The Philosophy of Horror

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Whether through film, television, or popular fiction, horror engages audiences like no other genre. From the classic novel to the latest slasher flick, horror has struck fear in the hearts of generations of readers and viewers across the centuries. The thrill and exhilaration generated by a terrifying story not only excite the senses but also raise important questions about safety, justice, suffering, and other human concerns.

The Philosophy of Horror examines why horror fascinates fans by exploring the social, moral, and artistic statements of the genre. Editor Thomas Fahy has assembled a team of scholars to investigate topics as diverse as the genre itself. From classic films such as Psycho (1960) and The Shining (1980) to contemporary and highly controversial torture-horror films like Hostel (2005) and the Saw series, the contributing authors trace the development of horror as a form of art and entertainment. The Philosophy of Horror explores the underlying philosophical concepts of classic horror fiction, such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, as well as works that have been largely ignored in philosophical circles, including Truman Capote's In Cold Blood and Patrick Süskind's Perfume.

Together the essays follow the evolution of the horror genre across the decades, investigating the theoretical underpinnings of each work in the context of its time. This diverse collection explores horror from a variety of perspectives and draws on a wide range of interpretive approaches, including feminist, postcolonial, Marxist, and psychoanalytic criticism. The result is a comprehensive study of fundamental questions about morality, identity, social constructions, and other topics raised in horror narratives.

The Philosophy of Horror confirms what horror fans have known for decades — horror is not only entertaining but also deeply insightful. Inviting readers to ponder this genre's various manifestations since the late 1700s, this collection of probing essays allows fans and philosophy buffs alike to view horror narratives with fresh eyes and consider their dark themes within the framework of philosophy. The Philosophy of Horror is a celebration of a strange, compelling, and disturbing tradition in art and entertainment. Horror not only excites and entertains audiences; it also leaves them searching for answers.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The Philosophy of Horror provides new insights into a familiar genre. And, like the Cedar Point commercial that comes on each autumn, advertising family-friendly October weekends, it's 'fun scary, not scary scary.'"—The Plain Dealer" —

"[The Philosophy of Horror] demonstrates how horror films essentially make us philosophical skeptics for a couple hours before we return to everyday life.... it's "fun scary, not scary scary." It definitely made me chuckle."—The Plain Dealer" —

"It's precisely the extreme nature of horror that makes it such a lightning rod for debates about hot-topic issues within American culture — like racism, women's rights, consumerism and sexuality — along with broader issues of morality....Philosophy of Horror addresses the latter, with contributions about the hidden messages of everything from The Birds to Hostel."—Thomas Rogers,Salon" —

"Fahy…examines the reasons why audiences continue to revisit horror and why fear is the underpinning of some of American culture's most well known television and film productions and works of literature."—" —

"The Philosophy of Horror is an intelligently written, perceptive, engrossing work that attempts to answer many disturbing questions. The arguments are presented in a clear manner and are supported by appropriate examples…The [book] is recommended not only for enthusiasts of the genre, but also for anyone who has ever wondered why some people enjoy horror films. The book raises some questions about our own psyche worth pondering about."—Mayra Calvani, New York Journal of Books" —

"[Fahy] gathers essays by 12 philosophers, literary scholars, and others on the appeal and repulsion of horror films and the questions they raise about fear, safety, justice, and suffering."—Moving Image Archives" —

"A selection of 14 essays exploring ways horror plays with philosophical concepts, primarily looking at films and TV, but also fiction."—Locus" —

"The philosophy of Horror demonstrate the range and diversity of purposes served by horror films and fiction."—" —

"If you wish to have your horizons broadened, and new ideas brought up and explored, then you'd do well to pick this up."— Rock Star Journalist" —

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813136554
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 4/25/2012
  • Series: The Philosophy of Popular Culture Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 621,766
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Fahy, director of the American Studies Program at Long Island University, is author or editor of numerous publications, including Staging Modern American Life, Freak Shows and the Modern American Imagination, and two recent horror novels, Sleepless and The Unspoken. He lives in New York City.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Introduction Thomas Fahy 1

Horror and the Idea of Everyday Life: On Skeptical Threats in Psycho and The Birds Philip J. Nickel 14

Through a Mirror, Darkly: Art-Horror as a Medium for Moral Reflection Philip Tallon 33

The Justification of Torture-Horror: Retribution and Sadism in Saw, Hostel, and The Devil's Rejects Jeremy Morris 42

Hobbes, Human Nature, and the Culture of American Violence in Truman Capotes In Cold Blood Thomas Fahy 57

Making Their Presence Known: TV's Ghost-Hunter Phenomenon in a "Post-" World Jessica O'Hara 72

The Vampire with a Soul: Angel and the Quest for Identity Amy Kind 86

Ideological Formations of the Nuclear Family in The Hills Have Eyes Lorena Russell 102

Zombies of the World, Unite: Class Struggle and Alienation in Land of the Dead John Lutz 121

The Fall of the House of Ulmer: Europe vs. America in the Gothic Vision of The Black Cat Paul A. Cantor 137

From Domestic Nightmares to the Nightmare of History: Uncanny Eruptions of Violence in King's and Kubrick's Versions of The Shining John Lutz 161

"Hot with Rapture and Cold with Fear": Grotesque, Sublime, and Postmodern Transformations in Patrick Süskinds Perfume Susann Cokal 179

Shock Value: A Deleuzean Encounter with James Purdy's Narrow Rooms Robert F. Gross 199

Making Monsters: The Philosophy of Reproduction in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and the Universal Films Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein Ann C. Hall 212

Kitsch and Camp and Things That Go Bump in the Night; or, Sontag and Adorno at the (Horror) Movies David MacGregor Johnston 229

Contributors 245

Index 249

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