Emotions In John Gaut's Paradox Of Horror Fiction

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The paradox of horror centres around the fact that the raison d’être of horror fictions appears to be to arouse negative emotions, such as terror or disgust, in their audiences. These emotions are habitually regarded as profoundly displeasurable and to be avoided at all costs. In spite of this, a significant proportion of the human population actively seek to engage with horror fictions, deriving a great deal of pleasure from the negative emotions which they induce. As such, the paradox raises the question of why individuals appear to enjoy experiencing emotions which are considered to be intrinsically negative, in the case that these emotions happen to be elicited by horror fictions. In what follows, I shall outline Gaut’s conception…show more content…
In assessing the paradox, commentators tend to overlook the cognitive aspect, merely paying attention to the phenomenological aspect of the emotion, but, in reality, it is the cognitive aspect which renders one’s experience of an emotion either pleasurable or displeasurable. To illustrate the distinction between the three components: if one notices a shark approaching her in the water, her fear has a phenomenological aspect, the phenomenon of being scared itself, a physiological aspect, whereby her heart begins to race and shivers pass through her body, and, finally, a cognitive element, whereby she evaluates the fear negatively, and thus experiences acute displeasure. If she were then to discover that what accompanied her in the water was not in reality a shark, but merely a friend playing a trick, then the cognitive element of her emotion of fear would change, and she would no longer evaluate it negatively. Gaut suggests that something similar occurs with horror

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