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Motif of harmful sensation

Related: Medusa - motif - danger - sensation

Legend has it that anyone who reads the whole collection of Arabian Nights will become mad. [Jun 2006]

In Greek mythology, anyone who directly views the Gorgons is turned to stone. When Perseus confronted Medusa, the most famous of the Gorgons, he avoided this fate by viewing her in his reflective shield in order to guide his sword.


The motif of harmful sensation involves harm befalling a person directly from the mere fact of their experiencing a sensation; it appears in both traditional and authored stories.

An idea with close affinities to the sight that harms is the gaze that harms: in one case seeing it, and in the other being seen by it, is thought harmful. (Ambiguity and confusion about the distinction may be associated with metaphysical or vitalist conceptions that treat vision as an active function of the eye, in contrast with the scientific account of the eye passively receiving light that is present even when vision does not occur.)

While the apparent fascination with this motif may be based in philosophic imagination, independent of actual observations, a real-world parallel lies in visual stimuli at a specific frequency that can "pump" EEG rhythms at the same frequency and induce an epileptic seizure in people who already have epilepsy. Real examples of this happening have included flashing screens in anime and video games. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motif_of_harmful_sensation [Jan 2005]

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