Studying Werewolves

A. Quinton — Nov. 13th 2008

Derek Newman-Stille, a senior tutor at Ontario’s Trent University and M.A. graduate in Anthropology, has made monsters and werewolves the subject of his academic research for the past three years. “Studying something like this reveals a lot about how people of the past define themselves because monsters embody everything that is not human,” he said in a recent interview with the Peterborough Examiner. In an article posted on Trent University’s web site, he goes on to explain that people are simultaneously fascinated and repulsed by the idea of the werewolf (and not just its fearsome appearance) because the creature is a mixture of human and animal: “Werewolves are the perfect symbol for liminality – occupying a transitory state and not fixed as either human or wolf but able to fluctuate between the two states.”

I find it extremely encouraging that the pursuit of this sort of research is gaining credibility in the acedemic world. A subject as deeply woven into history and psychology as this ought not to be dismissed simply because it’s fantastic… or frightening.

“When people see monsters we are both repulsed by it and we find it really fascinating,” Newman-Stille tells the Examiner. “The fear response is the same as a pleasure response. People really like things that scare them.”