Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series and HBO's True Blood may appear to have cornered the market on the popular vampire trend, but it's Duke's own Carlos Rojas who's teaching the topic this fall in a course called "Vampire Chronicles."
An associate professor of Chinese cultural studies and women's studies, Rojas sought a way to combine his research interests—gender, the body, infection, nationalism, and diaspora studies—while linking them to pop culture. The solution?
"They're all kind of related," he says. "Disease, prostitution, sex, desire, vampirism…. I'm trying to keep [the course] relevant, because obviously the topic continues to be a touchstone of popular interest."
Vampires, Rojas says, embody a broad range of topics, from ethnicity and gender, to desire and sexual violence, to commerce and capitalism. Students read about poor Chinese who sold blood for money, unwittingly contributing to the acceleration of the AIDS pandemic in China. They explore the "feminized" vampire, studying the relationship between works featuring female vampires, such as Let the Right One In (a Swedish novel and film recently remade into an American movie, Let Me In) and Anne Rice's Interview With the Vampire, and works influenced by strong female characters, such as Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's lesbian vampires in Carmilla. And they examine the modern vampire as a contemporary metaphor for consumption, power, and sexuality.
The syllabus is organized into four different sections, starting with Dracula (which the professor admits is read by surprisingly few students before they take his class) and other early vampire literature. It then moves on to the image of the vampire in relation to violence, sexual aggression, and death.
Asian and Middle Eastern Studies 141S: Vampire Chronicles: Fantasies of Vampirism in a Cross-Cultural Perspective
August 1, 2011