The unlearning: Horror and transformative theory

Michael A. Arnzen


Building on the foundational concepts of transformative learning theory, I argue that horror fiction strongly encourages perspective transformation by challenging student assumptions about both genre writing and educational experience. I informally describe a specific creative writing class period focusing on the motif of the scream in diverse horror texts, and I illustrate how students learn to transform what they already bring to the classroom by employing a variety of particular in-class writing exercises and literary discussions. Among these, transformative writing exercises—such as the revision of an existing text by Stephen King—are highlighted as instructional techniques. As cautionary literature, horror especially dramatizes strategies of fight versus flight. I reveal how students can learn by transforming their knowledge through disorientation that is particular to reading and writing in the horror genre.


Adaptation; Adult learners; Brookfield; Classroom exercises; Creative writing; Fear and learning; Freewriting; Genre; Horror; King; Learning; McGonigal; Mezirow; Paradigm shift; Pedagogy; Revision; Rosenblatt; Scream; Student assumptions; Taboo; Teaching

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Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC), ISSN 1941-2258, is an online-only Gold Open Access publication of the nonprofit Organization for Transformative Works. TWC is a member of DOAJ. Contact the Editor with questions.