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Why Horror Seduces$
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Mathias Clasen

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190666507

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190666507.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 18 January 2022



Horror, Fear, and Evolution

(p.1) Introduction
Why Horror Seduces

Mathias Clasen

Oxford University Press

Horror entertainment is paradoxically popular. It is one of the most consistently popular genres across media, yet it is designed to make audiences feel bad. An evolutionary perspective, one that builds on recent developments in cognitive and evolutionary psychology, can help explain the genre’s popularity as well as its form and function. This chapter argues that horror fiction is crucially dependent on evolved properties of the human central nervous system and that a nuanced and scientifically valid understanding of horror requires that we take human evolutionary history seriously. Horror targets ancient defense mechanisms in the brain. At the same time, horror changes in response to sociocultural context. Hence, the chapter argues for a biocultural critical approach to horror, one that is sensitive to cultural context as well as evolved psychological underpinnings. The chapter explains the rationale of the book and outlines its structure.

Keywords:   evolution, cognitive psychology, evolutionary psychology, horror fiction, biocultural criticism

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