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Teaching Guide

Teaching Dracula

Step off, Edward Cullen.

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Dracula is the great-great-grandfather of all vampires—from Lestat to Edward Cullen—so students might think they know the story already. But guess what? They don't know Drac.

It's your job to illuminate (with artificial light, so as not to vaporize any vampires) the hidden meanings of the novel, like its gender dynamics and commentary on Victorian culture.

In this guide you will find

  • quizzes to see if students read the book or watched the Keanu Reeves version of the story.
  • activities exploring the real-life inspiration for the story and analyzing vampire lore.
  • resources both old (Macbeth, Frankenstein) and new (Twilight, Buffy)…but all immortal.

Stake your claim on this teaching guide, and you'll win the fight against this immortal monster.

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Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 13-18 Common Core-aligned activities to complete in class with your students, including detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes for every chapter, act, or part of the text.
  • Resources to help make the book feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop’s teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the text and how you can overcome the hurdles.

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Instructions for You

Objective: What with Twilight and True Blood showing up on the scene, your students may think this whole vampire thing is a recent phenomenon. Don't let them be fooled; we have long had a morbid fascination with the vampire myth. Dracula isn't the only vampire book worth talking about, and your students are about to experience that fact firsthand.

In fact, one could argue that Dracula is at least partially responsible for a whole genre of literature around vampire lore. All those Victorian values may seem out of date, but good ol' Bram was ahead of his time with this vampire stuff, and this lesson is all about putting Dracula into that big picture context and showing students how this novel is influencing pop culture even today.

Students will complete an independent study on a non-Dracula vampire novel and write a comparative analysis of the two books. They will consider how Dracula is used as source material for their novel and how the evolution of the vampire myth reveals changing cultural attitudes. Shmoop loves a good text-to-text study, so let's get to it.

This activity is an ongoing independent project and can take anywhere from two weeks to a month to complete.

Materials:

  • Text of Dracula
  • Students will need to obtain an independent study novel

Step 1: Let's get warmed up, shall we? Start by asking students for their take on Dracula.

  • What were your expectations going into the novel?
  • What perceptions did you have about vampires and vampire stories before reading Bram Stoker's novel?
  • How did your perceptions about vampires affect your reading of Bram Stoker's novel?
  • Were you surprised by any aspects of Stoker's vampire?

Step 2: Explain to your students that they will complete a vampire novel independent study after they finish reading Dracula. They will select a vampire novel to read on their own time and then write an analysis comparing their vampire novel to the source material, Dracula (because let's face it, pretty much all things vampire owe something to Stoker's work).

This analysis can also build on the ideas from the previous lesson on cultural attitudes and the evolving vampire archetype. As another option, it might be interesting to assign students novels from different decades so that collectively, your class would be analyzing the vampire myth as it has evolved over the last century.

As for books, you can turn students loose to find their own undead novel, you can compile a list for them to choose from, or you can assign specific books to specific students. Another possibility is to do book circles, where you would assign the same book to a small group of students so you can work some collaborative activities in. Lovevampires.com is a great resource for a HUGE list of vampire titles. Here are just a few recommendations:

  • Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
  • The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith
  • Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris (True Blood is based on these books)
  • Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
  • Fat Vampire: A Never Coming-of-Age Story by Adam Rex
  • Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore
  • Vampire High by Douglas Rees
  • Marked by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
  • Insatiable by Meg Cabot
  • The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks

Step 3: Read, read, read. When students finish their books, they'll write their analysis, but you should provide the following instructions and questions ahead of time so students know what to look for. Maybe it'll even encourage them to—gasp!—annotate their text. Exciting stuff.

The nuts and bolts: You will write an analysis that compares your independent novel to Dracula. You should focus specifically on the lore of the vampire and how it relates to the source material in Dracula. You should also compare the cultural attitudes in the two books, especially as they relate to the major themes of Dracula, such as gender roles, sexuality, morality, the "Other," etc. (Check out Shmoop's discussion of Dracula's themes for help here.) Oh, and as always, proof, proof, proof! Meaning, your analysis should be based on solid text evidence from both books, in case that wasn't clear.

Here are a few (okay, more than a few) guiding questions to keep in mind:

  • What are the book's "rules" for humans turning into vampires?
  • What are the book's rules for killing or warding off vampires?
  • How are the vampires portrayed from a moral standpoint? Are they presented as villains, heroes, or somewhere in the middle on the morality scale?
  • Are there characters in the book who are anti-vampire or who try to hunt vampires? How are they portrayed?
  • Who is the villain or antagonist in the novel? Who is the protagonist? Do these roles follow the typical good vs. evil structure?
  • How does the theme of religion play into the novel? Does religion play into the novel at all?
  • How is sexuality related to the vampires and/or to the perception of good vs. evil in the book?
  • How does foreignness or the idea of the "Other" play into the book? Is the vampire the Other, or is it another character?
  • How is the idea of immortality dealt with in the book? Is it seen as a blessing, a curse, or an abomination?
  • What aspects of the vampire lore in your book seem to draw on elements of Dracula? Where does the author depart from the Dracula tradition?
  • Why do you think the author makes these choices? How does the portrayal of vampires relate to the cultural values at the time the book was written?

