This blog has been pretty quiet lately, mostly because it’s summer and I have been trying to unplug as much as possible. But I’ve also been busy creating a new course that I’m teaching this fall: English 330, Studies in Fiction. The course will focus on vampires in literature, which is a fairly strange emphasis I admit.
How did I decide to dedicate a semester to bloodsucking fiends? Well, a number of factors converged: first, I’ve been reading the wildly popular Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, the fourth and final installment of which (Breaking Dawn) was just released this month. I even attended the midnight release party, which tells you a little about how interesting I find these books. I think it’s intriguing to think about how a centuries-old myth can be reinvented time and time again without losing its appeal. Why, after all, should we still be fascinated by blood-drinking monsters? How can they retain their cultural relevance after all of this time?
I also think that vampire literature raises some compelling questions about the nature of fiction–its purposes, the forms it takes, and the way it can change to accommodate cultural and social shifts. Vampire literature begins with ancient oral history and folklore, emerges in the nineteenth century as a legitimate literary genre, and continues today as pure entertainment. That makes it–at least to my thinking–the perfect subject for a course dedicated to fiction. That, and it’s a lot of fun.
So, the course will focus on folklore, gothic retellings of the vampire myth (notably Bram Stoker’s Dracula), and more contemporary takes on vampires, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Christopher Moore’s satire Bloodsucking Fiends, the graphic novel 30 Days of Night, and of course, Meyer’s Twilight, among others.
There were nearly endless choices for texts (and television and movies). The pervasiveness and persistence of vampire stories in nearly every culture is amazing. Here’s a couple of examples that should be recognizable from your childhood: The Count from Sesame Street and Count Chocula. I personally find Count Chocula the scarier of the two. You?