English R1A

Reading and Composition: Victorian Vampires

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
5 Spring 2020 Hobbs, Katherine
MWF 1-2 54 Barrows

Book List

Le Fanu, Sheridan: In a Glass Darkly; Stoker, Bram: Dracula

Other Readings and Media

Other readings will be made available in pdf form on bCourses.


The figure of the vampire is constantly being reinvented, but it is always able to feed on our collective imagination. From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Twilight to What We Do in the Shadows, vampires pursue us—and we can’t get enough. We often look back to Bram Stoker’s late Victorian novel Dracula (1897) as an origin point for our twentieth- and twenty-first-century vampires. But Dracula should also be seen as an endpoint, coming at the close of a century with its own vampire obsessions.

This class will follow the nineteenth century through its literary vampires, beginning with John Polidori’s “The Vampyre” (1819) and ending with Stoker’s fiction. In the process, we will consider how the figure of the vampire can be adapted to address a large range of issues, including sexuality, property ownership, race, and colonialism. The vampire myth is remarkably flexible in nineteenth-century culture, and we will encounter vampires in all sorts of forms: rakish aristocrats, withered crones, and seemingly innocent young women, among others. And these vampires inhabit literary forms as diverse as themselves. They are equally at home in the pages of lowbrow penny publications and more “respectable” upper- and middle-class publications, and they migrate across genres such as short stories, novels, and plays. As we track these pre-Dracula vampires, we will also think about how vampire literature during this period developed a set of recognizable tropes that we have inherited in our own time.

Primary readings for this course will include works by Bram Stoker, Sheridan LeFanu, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and others. We will also read relevant literary scholarship and other critical works addressing the vampire’s position in popular culture. Students will write, workshop, and revise a series of analytical writing assignments over the course of the semester.

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