Instructors’ Teaching Experience

Most of my students said this was their favorite reading of the semester, though we only read excerpts. We had a good discussion about Todorov and whether the scene where Harker is in Castle Dracula is uncanny (dream, madness), marvelous (magic), or fantastic (both/between). I lectured a bit on race, class and gender issues in Victorian England, and we discussed the text’s stance on each of these issues based on the fact that Dracula is both self and other in each category: eastern but white, owns a castle but does the servant work, is male but homoerotic. We also had good discussions about fear, superstition, suspense, and the quasi-epistolary style. [Bridget Draxler,]

Having just taught the novel, I found it to be something my students enjoyed a lot, though it seemed to bog down toward the end. It is worth remembering that this is a particularly long novel, and it’s hard (and not necessarily desirable) to get students to read enough of it at a time to get through it quickly. That said, Dracula contains so much that no matter what else you are talking about, you could bring it up again with this book–it has nice colonial echoes, gender questions, class concerns, is interested in science and superstition, and, of course, has vampires in it, which my students enjoyed having the chance to read about, given that many of them are familiar with vampires from other contexts. [Jacob Horn,]

Classroom Strategies

Staging Dracula

A bigger project for my students was to have them write scripts for a short stage version of the novel, then write an essay justifying the choices they made in their adaptation. The worked in groups: 5 people on Dracula, 5 on Frankenstein, etc.  Writing a short version of the story forced them to make cuts and changes to the original, prioritizing certain plot points and characters; writing an essay to justify these choices really made them reflect on the significance of the cuts and changes. We talked about whether it’s important to stay true to the spirit or the letter of the original text; we compared their scripts to film clips we watched together in class; we workshopped the scripts together in class so other students could evaluate the choices made in the adaptation; we discussed what exactly is lost by shortening these stories; we pondered why adaptations, even of tragedies, tend to turn comic; we discussed how a story changes when it moves between genres, like from prose to drama; we evaluated casting and costume choices; we discussed how adaptation is a form of analysis and interpretation. Performance optional, but fabulous. [Bridget Draxler,]