Teratology is a form of inquiry that can grind away at your mental equanimity. While there are enclaves in film, literature, and moral philosophy/psychology that grapple with the idea of human monstrosity, they are treated as esoteric and unrelated to their tradition, perhaps even the whole of humanity, at large. You’re more likely to get funding with “An Analysis of Eastern Cosmology in Byronic Poetry” than “The Monstrosity of Contemporary American Pre-schools”.
Odd, when we all seem to acknowledge the fact that humans as groups and individuals can be quite monstrous. Perhaps it is as Oppenheimer writes:
[E]vil promotes no joy, no human satisfaction, though it may enchant with ecstasy and through an unbearable cynicism offer a release from the mundane. At its most vivid, evil desolates. It opens doors on frightful possibilities, those that reach beyond the sickening final insults of death and oblivion, into suggestions that a good deal of life, even as it is lived by those with the best of intentions, may contain in its opaqueness something ugly, chaotic, foul, which has, perhaps for only a brief while, achieved a beautiful appearance (3).
It’s much easier to study something beautiful, or something non-offensive, than it is to study something horrifying. The former doesn’t leave you with a crushing unease that weighs upon you long after you’ve punched the time clock. It doesn’t haunt you while you’re sitting around the Thanksgiving table surrounded by loved ones, or echo in those quiet moments when you suddenly have nothing to do and are all alone. You don’t need to justify your chosen field to colleagues or prove your sanity to acquaintances.
Yet, we need teratological scholars who are willing to ask hard questions and muck through disturbing information, just like we need homicide detectives who are willing to sacrifice their peace of mind in order to uphold justice and prevent future suffering. We need teratologists who are willing to work within offensive spaces and voice things most people don’t want to hear, just like we need social workers who are willing to go into disturbing environments and illuminate a situation some would like to keep quiet. Without inquiry into the nature of monstrosity, human and non, we risk ignorance and the chance to do something about it.
Oppenheimer, Paul. Evil and the Demonic: A New Theory of Monstrous Behavior. New York: New York Univerity Press, 1996. Print.