rivista Italiana di Filosofia del Linguaggio www.rifl.unical.it

Vol. 16, N. 1/2022     Cinema, thought and language

Edited by Alessia Cervini


Deadline: 30 November 2021


During the first and a half century since the birth of cinema, we have learnt that, first, cinema is art, and then - a little later - that it is also language. The point is to comprehend what does this mean exactly nowadays, if we assume as a starting point for any of our reflections the idea of Lev Vygotskij who states that not only there is no primordial link between thought and language, but also that this link must be seen as a result of human evolution. If this is true, we can argue that, as a consequence, cinema - being language - has been able to modify our way of thinking, that is to shape new concepts, which would have never existed without the presence of cinema. Among others, Gilles Deleuze endorsed this theory. The main goal of this issue of RIFL is precisely to investigate the mysterious relation - mysterious because it is prone to progressive mutations - between cinema and language and then, among cinema, language and the forms of thought able to be produced.

Early in the 30s, Lev Vygotskij and Sergej Ejzenštejn were already working together on this matter: how does cinema acquire and adapt verbal language rules, using not only words, but also images; and, how can this new language by images, in addition, produce thought. Ejzenštejn was mostly concerned with the nonverbal component of cinematographic images, because it is directly connected with a specific form of thought described by the director as sensual or pre-logical, according to the information he received from the anthropological researches about the primitive, mainly by Lévy-Bruhl. Cinema is a form of thought not yet formalized according to logical rules, a form of thought rather linked to the immediacy of feelings, unlike the conceptual thought which is expressed through verbal language.

The following is Ejzenštejn’s discovery: the mechanism of cinematographic language is surprisingly similar to the one of inner monologue, employed in literature by Joyce and improved so much that it had reached a tipping point beyond which maybe only cinema could go further. Ejzenštejn develops such belief through an apparently simple statement: “the laws of construction of inner speech turn out to be precisely those laws which lie at the foundation of the whole variety of laws governing the construction of the form and composition of art-works”. This is a radical statement that Ejzenštejn certainly owes to his fellowship with Lev Vygotskij, a psychologist who died prematurely in 1934, just when the director started to feel the urge to reflect on the method and functioning of the artistic behavior.

Inner speech - described in Vygotskij’s terms as the step following egocentric speech (the internal monologue of children who use a language coming from the external world) - is the first real internalization of the language that we have learned from others. Thus, this can be an opportunity to break down the relation between words and their generalized meaning to assemble it in a new order. For this reason, it has much to do with art and its way to make use of thought. In fact, inner speech could defuse the ability of one word to refer “not to a single object, but to a group or to a class of objects”, which is exactly what happens with proper verbal speech. Thanks to its particular way of functioning, we can think, just like Ejzenštejn, that the same laws of inner speech govern “the construction of form and the composition of art-woks”.

Ejzenštejn’s thesis is as much clear as it is radical: concerning its structure and its operating mechanism, the form of thought activated by art and its products mirrors the same structure and mechanism of primordial thought. If we consider, for example, the way a rhetoric figure like pars pro toto works inside an art-work, it is easy to understand how it mirrors form and structure of the sensual thinking, because it substitutes a general concept (a typical rational and logical thought) with a pure singularity.

It is at this point that Vygotskij’s research on inner speech - having proved to respond not to a total absence of logic, but rather to a personal, creative logic, based on one hand on the disconnection between language and speech, and on the other, on their “referential” ability - seems to suggest Ejzenštejn the way through which he can try to answer to the fundamental problems of art and its mechanism.

This issue of RIFL magazine aims to reflect, starting with the comparison between the director S.M. Ejzenštejn and the psychologist Lev Vygotskij, on the relation between arts (cinema, in particular) and language (in all its different forms, including nonverbal ones), and it is parted in a wide range of topics, such as:


  1. Verbal and nonverbal languages
  2. Inner and external speech
  3. Body language
  4. Theory of mind
  5. Cinema, language, technique
  6. Image theory
  7. Performing arts
  8. Psychology and anthropology of arts
  9. Inner monologue in arts


We call for articles in Italian, English and French. All manuscripts must be accompanied by an abstract (max 250 words), a title and 5 keywords in English. The manuscript must be prepared using the template at this link: http://rifl.unical.it/authortemplate/template_eng.doc . All submissions must be prepared by the author for anonymous evaluation. The name, affiliation to an institution and title of the contribution should be indicated in a file different from that which contains the text. The contribution must be sent in electronic format .doc or .rtf to segreteria.rifl@gmail.com.


Instructions for authors:

Maximum contribution length:

40000 characters (including spaces) for articles (including bibliography and endnotes);


Deadline 30 November 2021

Publication: June 2022