Dreadful: Aesthetic Fear in Victorian Reading
by Pamela K. Gilbert
in Fear in the Medical and Literary Imagination, Medieval to Modern ed. by Daniel McCann and Claire McKechnie-Mason
The late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries saw the rise of both the novel and physiological psychology, in which thinkers interested in affect often turned to literature to understand the functions of fictional emotion. One problem that has dogged aesthetic and psychological theorists since at least Aristotle is the aesthetic appreciation of negative affects. Why do we read tragedy, melodrama, and horror fiction, which evoke fear and sadness? How do we enjoy them? This essay will survey the history of the debate on the psychology and physiology of fear, including associationism, common sense and evolutionary theories. It will then discuss the period’s fiction, focusing especially on the affect of reading in the genres of gothic and sensation.
by Jorge Carlos Guerrero
in Postmodern Parody in Latin American Literature ed. by
Guerrero argues that Mario Vargas Llosa’s Cinco esquinas [Five Points] is an ironic and self-reflexive parody of yellow journalism that advances a harsh indictment of both yellow journalism’s political uses by Alberto Fujimori’s regime in Peru, as well as its place in contemporary democratic culture. Based on the premise that the aesthetics of melodrama is intrinsic to sensationalism, the chapter examines the ways in which the novel imitates the excesses of sensationalist journalism through an ample repository of melodramatic techniques. Guerrero further contends that, through the playful engagement with other intertexts—notably Peruvian criollo music—Cinco esquinas is self-derisory about its skeptical perspective on culture and politics, thus undermining, in a postmodern fashion, the discourse of a narrator whose views mirror those of the author.