January 11, 2012
TORONTO, ON – The primary focus of the class might not be on Twilight, Buffy the Vampire Slayer or The Vampire Diaries, but the resurging popularity of vampires has certainly helped stimulate interest in the first-year German studies course Our Vampires, Ourselves.
“It’s a fascinating subject,” says Erol Boran, the German department’s associate chair of undergraduate studies. “Perhaps students see themselves in vampires. That’s what makes them attractive. People think about them because they are very much like us.”
When, back in the mid-1990s, Boran set out to write his MA thesis on the subject of vampires in literature, his supervisor at the University of Würzburg was skeptical, deeming vampires not worthy of academic study. But the ‘Stoker year’ 1997, 100 years after Bram Stoker’s Dracula, changed everything, and now vampires not only populate film and literature, but have also become the focus of scholarly interest.
Boran created the course two years ago and named it after a book by Nina Auerbach. Asked why he chose to design and teach a course on vampires when his research interest has long since moved to minority studies, Boran responds: “I thought I’d revisit vampires because they keep revisiting me. And, if you think about it, vampires can conceptually be perceived as another minority. The series True Blood, for instance, uses this concept very successfully. In general, it is intriguing to see the different guises in which vampires appear in various cultures. They provide a mirror image of human beings and social constellations.”
Even though vampires can’t see their own reflections, the course Boran created lets others get a good look at the myth, and through it, themselves. They focus on Dracula for the first six weeks, and the second part of the course is devoted to student presentations on contemporary vampire images. The class had an enthusiastic response in its first two years, and Boran will bring it back again next year.
“Ultimately, I try to stimulate less an interest in vampires, that’s just a fascinating subject in our imagination,” he says. “The important thing is to make people think and develop some kind of structured approach to critical thinking. I’d also like to get people more interested in literature, if possible more German literature, and more aware of culture.” Our Vampires, Ourselves is offered through the Faculty of Arts and Science First-Year Seminars (199Y) Program.
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University of Toronto