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Twilight Group Work – Week 3

September 14, 2010

Yesterday in class students split into groups to discuss the following topics and talking points (listed below). They had a 30 minutes for discussion and 5 minutes each to present their thoughts/recap. This activity promoted lots of lively discussion. One of the highlights was the skit performed by the  “Psychological Analysis Group.” They enacted a “Cullen family therapy session” complete with a lip-biting Bella, a controlling Edward, a pissed of Rosalie, and a Southern talking Jasper…

Details for the Group Work Directions and Talking points are pasted below.

Tomorrow we will begin watching the first film adaptation.


Group Work Directions

In groups, discuss your chosen topic. Select a “note taker” and document your discussion on the sheet below. The written portion of your work will count as QUIZ 2 and you will be marked on thoroughness, analysis of the saga and surrounding contexts, and evidence of deep thought/original thinking. In addition to filling out the sheet below, be prepared to offer a 5 minute recap of your thoughts and discussion points to the entire class. Instead of a recap you may also do something more creative if you wish – a brief skit, a rewrite of a scene, etc.

Group 1 – Psychological Analysis of Bella, Edward, and Twilight fans

Talking points:

The editors of the Bitten anthology note encountering fans “seeking a diagnosis” for their love of Twilight and share that their group interviews were approached almost as therapy. In your group, please “diagnose” Bella, Edward, Twilight fans and other characters of your choice as time permits. You might also “diagnose” Meyer and/or offer analysis of the dream that spawned the saga or the many dreams Bella recounts in her narrative.

Group 2 – The text as a fairy tale

Talking points:

If Meyer’s work is a “fairy tale of the twenty-first century” what are the lessons it teaches? (49) In your group, discuss what fairy tales the saga represents or echoes. Why might Meyer have incorporated so many allusions to fairy tales? How does she subvert or change the message of some traditional fairy tales or does she? Many tales teach “safety lessons,” some of which are coded lessons about appropriate romantic/sexual behavior. What “sexual lessons” does Twilight teach and why do so many seem to find these lessons appealing? If you wish, your group could re-write a fairy tale using Twilight characters and/or perform a skit.

Group 3 – Twilight as a “social networking best-seller”

Talking points:

The Introduction in Bitten details Meyer’s and fans use of the internet “as an outlet for Twilight related discussion and expression.” Why do you think Twilight has such a huge internet presence – both for Twilighters and for Twi-haters? How does social networking change/extend fans engagement with the saga and to what effect? Why do you think there are so many parodies of the saga? Just for fun – if Bella and/or Edward had Twitter accounts, what would they tweet about? Or what would Bella’s facebook status be?

Group 4 – The public reaction to Twilight and gendered dismissal of female fans

Talking points:

The Introduction in Bitten documents that most film reviewers are male (as are most book reviewers). How do you think this plays into the dismissal of the saga? How might the reaction to the saga have been different if it were penned by a male author? What do you make of the claims about the series being poorly written and undeserving of scholarly attention? How about of the claim that Twilight “ruined” Comic-Con? What about the words used to describe fans – hysteria, obsession, addict, etc or the construction of female directed texts as “schlocky and mindless” or as having “feminized cultural status” (Bitten 8, 241)? If you wish, you might perform a fan-based skit to share with the class.

Group 5 – Twilight across the generations

Talking points:

The Bitten Prologue discusses TwiCon, documenting all the adult fans, dads, and grandmothers in attendance. Why do you think Twilight’s popularity spans the generations, appealing to so many different types of people? Do you find the fact it is apparently appealing to so many problematic? Are there other cultural phenomenon that have been similarly embraced? How are these different/the same? Please consider the popularity of Buffy, Lost, Harry Potter, or other popular series/texts/bands, etc.

