In: KulturPoetik 2012, Heft 2


Karl Eibl


Von der biologischen Furcht zur literarischen Angst. Ein Vertikalschnitt




The paper draws an evolutionary line of descent from biological heredity to culture in general and literary forms in particular. Fear is defined as produced through the innate releasing mechanism of all animals in response to actual dangers, while anxiety responds to contingent dangers and dangers that exceed the capacity for fight or flight. The main human strategy for coping with the stress of anxiety about the unknown is the invention of myth, religion, and superstition, which transform anxiety into fear. Another strategy is the cultural development of play into art. The ability to enjoy the excitement without real peril (»Angstlust«, »thrill«), is the basis of literary genres like gothic fiction, horror fiction, or detective fiction. Furthermore, anxiety-based humour can be described as a special case of literary reaction to anxiety. The scope of this notion will be investigated through the example of Franz Kafka.