MA ‘Reading the Vampire’: Starts 5th October

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My MA module ‘Reading the Vampire: Science, Sexuality and Alterity in Modern Culture’ is about to begin again on the 5th October. I’ve made some changes this year and included  Holly Black’s The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. The session is entitled ‘Dying is An Awfully Big Adventure: Twenty-First-Century Vampire Fiction’. You can see the impact of Hunger Games here rather than Twilight and I’m interested in interrogating the allure of vampirism, the romanticisation of death, vampire suicides and gothic subcultures in the novel. We’ll look at Catherine Spooner, ‘Teen Demons’ in Contemporary Gothic, pp. 87-124, together with extracts from Dick Hebdidge, Subculture: the Meaning of Style. The representation of commodification, consumerism and the impact of social media will also be examined (via Coldtowm and Midnight’s blog). For general criticism on Black we might look briefly at Rhonda Nicol, “Monstrosity will be called for’ Holly Black’s and Melissa Marr’s Urban Gothic Fairy Tale Heroines’ in The Gothic Fairy Tale in YA Fiction, pp. 165-179. This does not really do justice to the novel’s take on identity politics and the notion of safe spaces to develop countercultural ways of life however. I will be fascinated to know what my students make of this text. I’m going to be blogging about the workshops in the forthcoming weeks. You can follow our course of study by looking at the workshop reading each week listed below and join in our discussions on the blog.

Only one week to go until we can really get our teeth into these novels!!

The full course schedule

Part One: Vampires Pre-Stoker

Week 1 Workshop: ‘Vampiric Origins: National Identity and Social Class from the Peasant to the Aristocrat’ [part one: ‘The folkloric vampire’]
Workshop texts: extracts from Dom Augustin Calmet, Treatise on the Vampires of Hungary and the Surrounding Regions (English trans. 1759); Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, ‘Voyage to Levant’ (1702), in Christopher Frayling, Vampires: Lord Byron to Count Dracula (London: Faber & Faber, 1991), pp. 87-103 [and on StudyNet]; We will discuss the representation of vampires prior to Stoker in relation to debates around ethnicity, national identity and social class using the texts above and Marie Helene Huet’s, ‘Deadly Fears: Dom Augustin Calmet’s Vampires’, Eighteenth-Century Life, 21 (1997), 222-32 [StudyNet] and G. David Keyworth, ‘Was the Vampire of the Eighteenth Century a Unique Type of Undead-Corpse?’, Folklore, 117 (December 2006) as a starting point. We’ll also ponder over some early definitions in the OED, the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1888), and Katharina M. Wilson, ‘The History of the term “Vampire”’, in Alan Dundes ed. The Vampire: A Casebook, pp. 3-12 [all on StudyNet].

Week 2 Workshop: ‘Vampiric Origins: National Identity and Social Class from the Peasant to the Aristocrat’ [part two: ‘The fictional Byronic vampire’]
Workshop texts: Lord Byron, ‘Augustus Darvell'( 1819); John Polidori, ‘The Vampyre’ (1819), in John Polidori, The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre, ed. by Robert Morrison and Chris Baldick (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 1-23, 246-251. We examine the arrival of the Romantic Byronic vampire in fiction and interrogate differing perspectives on the textual relationship between Byron and Polidori. Byron as a real life model for this new aristocratic vampire is also investigated alongside issues of nationality and social class. The following articles will inform our discussion: L. Skarda, ‘Vampirism and Plagiarism: Byron’s Influence and Polidori’s Practice’ [Studynet]; ‘Conrad Aquilina, ‘The Deformed Transformed; or, from Bloodsucker to Byronic Hero – Polidori and the Literary Vampire’, in Open Graves, Open Minds, pp. 24-39 [LRC]; Ken Gelder, ‘Vampires in Greece: Byron and Polidori’, in Reading the Vampire, pp. 24-41 [LRC] We conclude with a discussion around a ‘Vampire Timeline’ which identifies literary vampires post Byron and pre Dracula (1897).

