The Seduction of Horror

This week’s review investigates why our bodies’ physical responses to fear increase our love for horror

Why horror seduces

Clasen, Mathias F. Oxford, 2017
190p bibl index, 9780190666507 $99.00

In this unique, accessible contribution to horror studies, Clasen (Aarhus Univ., Denmark) uses evolutionary science and a biocultural approach to investigate the appeal of horror and how fear can force humans to reengage with long-dormant urges and emotions. Clasen investigates scientific alternatives to Freudian paradigms by embracing the larger neurological turn in the arts. He situates his study of horror fiction “within the larger framework of the evolutionary social sciences,” and he argues that the genre is “crucially dependent on evolved properties of the human central nervous system” and that “nuanced and scientifically valid understanding of horror” requires an understanding of evolutionary theory and science. The author divides Why Horror Seduces into three sections. In the first he explains the evolutionary approach he uses, and in part 2 he implements that theory in the reading of specific cultural products of American horror, including Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend (1954) and John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978). In part 3 Clasen considers the future of horror, namely the dynamics of the genre, by looking at the more immersive and participatory experiences offered by video games and horror attractions. Impeccably well written and researched, this work persuasively argues for a new methodology in approaching horror.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers.
Reviewer: S. B. Skelton, Kansas State University
Subject: Humanities – Language & Literature – English & American
Choice Issue: Jul 2018