The Power of Horror to Teach

This week I wrote a guest post for Susan MacGregor’s Suzenyms over at about the power of horror to teach us. Here are a couple of teasers to get you excited to check it out.

“Horror can be a way of illustrating social exclusions – showing who is left out when we think of ideas of ‘the normal’. Outsiders become monsters…and monsters become outsiders, and we define ourselves in opposition to these outsiders saying, ‘We are this, because we aren’t that.'”

Photo by: Melody E. McIntyre Modified by: Derek Newman-Stille
Photo by: Melody E. McIntyre
Modified by: Derek Newman-Stille

“Horror makes us look into the dark places that our society doesn’t want to go.”

“When we look into the corners in which we cast our outsiders, we can see the things that we ignore, the issues that we pretend don’t exist, and question why we create certain ideas or people as outsiders.”

“The complications of horror, its willingness to blur boundaries, tear apart comforts, and make us face things that we don’t want to see, contain a pedagogical potential. When horror unsettles us, it places us in an area of question – a desire to interrogate why we feel so much about a certain situation, why we are uncomfortable.  Our fears make us recoil from things…but that also makes us pause for a moment.”

“Horror exposes society’s silences because it refuses to be quiet.”

“Horror illustrates what the dominant groups in our society consider frightening, and that is often the things that they exclude, the ways that they push people to the fringes because of their otherness, their uncomfortable nature.”

“There is a value in putting ourselves into the position of the monster, the villain, and examining their perceptions, the things that create them. Horror turns our world upside down, makes it strange, threatening, unsafe… and in that topsy turvy world of haunting visions and shaky ground, we can ask questions about things that are not always asked, we can ask those uncomfortable, strange, threatening, unsafe questions that we may not be able to ask when we are trying hard to be normal, to fit into social ideas and to perform.”

“The monster breaks through social barriers (and the pages of our novels or our television screens) and bites us, infecting us with its otherness, its strangeness and then asks, “Am I so strange?”, “Why am I so strange?”, and “What makes you unstrange?” Once bitten, we change, we shift, we transform. That transformative process is part of powerful learning.”

Check out the full discussion on the teaching power of horror on Susan MacGregor’s Suzenyms at

Derek Newman-Stille

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