Archive for the ‘Criticism’ Category


What are you Reading Wednesday: Dracula–When a Vampire was a Vampire

July 1, 2009

By Andrea Cohn, head cataloger at the Indiana Humanities Council

Have you noticed that Vampires have been getting a lot of good press lately? They are the Hollywood it thing at the moment. And, I must confess, ever since “Interview with a Vampire,” I haven’t quite been able to shake the image of Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise as smooth-talking, well-dressed night stalkers. But something has happened lately to the Vampire — he/she has been made more human than horror.

There is now a vampire for everyone, not just the horror crowd or the “Goth” click. They even have the Twilight saga, a cleaned-up version of the charming, unavailable, yet “only eats animals” type of vamp that even a teenage girl and her mother can love. HBO has the “TruBlood” series in its second season, which is also a series of novels by Charline Harris. This is much more adult fare, but the vampires are still humanized and morally complex individuals who can opt to dine on synthesized blood instead of snacking on humans (lucky us!). Of course, I am a fan of all of the above, including the Anne Rice novels which the “Interview with a Vampire” movie was based on.

Yep, even before Hollywood picked up on the craze, I was a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” devotee, an Anne Rice fan, and a big friend of horror movies featuring my favorite undead characters. So, it may surprise some to know that I have just now gotten around to reading the origin of all vampire sagas, the 1897 Bram Stoker classic Dracula. I don’t know why I put it off for so long. but I’m glad that I finally made the effort. It is a slow read at first, as the entire book is written as journal entries, diaries, and letters between the main characters. I didn’t really find the book frightening (unless you count the treatment of the female characters in the book, but that is blog discussion for another day!), but I did find it refreshing to see the Father of the Vampires was a despicable, gruesome, loathsome individual deserving of the title. Here is a description of the Count from early in the book: 

“I was conscious of the presence of the Count, and of his being as if lapped in a storm of fury. As my eyes opened involuntarily I saw his strong hand grasp the slender neck of the fair woman and with giant’s power draw it back, the blue eyes transformed with fury, the white teeth champing with rage, and the fair cheeks blazing red with passion. But the Count! Never did I imagine such wrath and fury, even to the demons of the pit. His eyes were positively blazing. The red light in them was lurid, as if the flames of hell fire blazed behind them. His face was deathly pale, and the lines of it were hard like drawn wires. The thick eyebrows that met over the nose now seemed like a heaving bar of white-hot metal. With a fierce sweep of his arm, he hurled the woman from him, and then motioned to the others, as though he were beating them back.”

Now that, my friends, is a Vampire you can sink your teeth into!

Who are your favorite vampires? Dracula? Edward from the Twilight series? Or are you more a fan of vampire-slayers?


Sycamore Review is Reviewing Submissions

August 26, 2008

Sycamore Review is now accepting submissions for Poetry, Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Art/Design. Submission guidelines for the various categories are explained on their site.

Deadline is October 17 so get to mailing!


Latest Sycamore Review is Out

August 26, 2008

I’ve been way behind on my blog reading (as you might have noticed if you saw the date of the WYA link from yesterday). But this is information worth passing along even if it’s a couple of months old.

The newest Sycamore Review is (ahem…has been) out. Unlike a lot of university literary mags the Sycamore Review is not only produced at Purdue U. but it features content from students there (I could be wrong but I think student content is all MFAs and PhD candidates). At the time that this issue was being put together Michael Chabon was set to deliver what turned out to be a marvelously engaging talk at the university. As a result Chabon was interviewed for the issue and Friend of Hoosierati, Nancee Reeves,1 wrote a review of Chabon’s Gentlemen of the Road.

1. Nancee is resistant to all attempts to get her to start posting again on her own blog, Fickle Foe, but many of the personal essays she’s posted about her teeny tiny hometown are worth re-reading.


Locus Award Winners Announced

June 25, 2008

John Holbo at The Valve runs through the Locus Award winners with some commentary.

I notice that Holbo makes some notes on Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union that nearly exactly mirror comments made by my friend Nancee of his Gentleman of the Road (in a not-yet-published review of her own). Not to put too fine a point on it: Chabon is committing artistic suicide by tethering himself too tightly to the genres he loves.


The Romance of Summer

June 24, 2008

Do you know how some literary theories seem to stick in your head? They do. No, not the dreaded French literary theorists, whose goofy notions keep leaking out of my mind as fast as I try to cram them in. I was thinking about one of my favorites, now receded into the distant past — Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism. Admittedly, I was never able to get into a lot of the book, but one section resonated and has stayed with me: Frye’s four “mythoi” or generic plots.

Frye identified these four categories of narrative literature as:

  • Comedy – the mythos of spring
  • Romance – the mythos of summer
  • Tragedy – the mythos of autumn
  • Irony and Satire – the mythos of winter

This correlation between the structure of literature and the rhythm of nature is evocative. We read the natural world as a great story, for good or ill. Then, in Frye’s view, the themes of literature echo back the cycle of the seasons.

As Jim recently noted, we are now past the solstice and into the summer. Romance, in the literary sense — which Frye defines as “a sequence of marvellous adventures” — is waiting. It might mean a movie (just saw Iron Man, liked it). It might be a festival, a journey, or even a voyage. It might be an exciting tale still in the making. You never know, and that is the romance of it.

This entry was posted by: Nancy