26 May 2009

Photographic Evidence

I love things that appear to be anachronistic (or actually are in many cases). I got a few pictures this weekend of random oddities I spotted. I almost never have a working camera on me and I only recently figured out how to get a few pictures off my BlackBerry so bear with me here.

Item #1: Even poetry aesthetes must look like soccer moms on the weekend.

A lovely, sedate silver minivan with the bumper sticker saying "I'd rather be reading Bukowski" spotted parked next to my car when I returned from fetching my dinner at Panera. That poor parent was probably being held captive in Hollister/Aerie/insert-name-of-overpriced-teen-clothing-store-here when he or she would probably rather be at the B&N in the mall. I was also amused because the van owner placed the sticker not on the bumper but at about shoulder height on the trunk hatch.

Item #2: Twilight has started invading all aspects of life.

This is a reading list for an English course in 18th Century British Literature, subtitled "Gothic Literature." I thought, "Cool - Gothic literature is fun to read," until I got to the last title. Can you see what it is? This picture is alot fuzzy because I had to snap it on the sly at Prairie Lights (the local independent bookstore - they sometimes take course orders from the humanities professors); this is also known as "Kinnearing" as developed by The Yarn Harlot. I ran it through the photo editor to enhance the contrast but if you still can't read it here's what the full course title and list says:

Title: Lit & Culture of 18th Cent Britain: Gothic Lit (there's a course number but it's cut off)
- The Castle of Otranto
- The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction
- The Monk
- Northanger Abbey
- Dracula
- Twilight

I was stopped dead in my tracks. Literally. I was going to give them Northanger Abbey and Dracula even though Stoker was a number of years removed from the 18th century. But Twilight? Huh. So I went to the UI's ISIS system (I still take ballet, remember, so I have access to the course registration system) and pulled up the course decription. This is what it says:

"This course winds its way through the creepy classics of Gothic literature, from mid-eighteenth-century “graveyard poetry” and the first Gothic novel in English, Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1767) to the contemporary blockbuster success of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight (2005).

En route, we’ll also experience Matthew Lewis’s The Monk (1796), for which its author was threatened with charges of blasphemy, as well Jane Austen’s gentle ridicule of Gothic readers in Northanger Abbey (written 1798-99). We will consider why the Enlightenment gave rise to such dark literature and what this body of texts reveals about British culture, sexuality, family life, religion, and politics. Our study of the early Gothic novel will earn us the right to fast forward a bit a by the end. We will read Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) pondering the meaning of the vampire for the Victorians, and we’ll finish inquiring about the legacy of the Gothic for us today as we read Meyer’s bestselling Twilight. We will also screen modern film adaptations of two or three of the texts we read, considering them as interpretations of the novels in their own right. Students will take quizzes, write two brief response papers, and make two presentations."

At least they're going to talk about the "legacy" of Gothic literature but is Twilight really necessary? Were I an undergrad in Enligsh, this one might have been a deal breaker for me; Twilight was an fun read but Bella does tend to make me gag just a bit. The class is only reading two early Gothics and one Gothic parody - not even an Ann Radcliffe - and they're skipping over a number of other Gothic novels to focus exclusively on the Vampire. If that was the focus, then perhaps the course could have been reformulated to focus on the Vampire from the beginning. I find it interesting that this course is listed without having any prerequisites so it feels more like a sot to get students to take a short summer course. If I took it the only things I'd need to read are the remainder of The Monk and the assigned essays in the Cambridge; I've read everything else. I also find it a little bizzaro-world that this course fulfills two areas of the English major:

"For English majors, AREA: Modern British Literature and Culture; PERIOD: 18th-Century Literature."

Say what? Only five novels, and one of them American, and this course still fulfills an area and a period? Oy.


  1. lmao with Twilight on that reading list! That's hysterical and tragic all at the same time.

  2. Isn't it? We were passing my BlackBerry around and laughing when I got to work later. For about $900 per course hour, a teen vampire romance just doesn't quite make my cut.

  3. You have something waiting for you at my blog :)