Volume 58, Issue 2, June 2018
The Nature of Horror Reconsidered
There is a growing interest in the role of non-cognitive affective responses in the philosophical literature on fiction and emotion. This flurry of scholarly interest is partly a reaction to cognitivist accounts of fiction and emotion that have been found to be inadequate. The inadequacy is particularly salient when this approach is employed to account for narrative horror. Cognitivist conceptions of the emotion engendered by narrative horror prove to be too restrictive. Cognitivist accounts also fail to give the formal devices and stylistic elements deployed in narrative horror a proper place within the spectator’s emotional engagement with it. In this paper I propose an alternative conception of the emotion “horror” that incorporates non-cognitive affective responses. I argue that this conception of “horror” is more fine-grained than the one characterized as a cognitivist approach. It captures more literary examples of the horror experience and it accommodates better the fear of the unknown. It also makes possible an aesthetics of horror in which formal devices and stylistic elements are given their proper place.