World Building Fantasy frequency involves world building – creating a believable, internally consistent world for the characters to inhabit. What skills might students develop by thinking about the consistency (or catching inconsistencies) of fantasy worlds?
From Reading Unbound, Chapter 8: The vampire archetype and story are primordial in almost every culture, including the earliest recorded epic of Gilgamesh from Babylonia in about 2000 B.C. In Gilgamesh, the Ekimmu, or Departed Spirit, was the soul of a dead person who could not find rest and wandered over the earth seeking to sieze the living. Subsequent to Gilgamesh, the vampire appeared in fairy and folk talks across the world. (123)
Allie talks about the pleasure of reading Twilight: What draws people to Twilight is that it is relatable. Young characters. Teenagers. Relationships. Love. The dangers of love. You need it [love] so bad but it is dangerous and can slay you. That’s the interest of teenage girls. Feelings – Bella’s feelings can be related to. So intense. Most of what I read in school I cannot relate to. Like George Orwell’s 1984. There was NOTHING I could relate to. I wasn’t interested in entering into the story. But I am so interested in entering into Twilight because it is about me right now. I can relate to it. (123) What kind of work is Allie doing? What’s the value of such work?
Jaycee on relationships in vampire stories: Being a teenager is partly about struggling to be more adult and have a more adult relationship.... I think a real struggle of more adult relationships is making sure they are life-giving in both directions. I mean, we all have these needs so you have to be careful about not being a vampire and sucking someone else dry, or hurting and discarding them. But you have to be really careful not to let someone do it to you, too, like dominate you, just because you like being liked or feeling attractive or whatever. I think it’s a real danger. (126) How useful and appropriate is this kind of work?
And then there’s sex... Allie: On one level vampires can do whatever they want, and that is appealing and scary. When it comes to anything but, of course, when it comes to sex... that Edward is controlling this [his sexual urges] makes him approachable, potentially redeemable. Jaycee: Sex is kind of dangerous, you know.... Reading about sexual attraction doesn’t make it more dangerous. In fact, it can help you see positive possibilities for real healthy relationships. Kennie: There is a real fantasy element to just being totally loved and being needed, like a vampire needs the heroine to stay alive—literally and symbolically. Sex is part of that, but usually that’s more implied and imagined than directly talked about. I think that makes it [the sexual tension and energy] more powerful. There’s this kind of restraint, I guess. I think that makes it even better because it is totally up to your imagination and anything can happen. (126) Comments?
And power... Allie: I don’t think there is a lot of pro-feminism in the Twilight series—until in the last book once Bella becomes a vampire and is able to take care of herself and her family. It’s the “damsel in distress” thing until the final book. She is pretty helpless until she becomes a vampire. She cuts herself to save Edward and that is a powerful thing and a thing saving her as well as him. She gets to the point that she can protect herself and live the way she wants.... I really hated how pathetic [Bella] was until that point, so I was like, “Yeah!” (130) With respect to “Being Rebellious,” Wilhelm and Smith say this: As Senf (1988) points out, “Dracula is dangerous because he expresses his contempt for authority in the most individualistic of ways” (p. 94). Hyder (personal communication, 2012) also asserts that Dracula is symbolic of the ultimate defiance and rebelliousness—defiance not only of human conventions “but of death itself.” He argues further that this counter-culturalism taps into teen rebelliousness, calling into question conventionality and rules, while celebrating resistance to such conventionality. (131)
Then there’s the issue of control: Kennie: All the “doing your own thing” is attractive on one level, but it has to be brought under control. That is what the female is for, not to kill the rebelliousness but to harness it. (131) Allie: Vampires are definitely about bloodlust and repressed animal impulses that must be controlled [and] maybe recognized, which is what the vampire makes you do and has to do for himself. (132)
On “Good vs Evil”: Allie: The good and evil thing is worked out differently [in the Twilight books]. It’s about the vampires and their struggles—not about vampires being bad versus humans being good. Which I liked because we all know humans can be evil. Edward and his family are good. The Voltury are not evil necessarily. It’s complicated—to humans and in human terms they are [evil]—they trick them to eat them—but in another way the vampires are just different. This is what vampires do. But Edward’s family is not like most vampires. They overcome... being vampires. They are a minority. The Voltury are definitely demonic. Edward’s family has become not demonic but they are still in danger of it. They have to make the effort. Like all of us, I guess. (133)
On things that are repressed or simply unexplained: Jaycee: You know there are things out there that you don’t know about, that are mysterious and unexplained, and the vampires and werewolves and their stories make that incredibly real to you, bring it out from the dark so you can see it. Then you have to deal with it. (135) Allie: Vampires are of the past, of dangers we don’t see anymore but are still there. You do kind of wonder when it is all going to explode and can’t be ignored anymore.... I think the books are somewhat about dangers we don’t see—I mean the regular people [in the Twilight series] don’t know about the werewolves or the vampires but they are there. There are definitely things that people ignore or just explain away. In the Twilight books, people are oblivious Only the reader really knows. So the reader is like the author, all-knowing, and that is cool. It just shows how we ignore problems in real life or think we know everything when we obviously don’t. (135)
And one final comment (for parents and teachers): Kennie: Parents worry that if kids play video games they will become violent. They will learn violence. That is why they worry about vampire novels—that [kids who read them] will let their sexuality take them over—or glorify the [intensity] and fall in love with someone unacceptable like a kind of crazy cross-creature romance over practicality—that they will be possessed and not take control over their whole life—that they will be attracted by stereotypical desires and alpha males.... It’s kind of funny but some of the fun is watching adults squirm about what you read.... People assume the stereotypes and that all of them are true. That there is no depth, all lovey-dovey, danger, sex, simple—but there is so much more to the books... If you read these books you are intelligent. There is a lot of deep stuff going on in them. (137-38) How do these comments influence your view of vampire novels? How much of this kind of “work” probably happens with other fantasy novels?
Two major goals of this course were 1) to acquaint you with the broad range of YA books currently available, and 2) to give you some ideas (and encourage you to generate additional ideas) about how to use YA books in your own classes, regardless of your grade level or discipline, especially with respect to independent reading. To help you think about the books and the ideas you have encountered this semester, do the following: Write a proposal for a $500 grant (or a $1000 grant, if you're feeling adventurous) with which to create a classroom library (or enhance your existing library, if you already have one). Include a detailed budget, as well as a rationale for each purchase. Notes: *If you don't already have a way to display your books, be sure to include a bookshelf, book rack, library cart, or some other furniture on which to store and display the books. *Look up actual costs for display materials and books, including shipping. *You may write an individual rationale for each book, but it's OK to explain your rationale for groups of books: you might for example, include certain individual books for a particular reason, but then select a certain number of books in one genre, a certain number in a different genre, and so on; you could then write a rationale for each genre. *Write this proposal as if you plan to submit it, because I hope you really will submit it somewhere: maybe to your principal, maybe to your PTA, maybe on donorschoose.org, or maybe to some other entity. As long as you have it handy, you might as well submit it, right? *Submit your proposal by email late in the semester, but no later than the final class. Be ready to explain your proposal (in no more than five minutes) during the final class meeting.
To read before next week: Dystopia, Post-apocalyptic & Horror What draws readers to these genres? Why read these books? Why include them in your classroom library?