Group 6 – Twilight in relation to “post-feminism” (idea feminism has accomplished its goals and we now have gender equality)

Talking points:

In the Bitten Afterword, Levine argues the Twilight saga is “a romance narrative in which the heroine devotes herself to the hero to the point of sacrificing her human life” asserting that as she chooses to do so, the series “might be read as a prototype for post-feminist fantasy” (283). Given Edward’s treatment of Bella in the first sixteen chapters and Bella’s choice to pursue a relationship with him, how do you feel about this claim? In what ways are Bella and Edward “equal” or is their relationship egalitarian?  In what ways are they not equal and is their relationship one based on control, fear, etc.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. September 14, 2010 7:14 pm

    Mm I have a question for the last point: “In what ways are Bella and Edward “equal” or is their relationship egalitarian? In what ways are they not equal and is their relationship one based on control, fear, etc. ”

    I mean if a relationship its not egalatarian it means that by default is based on negative traits? There are not other ways a relationship’s dynamic can work that is whether completely equals or controlled by one or another?

  2. natalie wilson permalink*
    September 14, 2010 7:27 pm

    Not sure I understand your question… Do you mean to argue that a non-egalitarian relationship can work and be functional/healthy? I think many people DO believe this but I personally do not — as a feminist, I value egalitarian relationships where work, money, hardship, childcare, chores, and pleasures are equally shared… In Bella’s and Edward’s relationship, even once she is a vampire, I still see hints of inequality — you don’t, for example, see Edward dressing Renessmee in Breaking Dawn… Does he change the sparkly poop diapers do you think?

    • September 14, 2010 7:42 pm

      The point is that it looks like you are stating for the analysis is that a Non-Egalitarian relationship = control and fear.
      Meaning that people only have two choices on relationships and all relationships where work, money, hardship, childcare, chores, and pleasures are equally shared are free of fear and control ALWAYS and the only alternative is ALWAYS based on negative traits is that what you are saying?

      • natalie wilson permalink*
        September 14, 2010 7:50 pm

        Ah, I see now. The text should have read “and/or” not “and” alone but the “or” got cut out! I did not mean to indicate in any way that there are only two choices nor that fear/control are ALWAYS absent in certain types of relationships and ALWAYS present in others…

  3. September 14, 2010 8:02 pm

    Okay then. Thanks for clarifying.

  4. September 14, 2010 8:14 pm

    Twilight in relation to “Post-Feminism”

    Although each of the topics appeals to my responsive nature, I thought to concentrate on this aspect; as a very independent and fair-minded woman, there is much I have noticed within The Twilight Saga that I wish to express.

    At the beginning of the first book, Bella has been uprooted from what is familiar to her; although uncertain at first, she begins to care for Charlie, much as she had cared for her “hair-brained mother.” I do not see this as an anachronism, as Bella has been thrust into a responsible role early in life. Many kids today are placed in the same position. The concept of doing chores surely has not been replaced by irresponsible kids playing video games in today’s society. At least, I hope not.

    As Bella’s footing is uncertain, she is learning the ways of the culture of rainy Forks, Washington. Edward intrigues her and as a girl who loves a mystery, Bella seeks to solve it. Edward’s lack of social skills can be attributed to the fact that Bella is the first human with whom he has ever really had a relationship. He’s a 110 year old virgin! He has never been on a date, from what past evidence we can garner of his mortal existence, and as a vampire, he has spent the majority of his life trying to avoid thinking of humans as lunch. Edward is still a boy, bumbling, inept, and struggling to find his own place in the world. And remember, the Cullens are under orders from the Volturi to keep what they are a secret.

    Once Bella confronts Edward on his vampirism, change is inevitable. Neither can go on pretending to play ignorant and so, true feelings emerge. From this point, Bella already knows what she wants and she wants immortality almost as much as she wants Edward. During the latter half of the first book, though, Edward becomes her crutch. Instead of developing into an independent female, she begins to dream of becoming a vampire, fully dependent on Edward to walk her through the process.

    While Bella is a very frail human and she continues to move through the supernatural world, Edward is far superior to her. Bella is powerless to alter her circumstances without Edward’s or his family’s protection. She cannot talk to anyone about that world other than with Edward, and he becomes her only real social interaction. The few times that she asserts herself, she does so on behalf of others and not herself. Bella also does not have a good self-image and admiring the transcendent beauty of the vampires does not help her to see herself better.

