Monday, May 12, 2014

Carroll's "The Philosophy of Horror" Pt. 1: The Introduction



Currently reading through Noel Carroll's The Philosophy of Horror, or: Paradoxes of the Heart. Interesting approach. There have been a ton of great treatments of the horror genre, the most famous probably being C. Clover's Freudian tour-de-force Men, Women, and Chainsaws. Carroll stands out for trying to understand horror through the lens of "analytic aesthetics", which is now not quite in vogue, to say the least.

Here are some standout moments from the Introduction.

1. Carroll's inspiration is Aristotle's Poetics

"Taking Aristotle to propose a paradigm of what the philosophy of an artistic genre might be, I will offer an account of horror in virtue of emotional effects it is designed to cause in audiences." ... "That is, in the spirit of Aristotle, I will presume that the genre is designed to produce an emotional effect; I will attempt to isolate that effect; and I will attempt to show how the characteristic structures, imagery, and figures in the genre are arranged to cause the emotion that I will call art-horror. "

2. The two paradoxes of the heart

"With respect to horror, these paradoxes can be summed up in the following two questions: 1) how can anyone be frightened by what they know does not exist, and 2) why would anyone ever be interested in horror, since being horrified is so unpleasant?"

On number two: "most of us don't play in traffic to entertain ourselves, nor do we attend autopsies to while away the hours."

3. On the suspicion of popular art

"Philosophical aesthetics...is either oblivious to or suspicious of mass or popular art. One reason for this is that mass and popular art gravitate toward the formulaic, and aestheticians often presume a Kantian-inspired bias that art, properly so called, is not susceptible to formula."

Next up is chapter one, "The Nature of Horror". Subheading "Fantastic Biologies and the Structures of Horrific Imagery" sounds fascinating. I look forward to reading about a fantastic biology, whatever that is.

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