A while back, Buzzfeed released a list of unique and "geeky" college courses offered at universities around the country. These courses range from a Simpsons philosophy course offered at Berkeley to a class on Calvin and Hobbes at Oberlin College (can I audit both of those courses, by the way?).

Low and behold, a university not too far from us offers its own "geeky" course. It's a course on vampires, specifically the role they've played in entertainment in both America and Eastern Europe.

The course if called "The Vampire in Literature and Cinema," and it's offered at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It was first created all the way back in 2006, with Slavic and comparative literature professor Tomislav Longinovic leading the course. Longinovic is also a novelist and short-story writer.

The course's slant is designed to show the drastically different ways Europeans view vampires in contrast to America:

The world’s perception of Eastern Europe in general and the Balkans in particular has been tinted a bloody hue, marking the region as a zone of excessive violence. [....] My aim in this course is to work through this kind of negative cultural perception by analyzing folklore, literature and film. I hope the students will get an insight into the way in which culture values are constructed through a popular image of the vampire. - Tomislav Longinovic, per University of Wisconsin-Madison's website

Photo Credit: Kamil Macniak
Photo Credit: Kamil Macniak

The course seems like a lot of fun for literature and cinema fans alike. At least initially, Longinovic screened three films for his students:

The class' required reading includes several short stories by the likes of Tolstoy, Byron, Goethe, Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu, and others, in addition to scholarly essays related to vampires.

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One of Tomislav Longinovic's intentions with the course is to explore the cultural use of vampires as folkloric figures that sometimes served as metaphors for disease (including pandemics; I can only imagine how 2020 changed the lesson plan):

There are many theories about different kinds of diseases and epidemics as origins of the vampire myth. Some authors associate the vampire with hereditary syphilis — medical books describe children born to women with syphilis as having sharp pointy teeth, long nails, an elongated skull and so on. - Tomislav Longinovic, per University of Wisconsin-Madison's website

You can find out more about the University of Wisconsin's "The Vampire in Literature and Cinema" course on the university's official website.

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