Vampires are so last century.
Everyone loves them a vampire. Some folks more literally than others. But what if we told you that the original bloodsuckers didn't have abs of steel? That they didn't fly around through trees? That they didn't…sparkle?
In this short course on Bram Stoker's Dracula, you'll be exposed to one of the world's first vampire sagas. With Common Core-aligned lesson plans, readings, and activities, you'll be able to
- differentiate between Dracula and later types of vampires.
- contextualize Dracula in the technological and cultural world of the late 1890s.
- discuss the relationship between Dracula's form and its content.
- explore the role and definition of masculinity with regard to the band of vampire hunters.
- understand the role of technology in the story.
Just keep some garlic handy.
Unit 1. Dracula
In fifteen short lessons, you'll go from vamp noob to vamp expert. Context will be key as we read our way through this 19th-century classic.
Sample Lesson - Introduction
Lesson 1: From Drab to Fab
It all started in May, 1897.
Well, if you want to get really nitpicky, it started with a short story by Lord Byron's doctor John Polidori in 1819. That's the year Polidori's story "Vampyre" was finally published, after he drafted it during the infamous summer vacation that also produced Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.
Before the 19th century, most vampire stories were Eastern European folklore about peasants who just wouldn't stay properly dead. Polidori turned them into international men of mystery: creepy, probably corrupt aristocratic types who have a pronounced preference for pretty girls.
All due respect to Polidori, though, Bram Stoker is the one who really made vampires happen.
Head on over to the reading for all the deets.
Sample Lesson - Reading
Reading 1.1a: The Evolution of the Vampire
Dracula was more of a sleeper success than an immediate box office hit. It was popular enough when it was published, but vampires are made for the screen—or, in Dracula's case, the stage. In 1922, W. Murnau released Nosferatu, an unauthorized (and silent) adaptation of the novel.
It was the first, but it wasn't the last. Something about this creepy tale of a degenerate, bloodsucking aristocrat attacking from the East struck a nerve. In 1931, Bela Lugosi starred in the first Hollywood adaptation—and since then, Dracula and his imitators have been etched into our culture.
Well, first, it's just a plain good adventure story: the forces of good against the forces of evil. We love that junk.
But second—vampires are just useful symbols. They can mean anything and everything: sex, disease, foreignness, race, adolescence, degeneration, and addiction. They represent us. Whatever our current obsessions are—"our" meaning contemporary culture—there's a vampire to represent it.
A Symbol for All Time
In the 1920s, vampires symbolized the loose morals of the new, post-War era. In the 1960s, they (according to one scholar, at least) rebelled against authority. In the 1980s, movies like The Lost Boys tied vampires into fears of AIDS. In the 2000s, vampires gave us new stories about sex—narratives of coming out and assimilation.
And in the 1890s?
Well, late Victorians—like "late" anyones—were terrified that they were living in a degenerate age, that people were literally de-evolving. (They all knew about Darwin by then, but they were a little fuzzy on the specifics.) This degeneration, said its major theorist Max Nordau, came about thanks to the industrialization and urbanization that were reshaping the world.
What does all this mean? It means that Stoker's Dracula is exactly the vampire 1897 wanted: a symbol of a degenerate, global, and—above all—technological age.
Sample Lesson - Reading
Reading 1.1b: Get Down to It
Step 1: Drop all those expectations you have about vampires and Dracula. Done? Good.
Step 2: Grab yourself a copy of the text.
Dracula may seem like pop culture, but it's still worth picking up a good scholarly edition. We love the Norton Edition, because not only do you get lots of nice explanatory notes, you also get selections from some of the hundreds of articles digging into Dracula's themes and issues.
Just check out these titles:
- Suddenly Sexual Women in Bram Stoker's Dracula
- A Capital Dracula
- "Kiss Me with Those Red Lips": Gender and Inversion in Bram Stoker's Dracula
- The Occidental Tourist: Dracula and the Anxiety of Reverse Colonization
- "A Wilde Desire Took Me": The Homoerotic History of Dracula
Not convinced? That's cool, too. (Warning: we're still going to be talking about most of these arguments in the unit. Ah-ah-ah!) You can still read the book online with the good folks over at Gutenberg.org .
Step 3: Go ahead and read it for yourself, starting with Jonathan Harker's journals in Chapters 1 and 2.
If you need a helping hand, be sure to check out our summaries.
Sample Lesson - Activity
Activity 1.1a: Dear Diary Completed
Remember how we said that late Victorians were afraid that people were de-evolving?
Meet Jonathan Harker. He's a low-ranking solicitor, which are the less-fancy types of lawyers; he's weirdly obsessed with train schedules; and he always makes a plan before heading off to the wilds of Eastern Europe.
In other words, he's not much to write home about. In this activity, you're going to be digging into his first diary entries to find out just what kind of de-evolved man our maybe-hero is.
Step 1: Read this extremely thorough and sincere "How To OkCupid Profile" to learn how to write an OkCupid profile.
Step 2: Read back through Jonathan's first diary entry, noting down any quotations that seem to give you insight into his character or personality.
Step 3: Finally, fill out this handy dating profile: