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Related: love hate relationships - ambiguity - opposition

Like tragedy, the horror genre generates an ambivalent reaction in its appreciators. Our enjoyment of horror is clearly more problematic than, say, indulging in the pleasures of a good romantic comedy. Monsters, aliens and psychopaths, committing acts of radical and unrelenting violence, should simply disgust and repel us, and to some degree they do. But many of us also take exquisite joy in the horrifying force, in watching its carnage unfold, and in the hunt that usually results in its destruction or expulsion. Explaining the ambivalence at the heart of our enjoyment of horror is crucial to understanding the genre.

The problem is to explain how we are both attracted to and repulsed by the monstrous threat that such a force embodies. --Daniel Shaw


Ambivalence is a state in which one feels contradictory emotions at the same time for the same object or person. For example, love and hatred for someone or something. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambivalence [Jun 2005]

The coexistence of opposing attitudes or feelings, such as love and hate, toward a person, object, or idea. --AHD

Ambivalence in Aristotle's Poetics

Poetics () - Aristotle [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
image sourced here.

Two translations from chapter four, on why we like things which are painful to see, for example: horror:

See also: art horror - representation - Aristotle

The Philosophy of Horror or Paradoxes of the Heart (1990) - Noel Carroll

  1. The Philosophy of Horror or Paradoxes of the Heart (1990) - Noel Carroll [Amazon.com]

    How can we be genuinely frightened of vampires, though we know they don't exist? How is it that people find pleasure in being scared out of their wits? Carroll presents the first philosophical and aesthetic analysis of the horror genre. This book should be of interest to advanced students in philosophy, media and cultural studies and literary criticism.

    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?

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