ENGLISH 5070 section 1

Fall 2023

Steven Shaviro ( or

Vampires are mythical creatures; they may not actually exist, but they have been objects of fascination in American (and more broadly, Western) popular culture for at least the past two centuries. Vampires are one of the two most popular figures of the undead, the other being zombies; and in a way, vampires and zombies are opposites. Zombies come in crowds, while vampires are solitary individuals. Zombies are democratically equal to one another, while vampires tend to be aristocrats. Zombies want to consume people’s brains and bodies, while vampires want to consume people’s blood. (And blood, besides its physical and scientific nature, has all sorts of odd metaphorical connotations). Zombies are hungry, while vampires are most often sexually charged. Zombies don’t care about day or night, while vampires are strictly nocturnal. And so on. This class will track our fascination with vampires, by looking at a sampling of vampire movies, mostly American but including a few from elsewhere, and ranging from the silent era to the present day. This class is also grounded in such concepts as diversity, equity, inclusion, intersectionality, and critical theory.


This class will not meet in person, but will be conducted entirely online, asynchronously. Every week will include the screening of one or two movies, together with written discussion boards on Canvas for each film. On each discussion board, I will write an essay on the movie in question, in lieu of an in-class lecture. There will also be discussion board postings on more general topics. You wiil be expected to write on the discussion boards, responding to my initial comments, making comments on your own, responding to the comments of other students, and asking questions. These discussion boards will take the place of in-class discussion; their format allows everyone in the class to participate.

The films will all be available on online streaming services. You are responsible for finding and watching the movies on your own; most of them are available for rent or purchase on the major online streaming services (Amazon, Apple, Google Pay, YouTube, etc.). A good way to find which services have which films is to use one of the streaming movie search engines, such as JustWatch. The syllabus provides links for movies that are especially difficult to access.

Most of the streaming movie rentals for older movies like the ones we are watching this semester come out to $3.99 or less; more recent movies might cost a bit more. However, in any case the cost of renting movies for the entire semester should still be far less than that of purchasing a textbook in an ordinary class.

There are no required readings for the class; the movies are required viewing, and information about particular films will be provided on the discussion boards. However, I do recommend one book as a general guide to what we will be discussing: The Vampire Film: Undead Cinema, by Jeffrey Weinstock. This book can be purchased for the Amazon Kindle, or other ereaders, for $9.99.

Your class grade will be based upon your participation on the discussion boards, together with your performance on three analytical essays. Individual participation is important; I will expect everyone in the class to make comments on the discussion boards about each film we discuss. These can include responses to the films, questions about specific points in the lectures that need further explanation, discussions about further implications, or references to related examples of what we are discussing. I will respond to all serious comments, but I also encourage discussion among all the members of the class. Give your own impressions of and responses to each film; but also build upon, question, or otherwise respond to previous comments. The discussion should remain polite and focused; show respect to people you are responding to.

Participation on each discussion board is worth two points. You will get full credit (two points) for thoughtful participation in the discussion; one point instead of two if your participation is merely perfunctory (or if your response has come after the deadline); and zero points if you fail to participate in the discussion altogether. I strongly encourage keeping up with the semester; you should watch the films and lectures, and post your comments, promptly. In terms of absolute due dates, discussions will be closed after two weeks.

There will be three analytical writing assignments over the course of the semester; each of them will be worth ten points. I will count the total points everyone has received at the end of the semester, and then convert them to letter grades. I will give more details on the analytical assignments when we are closer to the due dates. The first paper will be a close analysis of one of the films we have seen in class up to that point; the second paper will involve an analysis of an additional vampire film, one not shown and discussed in class; the third paper will involve a discussion of the significance of the figure of the vampire.

The class features a broad sample of vampire films, from the silent era to the present. Most of the films are Hollywood productions; but I have also included a number of British films and independently-made American films, as well as a sprinkling of films made in other languages. The films range from crass exploitation movies, to unusual and highly self-conscious art films. I have sought for maximum variety in the choice of movies, though this is limited by my lack of knowledge about some other countries with large film industries. There are so many vampire films out there that it is impossible to be comprehensive, in any case. I have excluded movies that later became television shows (such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which was much better on television than as a movie). I have also excluded some popular films that have had numerous sequels (such as the Blade, Underworld, and Twillight series).

CONTENT WARNING: Some of the movies we watch in this class will include episodes of violence, sexuality, and sexual insinuations that you may find unpleasant, disturbing, or even repulsive. Be warned that this is a possibility before you take the class. Of course, every individual’s reactions will be different. In the course of discussion, we will try to take account of such features, rather than either ignoring them or explaining them away. Jeffrey Weinstock comments in his book on vampire movies that “the expression of underlying fears and desires concerning sex and race and the human relationship with technology is always local – culturally specific and time-bound”; and that “vampire movies constitute an explicit, pervasive and conflicted cinematic discourse concerning sexuality that both reconfirms and troubles conventional sexual norms.”

Here is a short list of films that I really wanted to include in the class, but that are (as far as I can tell) unavailable for streaming:


By the end of the course, successful students should be able to:

  1. Identify major scholarly conversations in relation to film and media.
  2. Analyze texts in relation to multiple contexts relevant to film and media.
  3. Compose research-based argumentative essays that answer specific research questions about film and media.


August 28 - September 1

September 5-8

September 11-15

September 18-22

September 25-29

October 2-6

October 9-13

October 18-20

October 23-27

October 30-November 3

November 6-10

November 13-17

November 20-21

November 27-December 1

December 4-8

December 11

Grade Appeals

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences stipulates that course grade appeals must be initiated within 30 days from the time the grade is posted. The English Grade Appeal Form can be obtained at the English Main Office on the 9th Floor of 5057 Woodward or by emailing Royanne Smith at More information on this process, including the limited grounds for appeal, can be found at

Plagiarism is a very serious matter and should be recognized as such. The University has a very strict policy on plagiarism. Always cite your sources when quoting, paraphrasing, or using the ideas of other writers. When paraphrasing, place in quotes any phrase of four words or more that comes directly from the source being used.

The Velvet Vampire (Stephanie Rothman, 1971) Blacula (William Crain, 1972) Reflecting Skin (Philip Ridley, 1990) Innocent Blood (John Landis, 1992) My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To (Jonathan Cuartas, 2020) Bloodsucking Bastards (Brian James O’Connell, 2015)