    Therefore I disagree with Levine; Bella merely assumes responsibility for her mother and saving her mother is a natural progression. Also, she chooses to sacrifice herself because she is an innocent who trusts in the word of a mad vampire. Bella sacrifices her life because she does not see herself as worth the same value as another human.

    However, there is more to come, and so I have more to say. As a forewarning, I still disagree with Levine, even as the last page is turned in the fourth book.

    • natalie wilson permalink*
      September 14, 2010 11:20 pm

      Thanks for sharing! And let me start by saying that disagreement makes for great dialogue! I appreciate your thoughtful responses and hope you will keep them coming.
      I agree that Bella’s domesticity is not an anachronism but I do find it grating just how many times she details such chores. Kids help out — true – but how many detail their enchilada making or spend time worrying about buying a seafood cookbook – especially in the throes of “first love” or a deep crush?
      I am wondering why you see her as loving mystery — all the books she reads are classical romance…
      I find Edward’s virginity and social ineptness unbelievable in the texts — especially given how suave and gorgeous he is. I don’t see him as bumbling but domineering and condescending. In the first text, for example, he repeatedly bosses Bella around, makes fun of her, smirks, glowers, and teases. He seems more overly confident than struggling to me.
      I agree that Edward becomes a crutch – big time! In fact, we could link this to all the time he literally carries Bella – she can barely walk through the world without him it sometimes seems.
      Do you think we can read Bella’s sacrifice in the context of traditional gender roles — ie mothers, wives, daughters are supposed to make sacrifices for the men in their lives – sacrifices which often involve giving up career aspirations, friends, hobbies, etc so as to take care of children or spend all their time with their male partner. Bella gives up all of these — even reading!
      Thanks again for your comments.

  5. September 14, 2010 11:47 pm

    I personally never found her details about cooking ingrating and I think is due to the fact that I love to cook since I was 12 so for me Bella wanting to buy a seafood book was not only interesting also very practical given that Charlie will keep bringing fish very often and eating fish the same way is really boring (as personal anecdote my father like Charlie loved to have fish as lunch and I didn’t liked it that much so it was one of those moments when I felt for poor Bella and Charlie being so stubborn about not needing any new creative ways to eat…fish).

    I did hated all the cleaning the house aspects of it mostly because I hate doing cleaingi with the fire of two thousand suns I also found boring all the details about she brushing her teeth and her hair mostly because I do this on automatic. But in contrast some of my girlfriends that do love chores and personal grooming found this aspects quite enjoyable so I think we shouldn’t forget that personal taste do influence how we read certain aspects of the books.

    As per Edward I agree with Lin that he is practically a vampire dork. Even if he is beautiful he never let himself get close to any woman so as much as he can pretend he knows how to act falling in love for the first time surely let him disarmed of many of the things he had learned. So I do not think of him as controlling or condescending but overwhelmed by his inner conflict and absolutely dorkish on his dealings with dating specially a human girl.

    But I do disagree with Lin about the Bella becoming more dependant because she needed Edward to become a vampire. That is a situation any human would had faced if wanting to become one is not a Bella situation but a human one. The only difference is that Bella had the burden and the privilege of know it, while all of the other human on books are oblivious to it. If Alice would had fallen for Mike Newton the situation would had been exactly the same, IMO.

    Also for Bella to accept to be dependent of Edward she wouldn’t had chosen to become a vampire given that neither Edward of his family wanted her to become one. Is when she realizes through James that if she becomes a vampire she will not longer being a liability to the Cullens (remember how worried she was that Emmet could get killed by James or that Victoria would hurt Esme) and also that would make her relationship with Edward balanced and equal instead of him worrying sick for her all the time. James “incepted” the idea of becoming a vampire and it made sense for her once she though about it and she even made the decision away from Edward (she never mentioned it till she woke up on the hospital so Edward didn’t gave her any encouragement to that idea it was all James and Alice) but it was not that much about she being more dependent but free of the limitations and dangers she just discovered on this new world that she didn’t knew it existed before. Was Edward the catalyst? True but we know that the only reason we got four books is because he didn’t agree with that and I think that if Bella would had been really that crutched to her she would had accepted whether to leave him to live a fully human life or to stay and be the damsel in distress till she die of old age.

