Benefits of Reading Horror
We always hear about the benefits of reading. Reading helps to decrease anxiety, depression, improve vocabulary and prevent cognitive decline (i.e. Alzheimer’s). These are the benefits we’ve heard all our lives. Most people read books for these reasons alone but what makes horror so special or unique. What are the benefits we can gain from reading horror? I found an article that promotes teachers to include horror in their curriculums (Teaching Horror Literature in a Multicultural Classroom). If someone has written an article about students needing to read horror then I think this benefits people of all ages. Here’s why..
In horror, the characters encounter evils that they must face or situations they must overcome in order to survive. As the reader, we tend to place ourselves in the character’s shoes and try to think of ways they can make it out alive. We are problem solving as we read. We want this character to survive and in our minds, we are trying to assist them in survival which in turn helps us fine tune the skills needed for problem-solving.
Horror can be emotional. I don’t know if maybe society doesn’t think so because they only see scary movies as slashers. This goes along with the thought the horror isn’t even a real genre that should be taught and that it’s disgusting and vulgar. It’s not though. Horror literature has proven that with great character development and background, we can connect with characters on an emotional level. This in turn teaches us empathy for others. We are learning to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and think about their situation.
“For a successful literature class, students have to be motivated to search for a deeper meaning, and it is horror texts that very often “envelop the students into a new way of thinking, understanding, and conceptualizing the world around them”
Breaks the Norm
Horror from the beginning has pushed the boundaries on societal norms. Horror writers in their respective time periods seem to slip in taboo topics. I remember reading “Hell House” and the characters were so shocked by the sexual imagery in the house. My guess is sex wasn’t an open conversational topic for that time period so including it in the book would shock readers from their norm. Writers doing this in their writing helps segue the controversial topics to be more acceptable.
“That is to say, instead of perpetuating the status quo with its implied inequalities, intolerance and prejudice against the Other, horror texts have the “ability to call conventional representations of temporal, sexual, cultural and national identities into question”
Learning From Others
- H. P. Lovecraft was prejudiced against women and BIPOC which showed in his work. It’s ok to read H.P. Lovecraft and love it. That doesn’t make you prejudiced but learn from it and talk about it in an informative, educated way. He came from a time period where some white men viewed themselves as superior over women and people of color. This topic goes back to including his work as a constructive learning topic and discussions of personal experiences from people of color. Listening and learning from others is huge. We must put ourselves in their shoes in order to understand their point of view. I think the best way to do this would be to read works by people of color.
“As the fictional world comes into interplay with real-life circumstances of individual students, reading (and the discussion about the texts read) becomes an actual personal experience, which is the first step toward personal growth.”
When reading horror, your flight or fight response is evoked. This reaction sets off a chain reaction in our bodies which we don’t normally use on a daily basis. This leads to a surge of adrenaline and dopamine. It feels good to fight (read) through our fears. It’s like exercising those responses in our body and it feels good.
I learned many things from researching reading horror health benefits. The article that I linked above was the most informative and all-encompassing on the topic. I am coming from a white women’s perspective but I wanted to try my best at conversing about race in horror. I know it’s a touchy subject coming from my perspective but I’m always open to listening and learning to improve myself. I want to leave y’all with one last statement from this article about how horror is important.
Moreover, unlike many culture-oriented subjects that tend to emphasize the difference between students or literature classes that expose students to various voices in order for the students to understand and appreciate one another more, a literature course in horror focuses on what is universally common to all of us as humans, regardless of the cultural background.