Suffering Art Gladly: The Paradox of Negative Emotion in Art

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A collection of newly composed essays, some with a historical focus and some with a contemporary focus, which addresses the problem of explaining the appeal of artworks whose appreciation entails negative or difficult emotions on the appreciator's part - what has traditionally been known as "the paradox of tragedy". Convert currency. Add to Basket. Condition: New. Seller Inventory More information about this seller Contact this seller. Book Description Palgrave Macmillan, Language: English.

Brand new Book. Seller Inventory AAV Condition: Brand New. In Stock. Seller Inventory x Seller Inventory LIE However, it is possible to convert other problematic or negative emotions into aesthetic enjoyment: a scene that provokes grief can also raise the intrinsic beauty of nostalgia; horror films can invoke an addictive sensation of narrative enjoyment or of bowing before the sublime. However, disgust possesses an immediacy so sensual that its response Carroll; Feagin argues that we indeed perceive negative emotions, but that they are a kind of toll that must be paid on the road to achieving a full aesthetic experience.


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These negative emotions are necessary for the cognitive enjoyment of the overall work of art. Finally, the hedonistic response Gaut; Korsmeyer is the one we explain in this text, at length.


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  • Following this statement, then, if a work of art — a figurative and naturalistic one — transmits a feeling of disgust similar to the one we would feel if exposed to the actual thing in real life, we are merely dealing with an aesthetic defect. This implies that a disgusting image cannot elicit disgust in the same way that it would be elicited by an actual encounter with the thing depicted but to a different qualitative degree.

    Thus, what is the specificity of repugnance when related to aesthetic pleasure? Disgust as an aesthetic intensifier Korsmeyer finds aesthetic value precisely in the very emotion of disgust: it has such an expressive power that it can amplify the aesthetic experience, making it more intense by forcing the viewer to calibrate the contradiction between pleasure and rejection. Instead of reducing it to a pleasure—rejection binary, and given its visceral, instinctive nature, disgust exemplifies the dense network of cognitive operations, emotions, gradations, and nuances that come into play when evaluating a work of art.

    Accordingly, it is necessary to point out how disgust walks on thin ice when dealing with artistic pleasure: artists sometimes get the balance wrong, so that if the work is too sickening, the result is not an intense aesthetic experience but merely repugnance and recoil. Nonetheless, Hannibal achieves a proper and aesthetically enhanced balance: its presentation of the nauseating visually exhibits the paradox of disgust to provoke a more intense artistic and emotional experience in the viewer.

    In-depth analysis of one example can illustrate this dichotomy. The description of the image is horrendous, yet Bryan Fuller brings an aura of ornate symbolism, aesthetic sophistication, and formal beauty to what is otherwise disgusting. Firstly, there is the symbolism.

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    The human cello is the epitome of the grotesque, one of the recurrent aesthetic traits of Hannibal. It shapes one of the most excellent examples of the incomplete and contradictory categories violently combined in countless killings throughout the show. Secondly, there is the sophistication. The whole scene acts as a performance to the cube. Thirdly, there is the beauty. From its beginning, the scene shows a visual balance: a long shot shows the whole auditorium — a clean, quiet, and magnificent location.

    The crime scene is highlighted by a zenithal beam that projects a perfect circle of light right in the centre of the stage. Rosin from the bow. I wanted to play him.


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      Negative Emotions

      He is alone in the auditorium, clapping under the spotlight. The close analysis of the whole scene shows, therefore, the semantic density displayed by Bryan Fuller and his team. These three examples are among the most notorious in the series; however, they are not exceptions.

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      Instead, they are accentuations of the norm, whereby each episode contains scenes of violence, disgust and beauty all at once, such as in the human cello analysed above. The key to understanding how Hannibal makes such risky scenes enjoyable can be found in two concepts that Matthew Kieran formulates: context and fascination. For the former, finding beauty in something grotesque and repulsive is possible according to the circumstances or facts that surround a concrete situation: Thus what is normally repellent and harsh to look upon may, given a certain context and relation to other features, become beautiful and pleasing.

      So, following Sibley, it may be claimed that the aesthetic value of features such as ugliness and incoherence may be, properly speaking, relational and wholly context dependent rather than being, as is the case with beauty, of autonomous aesthetic value. This environment encourages the audience to discover and order this aesthetic beauty, despite other moral and emotional issues that disgust poses. Graham meets inspector Rinaldo Pazzi, who believes Lecter is related to an old criminal he pursued two decades ago: Il Mostro.

      The very concept of the murder appeals to high art in itself. Moreover, the outlook copies Botticelli to an excruciating detail: the tunics, the physical position, the blue tint for the Zephyrus-like figure, the yellow tone for Chloris, the flowers coming out of her mouth. Something shocking, two bodies from a merciless killing, adopts a different meaning due to the artistic context — both figuratively and literally — in which the corpses are re-arranged.

      Nightmares exhibit a texture of operatic sophistication, sweet dream, and irresistible delicacy. Once more, a telling example can exhibit how fascination works in Hannibal. The case of the week is the killing of Sheldon Isley, a councilor from Baltimore who, some years ago, approved a parking lot in an area full of songbirds. The tune unnervingly intensifies while the montage sequence exhibits a succession of colourful, vivid flowers in the process of blossoming.

      One shot dissolves into the next one rapidly. Then, a dolly shot moves the camera away from what seems to be a stunning bouquet. Moreover, the whole body is grafted to a tree, so the human body resembles the central trunk. The colour palette is white, subdued, so the brightness of the flowers contrast with the rest of the image.

      Moreover, Hannibal embraces this paradoxical complexity as the essence of its aesthetic proposal. To make the best sense of this apparently contradictory idea — that of maximizing both disgust and pleasure — it is necessary to dispel the common idea that pleasure is entirely at odds with disgust. Strohl tackles the complexity of the issue by suggesting a structural difference between atomic and complex experiences. The attractiveness of a painful emotion as such is not due to its intrinsic phenomenal character, but rather to the relation that this character bears to other aspects of the experience it is an element of.

      Suffering Art Gladly : The Paradox of Negative Emotion in Art

      That is to say, the story itself, as is logical, is aware of the power of disgust and doubles down on it by making its artistic contradiction more explicit. Thus, disgust—like other emotions derived from horror, such as anxiety and fear—loses its chief characteristic—i. This does not mean that disgust is outside the aesthetic experience.

      As mentioned, the relationship between disgust and pleasure in the aesthetic experience does not have to be dichotomous but instead is usually harmonizing. Hannibal purports a nightmare that mixes high and low culture in that liminal space; it offers one of the most refined, sophisticated and fascinating proposals of the disgusting in contemporary television. God forbid we become friendly. Not by happenstance, the story does not end until the protagonist—the empathic Will Graham—is capable of overcoming the paradox of disgust for himself.

      After having killed the fearsome Red Dragon, the last scene between Will and Hannibal points out that they share a true communion based on aesthetics. For both of us. Which is why Will finds violence, blood, and the very figure of the detestable Dr. Lecter beautiful. This "Cited by" count includes citations to the following articles in Scholar. Add co-authors Co-authors. Upload PDF. Follow this author. New articles by this author.