Monday, October 3, 2011
The fascination of the horrific being
The shadow of 1922 film Nosferatu, taken by F.W. Murnau. Wikipedia.org
As Halloween gets closer, I´ll dedicate a couple of posts to horror. Today, I´m taking some interesting paragraphs from the article Why Horror? by Noel Carroll, page 287 of the book Arguing About Art, second edition, London, 2004.
¨The fascination of the horrific being comes in tandem with disturbance. And, in fact, I would submit that for those who are attracted to the genre, the fascination at least compensates for the disturbance. This may be explained to a certain extent by reference to the thought theory of fictional emotion discussed earlier in the Philosophy of Horror. According to that view, the audience knows that the object of art-horror does not exist before them. The audience is only reacting to the thought that such and such an impure being might exist. This mutes, without eliminating, the disturbing aspect of the object of art-horror, and allows more opportunity for fascination with the monster to take hold.
One supposes that fascination would be too great a luxury to endure, if one, against all odds, were to encounter a horrific monster in ¨real life.¨ We, like the characters in horror fictions, would feel distressingly helpless; for such creatures, insofar as they defy our conceptual scheme, would leave us at a loss to think of how to deal with them -they would baffle our practical response, paralyzing us in terror (as they generally do to characters in horror fictions for the same reason). However, with art-horror, it is only the thought of the creature that is at issue; we know that it does not exist; we are not taxed literally by practical questions about what is to be done. So the fearsome and loathsome aspects of the monsters do not impinge upon us with the same practical urgency, allowing a space for fascination to take root. So, as a second approximation for resolving the paradox of horror, we can explain how it is that would, by hypothesis, ordinarily distress, disturb and disgust us, can also be the source of pleasure, interest and attraction. With reference to art-horror the answer is that the monster -as a categorical violation- fascinates for the self-same reasons it disgusts and, since we know the monster is but a fictional confection, our curiosity is affordable.¨
The monster of Frankenstein (Remember the Creature had never a name). Google images