The unlearning: Horror and transformative theory


  • Michael A. Arnzen Seton Hill University



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


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.

Author Biography

Michael A. Arnzen, Seton Hill University

Michael Arnzen ( is the Bram Stoker award-winning author of Proverbs for Monsters and many other horror titles. An Associate Professor of English, he teaches Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.