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Twilight: The Texts and the Fandom, First Two Weeks Recap

September 13, 2010

Apologies for the lack of posting – unexpected house guests and other life issues kept me away from the blog!!!

This coming week, I will start posting class updates and recaps of discussions. A reader requested more info on the final project and this is forthcoming very soon as well!

For now, a quick recap of the start of the semester:

The first two weeks of class consisted mostly of nuts and bolts elements such as going over the syllabus, the writing assignments, and the course goals. Students are well into reading Twilight and will finish the final 8 chapters by next week. So far, we have discussed why the saga is so generally appealing (with common ideas being it’s romantic focus, it’s new vampire twist, and it’s appealing characters with someone for everyone to like/identify with).

Students began reading from the anthology Twilight and History and in class we discussed how the historical background stories affect our reading of specific characters. Many felt that Meyer seems to value “old traditions” from earlier historical epochs, especially in relation to gender roles and “chaste sexuality.” However, Rosalie complicates this a bit as she is from an era that valued the traditional wife/mother role, yet she is framed rather negatively in the text. (Perhaps due to her blonde hair – which one excellent reading response paper explored, exploring how Meyer elevates brunettes and condemns blondes).

We discussed Bella as very domestic, which is not in keeping with her 21st century time period. Someone compared her to a “50s housewife type.” Re-reading the book yet again, I noticed how often she cooks/cleans and organizes her life around these “domestic duties” – she even muses about buying a fish cookbook! I noticed this on previous reads of course, but this time I found even more such references.

Students also read an essay on vampire lore and we had a discussion about how Meyer both builds upon and departs from traditional vampire depictions and why she might have done so. Many shared their disbelief that Meyer has not read a lot of vampire texts or seen any movies, which moved us into how Meyer’s religion likely shaped the saga in certain directions.

On this topic, someone made a good point about the many anachronisms in Twilight and how these may come from the fact she penned the initial novel “in secret” and never planned to publish it. However, we also noted that turning to google for research needs seems remiss – and that perhaps more research should have been done once the book deal was secure.

One student noted the jacket pulling scene that occurs in the high school parking lot, sharing that this seemed very abusive. Others chimed in that Edward is rather controlling and condescending in the first book but that this seems to be forgotten by fans (and by Bella) once they are “in love” with him…

Many commented on the materialism of the book which will feed into the coming week’s discussion of the “Cinderbella” article from Twilight and History in which the author argues the saga fits into the Cinderella fairy tale cycle of stories as well as into perhaps the most enduring fairy tale in the U.S. – the American Dream.

More updates soon! Would love to hear reader’s comments on any of the above!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 14, 2010 5:32 pm

    I would love the chance to study Twilight in a class setting. There is just so much to consider, race, class, gender all mushed together in one novel. (Which is probably the problem.) I think the fact that people my age, and below consider this to be a romance novel is a bigger problem then the actually book. It shows that although times have changed, attitude still remains the same in some things. I didn’t notice just how domesticated Bella is until you mentioned it. She seemed to spend most of her time mooning over Edward, who broke her heart (but that’s another book.) To me, it didn’t bother me that she didn’t pay attention to other vampire myths, it was that she didn’t build them. If she had made it better that would have been different. I’m really looking forward to reading up on this study, it seems so interesting.

    • natalie wilson permalink*
      September 14, 2010 7:45 pm

      Thanks much and glad to hear of your interest!!!

      Good point about the un-questionned acceptance of the saga as romance — while it is undoubtedly framing itself as a romance (and does so through extended reference to other classical romance texts), readers need to consider the messages it (and other romances) still send about gender, class, race, etc — unfortunately, most are very regressive. Even modern film versions with big twists are true to this claim – such as The Proposal where Sandra Bullock is portrayed as a callous, greedy bitch who just needs a good man to turn her into a domestic princess. Blah.

  2. September 14, 2010 11:51 pm

    I’m a firm believer in that Stephanie Meyer did not have any substantial knowledge about vampirism when she wrote her series of books. There is no acknowledgment towards the typical Victorian sense of vampirism, and there is certainly no historical context referent for the vampirism in The Twilight Saga. In this last instance, I am thinking of Vlad the Impaler, the stories from the Roman Empire, and various bits of folklore that have survived.

    Meyer created her vampires to be a higher form of life than mere humanity, based upon her religion. In the books, Bella constantly refers to Edward as an angel. Vampires sparkle in sunlight, they are rich beyond comparison, intelligent, and they are virtually immortal; they are supernaturally beautiful, and they have super powers. Even the evil Volturi believe in upholding the law; their only error is in giving in to “human” emotions. For Meyer, vampirism is something for which to aspire and is never seen as a parasitical form of life.

    Meyer’s writing style deserves some criticism. Although I will not go so far as to say that she cannot write, like Stephen King remarked, I will say that her vocabulary wants improving. She tends to repeat certain words to the point where one begins to count how many times they are repeated (“whirling” comes to mind, immediately). There is a definite lack of sophistication in her technique, although in the last book, Jacob is allowed to express himself. First person writing is not my first choice for a literary effort, but apparently, this aspect did not hurt Meyer as her story captivated us all, for one reason or another.

    Meyer is old fashioned, plain and simple. Her allusions to the type of courting that takes place in the older works of literature lend her texts a “fairy tale” aspect. But no matter how romantic Romeo and Juliet may appear to someone, Shakespeare created a totally dysfunctional relationship that was ordained by fate to not only fail, but to end in a double suicide. Perhaps this great ignoring of reality is what makes The Twilight Saga strike the hearts of millions. People want to be happy, and they wish to see the beauty win over all.

    • cat permalink
      September 10, 2011 3:45 pm

      “Perhaps this great ignoring of reality is what makes The Twilight Saga strike the hearts of millions. People want to be happy, and they wish to see the beauty win over all.”

      I think your surmise is correct, having dealt with fandom in the fanfiction circuit. So many of the writers would rather ignore reality in their writing and participate in wish fulfillment then write a story that has worth and depth to it. Some turn out good, even some of the ones deemed Mary Sues, but I’ve read some major doozies… and I am not talking “My Immortal” type which is deemed a troll fic by many.

  3. cat permalink
    September 10, 2011 3:52 pm

    I am honestly surprised that there aren’t any comments from Twihards, which is what fandom calls the rabid fans, or the fans that like to pretend they are rabid call themselves. Not all fans are like that, but because this is meant for educational purposes, I guess if anyone did decide to reply with “its just a book” the comment wouldn’t have been accepted. Or maybe you were lucky enough not to have received such comments from the Twihards because they for once had the common sense not to try and make an argument?

    Those things that your students discussed are assume and are things that people have tried to discuss before, but whenever someone writes an essay on one of those subject, the Twihards run rampant and we’ve never seen and logical support of the series, which I’ve never seen before… I mean this almost black and white segmentation of sides.

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