Week 3 Workshop: ‘The Vampire Theatre: Stage Plays and Victorian Melodrama’
Workshop texts: J. R. Planché, The Vampyre, or Bride of the Isles (1820); William Thomas Moncrieff, The Spectre Bridegroom (1821); George Blink, The Vampire Bride; or, Tenant of the Tomb (1834), in Before the Count: British Vampire Tales, 1732-1897, ed. by Margo Collins (Milton Keynes: Zittaw Press, 2007), pp. 68-86, 87-110, 111-135 [Planché and Moncrieff on StudyNet]. This week we focus on the representation of the vampire in the theatre, looking at the influence of Polidori and at the vampire in Victorian melodrama prior to the Count’s appearance with all his theatrical tropes in Stoker’s Dracula. The following material will be discussed in relation to the plays: Katie Harse, ‘“Melodrama Hath Charms”: Planché’s Theatrical Domestication of Polidori’s “The Vampyre”’, Journal of Dracula Studies, 3 (2001), 3-7 [StudyNet]; Ronald Macfarlane, ‘The Vampire on Stage’, Comparative Drama, 21 (1987), 19-33 [Studynet]; Roxana Stuart, Stage Blood: Vampires of the Nineteenth-Century Stage, pp. 41-91 [LRC].

Week 4 Workshop: ‘Victorian Bloodsuckers: Varney the Vampire and Karl Marx’
Workshop texts: James Malcolm Rymer, Varney the Vampire, 1845-47, Book One (Berkeley, New Jersey: Wildside Press, 2000)[extract available in Christopher Frayling, Vampyres, pp. 145-161]; Marx’s writings, including extracts from his 1847 lectures, Capital and The Eighteenth Brumaire [on StudyNet handout]. This week we look at the influence of the Penny Dreadful and the serialisation of Varney the Vampire in relation to vampiric metaphors in Marx’s writing, particularly the 1847 lectures which coincide with the serialisation of Varney. See ‘Varney’s Moon’, in Nina Auerbach, Our Vampires Ourselves, pp. 27-37 [LRC]; S. Hackenberg, ‘Vampires and Resurrection Men: The Perils and Pleasures of the Embodied Past in 1840s Sensational Fiction’, Victorian Studies, 52 (2010), 63–75 [StudyNet]; ‘Vampires and Capital’, in Ken Gelder, Reading the Vampire, pp. 17-25 and Chris Baldick, ‘Karl Marx’s Vampires and Grave Diggers’, In Frankenstein’s Shadow, pp. 121-140 [LRC], for our workshop discussions.

Week 5 ‘Vampire Lovers: Sexuality, Irishness and the Uncanny’
Workshop texts: J. Sheridan Le Fanu, Carmilla (1871-2) ed. by Jamieson Ridenhour (Kansas: Valancourt Books, 2009) or in Le Fanu, In a Glass Darkly, ed. by Robert Tracy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), pp. 243-319; Sigmund Freud, ‘The Uncanny’, in Literary Theory: An Anthology, ed. by Rivkin Julie and Michael Ryan, 2nd edn (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), pp. 418-30. Le Fanu’s lesbian vampire tale is discussed in relation to Irishness and the uncanny in this week’s workshop which draws on Ken Gelder, ‘Vampires and the uncanny’, in Reading the Vampire, pp. 42-64; Juliann Ulin, ‘Le Fanu’s Vampires and Ireland’s Invited Invasion’, Open Graves, Open Minds, pp. 25-55; Victor Sage, ‘Irish Gothic: C.R. Maturin and J. S. LeFanu’, in A Companion to the Gothic, pp. 81-93 and Richard Haslam, ‘Irish Gothic’, in The Routledge Companion to Gothic, pp. 83-94 [all on Studynet]. We also explore the figure of the female vampire as a precursor to Stoker’s Lucy and fin de siècle notions of sexual deviance in Dracula (see ‘The Female Vampire’, in James Twitchell, The Living Dead, pp. 39-73 [LRC]). Carmilla’s vampire ancestors will be identified through a comparison with the staking of Peter Plogojovitz in Calmet (week one).

Part Two: The Development of the Vampire Novel

Week 6 ‘Dialectic of Fear: Gender and Inversion in Bram Stoker’s Dracula’
Workshop text: Bram Stoker, Dracula (1897) ed. by Roger Luckhurst (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011). This week we explore the most famous vampire narrative of all in relation to theories of deviant sexuality in Christopher Craft, ‘“Kiss Me with Those Red Lips”: Gender and Inversion in Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”’, Speaking of Gender , pp. 216-42 [StudyNet]; Marxism and psychoanalysis in Franco Moretti, ‘Dialectic of Fear’, Signs Taken for Wonders: On the Sociology of Literary Forms, pp. 83-108 [LRC]; reverse colonisation in Stephen Arata, ‘The Occidental Tourist: Dracula and Anxiety of Reverse Colonisation’ in Bram Stoker, Dracula, ed. by Nina Auerbach and David J. Skal, pp. 462-470 [StudyNet]; modernity, mass culture and technology in Jennifer Wicke, ‘Vampiric Typewriting: Dracula and Its Media’, ELH, 59 (Summer, 1992), 467-93 [StudyNet] and science, folklore and aesthetics in Sam George ‘‘He Make in the Mirror no Reflect’: Undead Aesthetics and Mechanical Reproduction’, Open Graves, Open Minds, pp. 56-78. We also gesture backwards to the vampire theatre and forwards to theatrical adaptations of Dracula taking into account Stoker’s experiences as a theatre manager (see David Skal, ‘His Hour Upon the Stage: Theatrical Adaptations of Dracula’, in Nina Auerbach and David J. Skal, pp. 371-89 [StudyNet].