    So I agree with the original author: Bella did what she damn wanted to do damned Edward, Jacob, Mike or anyone that got on her way.

    • natalie wilson permalink*
      September 15, 2010 7:42 pm

      So true that “personal tastes do influence how we read certain aspects of the books.” I found some of the toothbrushing details annoying too. I still feel even though some people like these, that there are too many extranneous details. I suppose I am of the “less is more” camp and feel the saga would have benefitted from some serious “editorial weeding.”
      Edward as “vampire dork”! Love it! The movies certainly further this representation…
      I am not sure what you are getting at in your “Bella becoming more dependent” paragraph — do you mean because she is falling in love or because she is human? What do you feel necessitates this type of dependence?
      As to your final point, Bella does do what she wants, but what do you make of vampire/human being a metaphor for male/female? Ie, in order for Bella to get what she wants and to not be “a liability” she has to become a vampire — or powerful/metaphorically male… Can we read this as a sort of meditation on power and privilege and how becoming a vampire gives her both?

      • September 15, 2010 9:05 pm

        Sometimes I think that the series could had benefit for editing, but then again they are best sellers so maybe part of the charm of it is the annoying details too. A this point I made peace with the writing style, like it or not it worked and it touched people that is more than many other better writeen books had done.

        The vampire dork idea came to me when I was re-watching Twilight and you can see Edward crossing a good distance to tell Bella “we shouldn’t be friends” reminded me of all the times on HS when you actually rationalize any stupid excuse to talk to your crush and end up looking so stupid…and obvious. Also how he left Bella on the halls after she talked about his eyes…”Really Edward the mind reading doesn’t make you any better a liar does it?”

        I think one of the reasons is important to see how socially clumsy Edward is is one of the reasons we buy the romantic purple prose he says. I mean on any other guy this would sound stupid because its obviously not true but in his case we know that Edward doesn’t have a hidden agenda neither he is the playboy type that is feeding her crap to get on Bella’s pants. Every single corny word of his mouth comes from the truth and is what we like about him. He is not playing any games. He can’t.

        I think Bella dependences is complex, its because she is human, because she is falling in love, but also because she is alone. When Edward meet her she just had to leave the only other human being she had a deep relationship with her mother, that after expending year being her other half suddenly is replaced by Phil and she is trying to find a connection with her father that he certainly doesn’t want or need. So Bella might had parents both she doesn’t have a family. Bella is attracted to Edward but its only after The Cullens shower her with instant love and affection that she starts thinking on joining them all forever. I think the reading most also take in account how lonely of a kid Bella grew up and how that affected her decision making I mean Edward and the Cullens promised her a level of security that her parents never gave her. I always imagined that if Bella would have had a younger sibling, she probably would have taken longer to choose to become a vampire. Because I think her biggest lacking was not the lack of romantic love or a “man” more the lack of the emotional connection, her mother severed in such a drastic way. Of course I do believe she loved genuinely Edward but I’m talking about more about why her love was manifested in such a strong attachment that they really didn’t get over it till both were married vampires because after that point there was nothing to take them apart.

        Call me naive, but for me power and privilege are genderless in general. I can see Alice being the one having Jasper on a leash and the same for Rosalie and Emmet. I never perceived she becoming a vampire being the equivalent of male power more like Vampires were the equivalents of better humans and given that Edward grow up in a gender balanced household with powerful female vampires that he loved and respected I didn’t imagined that metaphor for gender at all. I mean Edward had a lot of traditionally “feminine” characteristics with him along with the male ones, learned to cook and also washed the dishes with her. It was not his main activities but still the narrative didn’t led me to believe that human=female, vampire=male. But again this is personal interpretation.

