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Hauke, C. (2015). Horror Films and the Attack on Rationality. J. Anal. Psychol., 60(5):736-740.

(2015). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 60(5):736-740

Film and Culture

Horror Films and the Attack on Rationality

Christopher Hauke

Why does horror attract people as it does? Why spend several pounds on a film or book that you know is going to terrify you? Thomas Ligotti, a modern horror writer, presents a pessimistic philosophy, noting through his reading of H.P. Lovecraft, a general distrust of the value of human consciousness and its place in the world. This view could be associated with Jung's critique of a dominant conscious rationality and his own Nietzschean scepticism about the achievements of rationality since the Enlightenment.

For Jung, ‘…reason and the will that is grounded in reason are valid only up to a point. The further we go in the direction selected by reason, the surer we may be that we are excluding the irrational possibilities of life which have just as much right to be lived …’ (Jung 1943, para. 72).

The attraction and use of horror and the Gothic for interest and entertainment parallels a postmodern Jungian distrust in the achievements and place of human consciousness in Nature. In encountering and enjoying horror, what is being sought is a transcendence of the limits of rational consciousness and an experience of the sublime. At its core, the horror genre sees our humanness and consciousness not as an enhancement or culmination of Nature but an aberration. A mistake. In horror we may be seeking a route past such limitations. As Jung said:

Through our senses we experience the known, but our intuitions point to things that are unknown and hidden, that by their very nature are secret. If they ever become conscious, they are intentionally kept secret and concealed, for which reason they have been regarded from earliest times as mysterious, uncanny, and deceptive. They are hidden from man, and he hides himself from them out of religious awe, protecting himself with the shield of science and reason.

(Jung 1930, para. 48)

The Popular Growth of Gothic Horror

From a psychoanalytic point of view, it has been said that:

The Gothic arises out of the immediate needs of the reading public to escape from conventional life and articulate …. the turbulence of their psychic existence.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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