Harvard's Vampires 101

By Will Roseliep


Dec. 14, 2011

Before Team Edward and Team Jacob, there was Team Bela.

BOSTON — Our fascination with vampires has been deep and enduring. From the poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Lord Byron to “Twilight” and “True Blood,” the vampire has been a popular muse for generations. 
According to Harvard Extension lecturer Sue Weaver Schopf, over 1500 novels, 500 movies and hundreds more short stories and poems have featured vampires. 
"It's the biggest cultural phenomenon of our time," Schopf said on “The Callie Crossley Show” on Dec. 14.
Schopf, who usually studies the 19th century, saw the trend and decided to design a course to encompass the breadth of vampire film and literature. She debuted the course, called "The Vampire in Literature and Film," last fall.

"One of the most remarkable things that we saw was that about 75 percent of the class was female," she said. "I think there's something there that really resonates with women." 
Vampires also historically been stand-ins for difficult political and cultural issues, according to Schopf.
"They've become a kind of metaphor for immigration in a way, for any sort of disenfranchised group, who want to come into a normal group and assimilate, to be part of that group,” she said. Many authors draw on the idea of the vampire as outsider, “the person who is different, whom you fear, who you don't want to come into the community… that's become a very powerful way of talking about our current anxieties about things like immigration, or sexual difference, or racial difference, or racial hybridity. That's what really got me interested in these books."
Students have gotten interested, too. Hundreds have enrolled in Schopf's vampire course, which is taught simultaneously in the classroom and online at the Harvard Extension School website.

Sue Weaver Schopf discusses her course on the vampire in art.

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