Blood Read: The Vampire as Metaphor in Contemporary Culture
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Division: The New School for Public Engagement
School: School of Undergraduate Studies
Course Number: NLIT 3827
Course Format: Lecture
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
The vampire, one of the 19th century's most powerful archetypes, has remained a pervasive influence in our culture, from the cinema's multivalent representations of Bram Stoker's Dracula to the appropriation of this enigmatic figure by fashion, music, images, and performances. As the site of familiar cultural markers of gender and sexuality, the undead creature's ever-shifting identity ironically reflects marginalized impulses hidden within our culture. From the seductive, degenerate East European count of Stoker to the androgynous, homoerotic S&M, rock star vampire of Anne Rice's Chronicles, the vampire points ot the impulses the culture fears and seeks to suppress. This comprehensive investigation of both the historical roots and current interpretations of this creature sheds light on sexuality, consumption, power, alienation, attitudes toward illness, eroticism, and views of evil in contemporary society. We first look at the history of the vampire legend, reading selections from Montague Summers' The Vampire in Europe. before reading Stoker's Dracula, along with critical commentary, and examining his appropriations from Transylvanian folk myths. We then read Blood Read,, a collection of critical essays edited by Joan Gordon and Veronica Hollinger, that investigates the literature of the vampire and the authors who write it. We also watch several films: Near Dark, Nadja, The Lost Boys, The Hunger, Carmilla, Nosferatu, and Tod Browning's 1931 classic Dracula, and an episode or two of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.