Summary: Korsmeyer’s account of disgust and the role it plays in art appreciation starts with a treatment of what she calls the “paradox of aversion” – the apparent incompatibility between humans’ disposition to seek pleasure and their frequent voluntary exposure to unpleasant and even painful art-related experiences. Korsmeyer’s provisional solution to the paradox is based on the realization that pleasure is not an emotion but rather “an intense absorption in an object that induces us to continue rather than halt an experience.” This opens the possibility that the pleasure we take from a work of art retains a cognitive element such that we gain unique insight from what would, outside of the art context, have given us pain. Korsmeyer speaks of an “aesthetic conversion” whereby disgust and fear are transfigured into vehicles of absorption, and thus become aesthetically pleasurable. Since disgust and its magnetic force are of material interest to performance artists and their critics, Korsmeyer’s treatment of the paradox of aversion helps re-contextualize an important art historical issue.
Comment: Interesting to teach following classes on the paradox of horror, and perhaps even alongside (some of) Noel Carroll's writings on horror.