Fall 2022: American Horror Stories

Recap of the Fall 2022 Foundations Course: American Horror Stories

Interested in horror films? If so, American Horror Stories (FNDS 1304) might be for you. The course presents unorthodox material to communicate important subjects.

American Horror Stories is an online course taught by Prof. Shelly Jaresnki that covers topics in the disciplines of English, Screen Studies, History, and American Studies. It is a foundational course aimed at first-year students who are looking for a unique opportunity to develop their learning habits while exploring horror as its medium.

Prof. Jarenksi and students celebrating Halloween.
Prof. Jarenksi and students celebrating Halloween.

The course is comprised of many Practice-Based Learning (PBL) elements alongside what Prof. Jarenski calls it an "authentic assessment." According to Prof. Jarenksi, “It is a style of creating assignments where you ask students to do work that is realistic, active, related to what they might do in work life or personal contexts, and assignments that allow students opportunities to be engaged of processes of revision, getting feedback, trying different things, etc.”

The class is centered on peer discussion throughout the semester, which allows the students to prepare for the final project. According to student Peyton Henry, “I did not expect to write so many discussion posts in this class and although I may not be the biggest fan of writing, I unexpectedly did enjoy most of our discussion posts. Writing these discussion posts definitely strengthened my writing skills.”

All the hard work in the class culminates in the final project. The project assigns students to brainstorm and present parts of an imagined horror film festival. The film festival aspect was inspired by the Muslim horror film festival at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Halaloween, and has been a recurring project in the course. The students “are also asked to research campus organizations who they might be able to partner with if their festival were really held. That helps students get to know the campus better and maybe even find student organizations they would want to be part of eventually,” says Prof. Jarenski.

“In my group, our film festival focused on the demonization of mental illness in horror films. Toward the end of the semester, each group chose a film to be screened while on a class zoom. For my group film screening, we chose Daniel Isn’t Real because it inaccurately portrayed people with schizophrenia as being violent,” explained Peyton.

Article by Noor M. Elshaikh, December 10, 2022.