Horror literature reveals who we are and how we interact, says English teacher

Horror as a literary genre is not just recording a shock of fear. Scary stories played a very important role in social and political movements over time and, more importantly, have told us about ourselves and what it means to be human in ways other genres cannot.

There are so many ways to get to know ourselves better by explaining who and what we think of as monsters. – Dr. Gina Brandolino, Professor of English at the University of Michigan

Through stories of terror and fear, horror taps into the emotions and aspects of the human condition that force us to look into our own thoughts and ask tough questions about how we treat our fellow human beings.

Listen: A conversation with an English teacher about the horror lessons we love.


Dr Gina Brandolino is a lecturer at the English Department and at the Sweetland Writing Center at the University of Michigan. Brandolino focuses on a wide variety of literary subjects, including horror, and says there are many theories as to why humans cherish the genre. Brandolino notes that the ending of a horror novel often has a way of bringing society back to a “normal” state, offering us comfort. This is, she says, why the scary literature does not actually reflect the current pandemic. “I feel like the moment we are in definitely gives us a sense of horror that is too real to be useful in the manner of a horror fiction,” she says.

Horror is useful, Brandolino says, in that it reflects human anxieties, fears, and prejudices. “There are so many ways to get to know ourselves better by explaining who and what we consider monsters,” she says, “and, in a way, the monster shows us who we are more than it reveals what. let it be on itself. ”

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