The Philosophy of Horror: Or, Paradoxes of the Heart

The Philosophy of Horror: Or, Paradoxes of the Heart

The Philosophy of Horror: Or, Paradoxes of the Heart

The Philosophy of Horror: Or, Paradoxes of the Heart

Synopsis

Noel Carroll, film scholar and philosopher, offers the first serious look at the aesthetics of horror. In this book he discusses the nature and narrative structures of the genre, dealing with horror as a "transmedia" phenomenon. A fan and serious student of the horror genre, Carroll brings to bear his comprehensive knowledge of obscure and forgotten works, as well as of the horror masterpieces. Working from a philosophical perspective, he tries to account for how people can find pleasure in having their wits scared out of them. What, after all, are those "paradoxes of the heart" that make us want to be horrified?

Excerpt

For over a decade and a half, perhaps especially in the United States, horror has flourished as a major source of mass aesthetic stimulation. Indeed, it may even be the most long-lived, widely disseminated, and persistent genre of the post-Vietnam era. Horror novels seem available in virtually every supermarket and pharmacy, and new titles appear with unsettling rapidity. The onslaught of horror novels and anthologies, at present at least, is as unstoppable and as inescapable as the monsters they portray. One author in this genre, Stephen King, has become a household name, while others, like Peter Straub and Clive Barker, though somewhat less known, also command large followings.

Popular movies, as well, have remained so obsessed with horror since the box office triumph of The Exorcist that it is difficult to visit your local multiplex theater without meeting at least one monster. The evidence of the immense output of horror movies in the last decade and a half is also readily confirmed by a quick estimate of the proportion of the space in the neighborhood video store that is turned over to horror rentals.

Horror and music explicitly join forces in rock videos, notably Michael Jackson's Thriller, though one must also remember that the iconography of horror supplies a pervasive coloration to much of MTV and the pop music industry. The Broadway musical smash of 1988, of course, was Phantom of the Opera, which had already seen success in London, and which inspired such unlikely fellow travelers as Carrie. On the dramatic side of theater, new versions of horror classics have appeared, such as Edward Gorey's variations on Dracula, while TV has launched a number of horror or horror-related series such as Freddy's Nightmares. Horror figures even in fine art, not only directly, in works by Francis Bacon, H.R. Giger, and Sibylle Ruppert, but artists. In short, horror has become a staple across contemporary art forms, also in the form of allusions in the pastiches of a number of postmodern popular and otherwise, spawning vampires, trolls, gremlins, zombies, were . . .

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