Why horror?

In the ordinary course of affairs, people shun what disgusts them. Being repulsed by something that one finds to be loathsome and impure is an unpleasant experience. We do not, for example, attempt to add some pleasure to a boring afternoon by opening the lid of a steamy trash can in order to savor its unwholesome stew of broken bits of meat, moldering fruits and vegetables, and noxious, unrecognizable clumps, riven thoroughly by all manner of crawling things. And, ordinarily, checking out hospital waste bags is not our idea of a good time. But, on the other hand, many people – so many, in fact, that we must concede that they are normal, at least in the statistical sense – do seek out horror fictions for the purpose of deriving pleasure from sights and descriptions that customarily repulse them.

— Noel Carroll, in ‘Arguing About Art‘.

I’m presenting for my Aesthetics class on a similar theme next week: why we value art that depicts immorality. I’ll report back soon with some thoughts, once I’ve done some reading.


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