The Horrific Aesthetic: Disgust and Resolution in Fairy Tales

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Literature is generally considered in its own dimensions, and for its own sake. The reams of theory of recent times may have tended to ignore how literature can affect people, and the essential importance of stories and tales in the formation of character and development of a person’s life. Perhaps the greatest character an author writes is his reader. Not in the sense used by Wolfgang Iser and others’ of an implied reader demanded by the text, but in the sense that one draws upon experience of literature significantly in interpreting how characters and people work in the world. The horrific aesthetic is a method of interpreting the structural spaces in texts, which the reader is required to fill. There is invariably a collision between the horrific and the beautiful. In between lies the possibility of the reader’s reconciliation to reality. The realisation is that the natural sphere at once undermines and supports all other forms of control imposed upon it. George Bernard Shaw’s analysis that ‘learning something is often like losing something’ is useful - the reading of texts allows you to lose perspectives that are essentially useless. Fundamentally, literature’s core components are contrast, contradiction and conflict, but this approach cannot constrain the impetus driving the plot, the impetus always being to affect the reader. The fairy tale most vividly depicts this theory, and in approaching literature seriously in this way, morally instructive tales are a firm starting point.


Keywords: Horrific Aesthetic, Fairy Tales
Stream: Literature, Literary Studies
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Phil Aherne

Undergraduate, Faculty of English Language and Literature, University of Oxford
Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK

Second year undergraduate at Merton College, Oxford. A research interest in the problems of structuralist analysis of literature, and its continuing relevance in society.

Tom Russell

Undergraduate, Faculty of English Language and Literature
Faculty of Modern Languages, University of Oxford

Oxford, UK

Second year undergraduate reading English and French.

Ref: H08P0211