the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

loh on uses and powers of horror

Posted by rigorousm on January 29, 2015

Horror shakes us to the core and reminds us not only of our own mortality, but also of the vulnerability of our coping strategies (whether they be articulated through the discourse of religion, medicine, science, psychoanalysis, aesthetics, phenomenology, etc.) (326)

Horror tears at the skin, opening a wound where the internal space of the subjective viewer and the external realm of disembodied representation bleed into one. Horror externalizes—makes visible—deep-seated anxieties. In its allegorical mode, it is a means of working through, but also of displacing and repressing our fears through representation.

… The power of horror, to paraphrase Kristeva, reveals itself in those places where meaning collapses… or perhaps where the production of meaning is questioned and challenged in a constant state of flux. In this sense, our use of horror moves perhaps closer to Bataille’s notion of the informe, as re-articulated by Rosalind Krauss, which resists the attempt to pin down the formless into a manageable system of knowledge and looks instead of the fear-driven violence of meaning production in and of itself…. At bottom, horror is a confrontation with representation, with an image that is placed before the spectator’s gaze, a fiction which nevertheless demands an embodied and even visceral response from the viewer as if it were real. As such, horror is always-already a meditation upon the pathos of representation; it pokes at the vulnerability of the spectator’s vision, cognition, and language while heightening his/her awareness of the affecting force of images. (329)

Maria H. Loh, “Introduction: Early Modern Horror” published in Oxford Art Journal, 34.3, 2011. (archived online here)

See also Susan Stewart, “The Epistemology of the Horror Story,” published Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 95, No. 375, 1982, pp. 33-50. (jstor access here, read online for free)

“What is at risk in these [horror] stories is our good faith in our ability to know the world by means of a socially given system of interpretation. Our hierarchies of relevance, our assumptions of the social, and our faith in the reliability of the self and its potential for apprehending the real are all suspended, put into brackets.”

see also The Philosophy of Horror, ed. Thomas Fahy (online in full pdf here)


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