Ahmad, Aalya, and Sean Moreland. Fear and Learning: Essays on the Pedagogy of Horror. McFarland, 2013.
In Fear and Learning, the essays in this book are no longer wholly concerned with justifying the critical merit of the horror genre, but instead attempt to explore what those critical analysis reveal about both the genre and its audiences. Through the examination of a number of texts, the writers offer an alternative approach to the "horror-as-schooling" pedagogy commonly practiced in academia. Where most academics use horror to illustrate a particular theory—horror texts are seen as interchangeable instead of as distinct discourses—these essays consider how horror fictions "can embody and exemplify theories of postmodern intertextuality in both an intuitive and accessible manner" (Ahmad 7).
While this book is more concerned with the teaching of horror texts, the intersections between society, culture, and academia provide useful insights into my own research. One of the biggest arguments of this book is that scholars of horror simply map their pet theories to horror texts, seeing each story as an interchangeable discourse of the genre, when they should be exploring the texts as individual discourses whose texts have been informed by and reflect the theoretical paradigms of the cultures in which there were created.
They discuss how the pleasure of reading and engaging horror texts (e.g. films, novels, art, etc.) is often superseded by theory by academics. This speculation reminded my of Roland Barthes' The Pleasure of the Text and his argument regarding "readerly" and "writerly" texts.
"Ghost and horror stories appear, in one form or another, in virtually every human civilization…We may (or may not) be living in a more secular age, but the impact of horror imagery turns out to have little to do with belief" (Ahmad 1).
"In the end, the root of the horror story is wonder. These tales concern themselves with out mutual and collective quest to understand where feelings come from, why we dream what we dream, how hope gets born, why we always feel so vulnerable and so hungry for more, and why there's no cure for the vulnerability or the hunger, and why we really don't want there to be" (Ahmad 1-2).
"What horror is really about—what it has always been about—is the fundamental human quest to understand the elements of human experience we can never touch or name or know" (Ahmad 2).