Step 4: At the conclusion of the project, we recommend one final sharing session/discussion. You might have students give more formal presentations of their work (and whether or not they'd recommend their book to others), or you might just have an informal discussion that draws on their work. Either way, get them talking about some of the questions above so students can share ideas and see how Dracula has influenced an entire genre of literature.

Instructions for Your Students

What with Twilight and True Blood showing up on the scene, you may think this whole vampire thing is a recent phenomenon. Don't be fooled; we have long had a morbid fascination with the vampire myth. Dracula isn't the only vampire book worth talking about, and you are about to experience that fact firsthand.

In fact, one could argue that Dracula is at least partially responsible for a whole genre of literature around vampire lore. All those Victorian values may seem out of date, but good ol' Bram was ahead of his time with this vampire stuff, and this lesson is all about putting Dracula into that big picture context and understanding how this novel is influencing pop culture even today.

You will complete an independent study on a non-Dracula vampire novel and write a comparative analysis of the two books. You will consider how Dracula is used as source material for your novel and how the evolution of the vampire myth reveals changing cultural attitudes. Shmoop loves a good text-to-text study, so let's get to it.

Step 1: Let's get warmed up, shall we? What's your take on Dracula?

  • What were your expectations going into the novel?
  • What perceptions did you have about vampires and vampire stories before reading Bram Stoker's novel?
  • How did your perceptions about vampires affect your reading of Bram Stoker's novel?
  • Were you surprised by any aspects of Stoker's vampire?

Step 2: As we mentioned, you will complete a vampire novel independent study after you finish reading Dracula. You will select a vampire novel to read on your own time (pretend you're reading for pleasure—wait—choose a novel you're interested in and you will be reading for pleasure). Then you'll write an analysis comparing your vampire novel to the source material, Dracula (because let's face it, pretty much all things vampire owe something to Stoker's work).

Lovevampires.com is a great resource for a HUGE list of vampire titles. Here are just a few recommendations:

  • Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
  • The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith
  • Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris (True Blood is based on these books)
  • Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
  • Fat Vampire: A Never Coming-of-Age Story by Adam Rex
  • Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore
  • Vampire High by Douglas Rees
  • Marked by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
  • Insatiable by Meg Cabot
  • The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks

Step 3: Read, read, read. No seriously, you have a lot of reading to do.

When you finish your books, you'll write the analysis, but you should keep the following instructions and questions in mind so you know what to look for. Maybe you'll even—gasp!—annotate your text. Exciting stuff.

The nuts and bolts: You will write an analysis that compares your independent novel to Dracula. You should focus specifically on the lore of the vampire and how it relates to the source material in Dracula. You should also compare the cultural attitudes in the two books, especially as they relate to the major themes of Dracula, such as gender roles, sexuality, morality, the "Other," etc. (Check out Shmoop's discussion of Dracula's themes for help here.) Oh, and as always, proof, proof, proof! Meaning, your analysis should be based on solid text evidence from both books, in case that wasn't clear.

Here are a few (okay, more than a few) guiding questions to keep in mind:

  • What are the book's "rules" for humans turning into vampires?
  • What are the book's rules for killing or warding off vampires?
  • How are the vampires portrayed from a moral standpoint? Are they presented as villains, heroes, or somewhere in the middle on the morality scale?
  • Are there characters in the book who are anti-vampire or who try to hunt vampires? How are they portrayed?
  • Who is the villain or antagonist in the novel? Who is the protagonist? Do these roles follow the typical good vs. evil structure?
  • How does the theme of religion play into the novel? Does religion play into the novel at all?
  • How is sexuality related to the vampires and/or to the perception of good vs. evil in the book?
  • How does foreignness or the idea of the "Other" play into the book? Is the vampire the Other, or is it another character?
  • How is the idea of immortality dealt with in the book? Is it seen as a blessing, a curse, or an abomination?
  • What aspects of the vampire lore in your book seem to draw on elements of Dracula? Where does the author depart from the Dracula tradition?
  • Why do you think the author makes these choices? How does the portrayal of vampires relate to the cultural values at the time the book was written?

Step 4: Present your analysis to your classmates (and take notes so you know which vampire book you should read next!) As we discuss your work, think about how influential Dracula has been and continues to be in pop culture. And you thought a hundred-year-old book would be irrelevant.

WANT MORE HELP TEACHING DRACULA?

Check out all the different parts of our corresponding learning guide.

Intro    Summary    Themes    Quotes    Characters    Analysis    Questions    Quizzes    Flashcards    Movie    Best of the Web    Write Essay    
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