Week 7 ‘Vampire Aesthetics: Oscar Wilde and the Artist as Vampire’
Workshop text: Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), ed. by Joseph Bristow (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006). Dorian Gray and Dracula are two of the most famous fictional characters ever conceived; here we explore vampire motifs and Wildean aesthetics in order to tease out the connections between the novels and their authors. Wilde’s novel will be read alongside Walter Pater’s description of the Mona Lisa as vampire in ‘Leonardo Da Vinci’, from The Renaissance (1873), pp. 79-80 [StudyNet] and Oscar Wilde, ‘In defence of Dorian Gray’ and ‘The Critic as Artist’ from The Soul of Man Under Socialism, pp. 103-124, 213-243. For aesthetics and vampiric motifs in Dorian Gray see Sam George, Open Graves, Open Minds, pp. 64-73 [LRC] and Christopher Craft, ‘Come See About Me: Enchantment of the Double in “The Picture of Dorian Gray”’, Representations, no. 91 (Summer, 2005), 109-36 [StudyNet]. For Wilde and Dracula see Talia Schaffer, ‘A Wilde Desire Took Me: The Homoerotic History of Dracula’, in Nina Auerbach and David J. Skal, pp. 470-482 [LRC].

Week 8 ‘Undead Authors: Decadence and Sexual Deviance from Dracula to Oscar Wilde’
Workshop text: George Sylvester Viereck’s, The House of Vampire (1907) (Bibliobazaar, 2008) [links to online version on StudyNet]. The novel we look at this week casts Wilde in the role of vampire while art itself is the vampiric province of a master race. We read this text alongside debates around homosexuality, decadence and evolutionary anxiety as discussed in Elaine Showalter’s, Sexual Anarchy: Gender and Culture at the Fin de Siècle, pp. 169-87. David Skal’s analysis of the relationship between Stoker’s Dracula and the writings and public personae of Oscar Wilde, ‘Mr Stoker’s Book of Blood’, in Hollywood Gothic, pp. 9-75 and Talia Schaffer above will also be discussed in relation to the vampiric representation of Wilde in the novel. See also Nina Auerbach, ‘Vampires, Vampires’ in Our Vampires, Ourselves, pp. 102-6 [LRC]. For Viereck more broadly see Lisa Lampert-Weissig, ‘The Vampire as Dark and Glorious Necessity in George Sylvester Viereck’s House of Vampire’ in Open Graves, Open Minds, pp. 79-95.

Part Three: New Directions: Vegetarian Vampires, Zombies and Undead Teens

Week 9 ‘Vampire Lore in the Twentieth Century’
Workshop texts: Montague Summers, ‘The traits and Practice of Vampirism’ and ‘The vampire in literature’, in Vampires and Vampirism (1929; Mineola, NY: Dover, 2005), pp. 140-216, 271-340; Anne Rice, Interview with a Vampire (1976; London: Sphere, 2008). This week we read the work of vampirologist Montague Summers alongside Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire. Anne Rice takes an unorthodox approach to the genre, having the vampire come out of the closet and make himself known, speaking first hand through an interview on a tape recorder. We discuss E. J. Dingwall’s ‘Review of The Vampire: His Kith and Kin’, Man, 29 (May 1929), 92-93 [Studynet] and ‘Vampires in the (Old) New World: Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, in Ken Gelder, Reading the Vampire, pp. 108-23 to begin with before exploring morality and faith in ‘Postexistentialism in the Neo Gothic Mode: Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire, Mosaic, 25.3 (1992), 79-97 [StudyNet]. Kathleen Rout, ‘Who Do You Love? Anne Rice’s Vampires and Their Moral Transition’, The Journal of Popular Culture, 36 (2003), 473–79 [StudyNet], will be looked at in relation to the changes in vampire lore Anne Rice’s novel represents. We also catch up on the rise of undead cinema at this point. See Stacey Abbott, ‘The Undead in the Kingdom of Shadows: The Rise of the Cinematic Vampire’, in Open Graves, Open Minds,pp. 96-112 and ‘Film Adaptations: A Checklist’ in Nina Auerbach and David J. Skal, pp. 404-7 [StudyNet].

Week 10 ‘Paranormal Romance: Sex and the Body in Buffy and Twilight’
Workshop texts: Joss Whedon, ‘Innocence’, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (season 2, episode 14); Stephanie Meyer, Twilight (London: Atom, 2006); extracts from the sex scenes in Breaking Dawn (London: Atom, 2008), pp. 69-89, 376-95, 436-49.This week we look at the appeal of paranormal romance and teenage sexuality in vampire literature. We will analyse new themes around abstinence and chasteness in relation to the vampire and explore the consummation of Edward and Bella’s relationship in Twilight, contrasting this with vampiric sex between Buffy and Angel in Joss Whedon. See Whedon’s commentary on ‘Innocence’ [available on loan from me on DVD], Fred Botting, ‘Romance never dies’, in Gothic Romanced, pp. 1-34, and Lucinda Dyer, ‘P Is for Paranormal–Still’ http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/new-titles/adult-announcements/article/43272-p-is-for-paranormal-still.html as a starting point. Pertinent approaches to sexuality and the body in Buffy and Twilight will be discussed. See Chris Richards, ‘What Are We? Adolescence, Sex and Intimacy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies, 18 (2004), 121-37 [StudyNet]; Karen Backstein, ‘Un)safe Sex: Romancing the Vampire’, Cineaste: America’s Leading Magazine on the Art and Politics of the Cinema’, 35.1 (Winter, 2009), 38-41 [StudyNet]; Anna Silver, ‘Twilight is Not Good for Maidens’, Studies in the Novel, 42.1 (2010), 121-136 [StudyNet] together with essays by Catherine Spooner, Sara Wasson and Sarah Artt, Malgorzata Drewniok in Open Graves, Open Minds, pp. 146-164, 181-224, 131-145.

Week 11 ‘Dying is an Awfully Big Adventure: Gothic Subcultures in Twenty-First Century Vampire Fiction’
Workshop text: Holly Black: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown (New York: Little Brown, 2013). This week we look at vampire fiction in the twenty-first century (post Hunger Games). We begin by considering Roz Kaveney ‘Dark Fantasy and Paranormal Romance’, Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature, 214-223 [StudyNet] and think about what happens when vampire romance meets dystopia before looking at the allure of vampirism, the romanticising of death, vampire suicides and gothic subcultures in the novel. See Catherine Spooner, ‘Teen Demons’ in Contemporary Gothic, pp. 87-124, together with extracts from Dick Hebdidge, Subculture: the Meaning of Style [both on StudyNet]. The representation of commodification, consumerism and the impact of social media will also be interrogated (via Coldtowm and Midnight’s blog). For general criticism on Black you might like to consider Rhonda Nicol, “Monstrosity will be called for’ Holly Black’s and Melissa Marr’s Urban Gothic Fairy Tale Heroines’ in The Gothic Fairy Tale in YA Fiction, pp. 165-179; [StudyNet]

Week 12 ‘A Return to Folklore and Confronting Death in Young Adult Vampire Fiction’
Workshop text: Marcus Sedgwick, My Swordhand is Singing (London: Orion, 2006).
We conclude by looking at the return of the East European folklorish vampire in Sedgwick’s novel and discuss his departure from the alluring romanticised creature that dominates young adult fiction elsewhere. We read this against debates around ethnicity, national identity and the folk tale. See Ken Gelder, ‘Ethnic vampires; Transylvania and Beyond’, in Reading the Vampire, pp. 1-23 [LRC] and G. David Keyworth, ‘Was the Vampire of the Eighteenth Century a Unique Type of Undead-Corpse?’, Folklore, 117 (December 2006), 241-60 [StudyNet]. Marcus’s novel deals sensitively with ‘otherness’ and confronting death and we consider these themes in relation to the vampire in the context of young adult fiction. We look at Marcus’s essay ‘The Elusive Vampire: Folklore and Fiction, Writing My Swordhand is Singing’ in the Open Graves, Open Minds, pp. 264-275 and at one or two of his interviews as a starting point [StudyNet] and explore the importance of early folklorist accounts and theories of the folktale in relation to both the structure and content of the narrative. See extracts from Vladimir Propp, Theory and History of Folkore (1984) and Morphology of the Folktale (1968) and James George Frazer’s The Golden Bough (1890, 1906-15) [on StudyNet].

About Lucy Northenra

Senior Lecturer in Literature, University of Hertfordshire

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