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There is no doubt that the vampire is an elusive character in literature, given different characteristics depending on the writer’s own personal depiction. However, some similarities stretch across the genre, those of the wooden stake through the heart, the drinking of blood and the idea of the vampire being “undead": not alive but also not a corpse. Why does vampire literature, regardless of time period and setting share so many common threads? Writers from all across the globe have called up on the myth of the vampire in history to formulate their characters.
Whether you are teaching Dracula, Salem’s Lot, Interview With the Vampire or even Twilight, it is important to look at vampire myths before looking at the vampire genre of literature. Giving your students a glimpse of the cultures that gave birth to these legends will help remove from their mind that fuzzy black and white image of Bela Lugosi in a dark cape and allow them to see that from Romania to India, the legend of the vampire flourished in many cultures. Once they look at these cultural interpretations, then they can begin to examine vampire literature with some authority.
Use the downloadable power points on the Vampire in Myth and History and the Vampire in Literature to set up interesting compare and contrast lessons regarding how different authors used these cultural legends to create their own unique vampire in their stories. We know Stoker’s Count Dracula is almost pure Romanian, but we can see traces of India’s Cali in King’s novel and even in Rice’s novel. Rice manages to create different classes of vampires, by infusing all of these myths into different characters in her novels.
It is an interesting study, a thought-provoking lesson and sure to be a hit with your Edward and Bella obsessed students. It’s a lesson they can truly sink their teeth into; pun intended!
- Photo of Bram Stoker in the Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons