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NoŽl Carroll (1947 - )


NoŽl Carroll: I was born in 1947 in Far Rockaway, Queens, in New York City. Thatís where Radio Days is set. Through high school my schooling was in Catholic Schools. There I developed an intense, visceral dislike of dogmatism. Perhaps I react to certain film world positions, especially French-derived ones, in the same way I did to Orthodox Catholicism.


Even staunch anti-psychoanalysis theorist Noel Carroll admits to its value where horror is concerned. --Donato Totaro

Psychoanalytic theories of film, and of horror film in particular, have been subject to attack from various quarters. This essay addresses these criticismsódefending a psychoanalytic approach to horror cinema from objections raised by theorists such as Stephen Prince, Andrew Tudor, Jonathan Crane, NoŽl Carroll, and Berys Gaut. Some of these objections do little more than wheel out the well-worn objectionóa common one even in Freud's timeóthat psychoanalysis is "unscientific." But even if is true that psychoanalysis is unscientific (by some often objectionable standard), this does not ipso facto show that it is false. Adolf GrŁnbaum's critique of Freud's so-called "Tally Argument" (see below) is an example of one such "objectionable standard." This critique is basically a gussied-up version of the claim that psychoanalysis is not falsifiable. However, the falsifiability (in principle), of a scientific theory, has to be interpreted in way suitable to the theory in question. It is clear that psychoanalysis is not going to be falsifiable (in principle) in the way that the physical or biological sciences areó that is, by producing an experiment that can conclusively falsify it. Nevertheless, as I point out below, aspects of psychoanalysis certainly are falsifiable, and indeed have been falsified. --http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/01/15/horror_fun.html

Why Does Horror Appeal to Us? [...]

What is it about horror that is making us walk out of the smug comfort of our homes to sit for three long hours in the darkened halls only to have our nerves frayed? What is it about horror that tingles our pleasure buds? Are we truly a bunch of sadists deep inside who delight in all the blood and the gore and the suffering that the poor protagonists undergo? Is it to appease the animal in us that we delight in horror films? -- Juhi Bakhshi

Steven Jay Schneider [...]

Since the publication of NoŽl Carrollís groundbreaking study, The Philosophy of Horror; or, Paradoxes of the Heart (Routledge, 1990), a plethora of articles have been authored by seemingly normal philosophers about the decidedly abnormal activities of the antagonists of fright flicks. Dark Thoughts: Philosophic Reflections on Cinematic Horror is a collection of original and reprinted essays by top scholars in the increasingly interrelated fields of Philosophy, Film Studies, and Communication Arts that deal with the epistemology, aesthetics, ethics, metaphysics, and genre dynamics of horror cinema past and present. --Steven Jay Schneider

Metafilter Discussion

Philosopher Noel Carroll makes a similar hypothesis about horror movies, talking about what makes something horror as opposed to such a thriller. The crux of it is that horror requires a monster, and a monster requires a "categorical violation" (search on this page) — the living dead, cat people, etc. If something exists comfortably in a natural category, it's not a monster, and not horror, so Psycho is out, as is Slience of the Lambs, etc. But Cujo, which is a dog that's too smart to be a dog, is in. It's an interesting distinction to make, and I have a couple of friends who swear by the definition.
posted by blueshammer at 6:24 PM PST on October 24 --http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/21071

Ambivalence [...]

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. -- Daniel Shaw via http://www.lhup.edu/dshaw/pohor.html

Senses Of Cinema



  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?

  2. A Philosophy of Mass Art - Noel Carroll [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    We live in a world surrounded by mass art. Movies, TV, pulp literature, comics, rock music--both broadcast and recorded--surround us everywhere. Yes despite the fact that for the majority of people mass art supplies the primary source of aesthetic experience, the area has been neglected entirely by analytical philosophers of art.

    In this pathbreaking new book, a leading philosopher of art provides an accessible and wide-ranging look at the topic. Noel Carroll shows why philosophers have previously resisted and/or misunderstood mass art and he develops frameworks for understanding the relation of mass art to the emotions, morality, and ideology. He also discusses the major theories of such pivotal figures as Collingwood, Adorno, Benjamin, McCluhan, and Fiske. Mixing conceptual analysis with many vivid examples, Carroll forges the first significant attempt at a philosophy of mass art, concluding that there are strong grounds for approaching mass art in the same fashion as high art. --amazon.com

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