Ancient and Modern Modes of Understanding and Manipulating Disgust
The introduction sheds light on the visceral emotion of disgust in Greek and Roman literature. Disgust invites out attention not only to the culturally privileged senses of sight and hearing, but also to the neglected senses of smell, taste, and touch. The Introduction endorses the view that emotions are a cognitive phenomenon and, thereby, argues that looking into the social categories, behaviors, or aesthetic preferences presented as disgusting enables us to locate the norms and values that regulated ancient social life. At the same time, the introduction offers an outline of modern approaches to the emotion as a response to vile substances (e.g., rotten food) or “abnormal” practices (sexual “deviances”) or old age and ugliness. It also uses modern advancements in the fields of psychology and philosophy by way of explaining the mechanisms that facilitated ancient deployments of the affect as a mechanism of social exclusion. A separate section is dedicated to the aesthetics of ugliness and repugnance in ancient art, emphasizing how inappropriate gestures, vile substances, and deformity invite spectators’ attention, thereby enhancing their aesthetic experience.
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