  6. September 15, 2010 5:03 am

    I so agree, Natalie… however would we change our minds on a subject if not for the intervention or persuasion of another? Aside from that, I love a good debate. *Perpetual nerd raises hand* 🙂

    I, too, found the emphasis on cooking to be a little distracting. My question here is why weren’t we more privy to Bella’s homework? I had to spend an inordinate amount of time in order to keep my grades high in high school; I would assume the same still applies to current students. However, the farther along we go into the series, the less Bella focuses on school work.

    I probably should have phrased my comment on Bella’s love of a mystery better. Curiosity would have been a better attribute to apply to her, but ONLY after she was saved from being crushed to death via a supernatural event. Now that I think about it, Bella had to be prompted to learn about her savior’s identity. Hmm…

    Okay, back to Edward… I think that he was exhibiting classic high school boy behavior. Some boys who are shy actually haze a girl because they find it hard to believe someone would want them. I’m not saying it’s right; I’m just saying. lol I agree that his antics, pre-the informative car ride, were mean spirited at times, but then, I remember from my own high school days.

    Moving on to better thoughts–to answer your last question, yes, yes, and yes. Bella is a far too traditional female–too many attributes for me to list at this point. I can see her as a self sacrifice for really any meaningful purpose. And I think that her lack of self-esteem plays into that role. Bella wants Edward so badly that she cuts herself off from all of humanity in order to gain him.

    And here is where I agree with Charlie… Bella should have a support group, other than her beloved’s family. In reality, not many of us could endure the pressures to which she submitted herself without someone to hear a vent, to relax and to get away from problems with a close girlfriend, When one shuts out the world in order to obtain a goal, then one must question the validity of the goal. Does that make sense? Edward must fight to resist the lure of Bella’s blood, but Bella has no obstacles to keep her from obsessing and becoming a clinging vine.

    Wow. That was brutal. Hope I don’t get hate mail for that remark. lol


    • September 15, 2010 6:17 am

      I would agree with Charlie if his idea of having a support group was not throwing a boyfriend he liked him better at her and make her feel guilty if she was not trying to be there for him as he was for her. I do beleive Bella could had used a human girlfriend to confide into but then again its not like she ever had time to actually form any friendship. She barely knew any of the HS kids before she found out about Edward and the Cullens accepted her as part of the family.

      I always imagined that Bella saw Forks not as a home but as a personal purgatory she will have to endure for the next two years till she could go to college, so she was not really looking to connect with humanity or any one for that matter, just survive the green. So again it might be a convenient setting but I’m sure that if Bella would had been the head cheerleader, part of the science geek squad or even part of the misfits of the social groups, have a father that she grew up with and a mother that actually took responsibility and let her be a teenager they story of she giving up everything for Edward wouldn’t had been believable.

      As a retired writer one of the things we are always though is that your character must be common enough and special enough to be able to “sell his/her story” I mean if you look down to it is waaaay too convenient that Harry Potter didn’t had a single muggle relative that could realize how awful he was living, not a friend or not even an institution that realized how abused he was and that his aunt married a insufferable man exactly like her and with plenty of horrible relatives. In fact humans on the Harry Potter books are portrayed as even more stupid, cruel or at best useless as Twilight universe present them also another convenient way to possible sell that this boy could be on constant danger and overcome the issues he did on the book. Not criticizing just pointing out some of the writer’s ways to circumvent otherwise uncomfortable plots.

      • September 15, 2010 12:21 pm

        Hi Ana,

        I agree that Charlie’s having an agenda changed his original intention. And btw, I hope that you will continue to respond with your critiques, as you have given me much to think about regarding Harry Potter AND The Twilight Saga… especially your comment about Forks as Bella’s personal Purgatory. Could we liken then, Bella’s progression throughout the story to an updated Dante’s Inferno?

        On my personal webpage, I wrote a column on Augustine’s Great Chain of Being as evident in the series, True Blood, but I also see that medieval thinking within TTS (The Twilight Saga) with humans on the bottom rung of that ladder. Speaking of having a connection with older literature, I also see a connection between the vampires and the Watcher Angels in The Book of Enoch. However, given that these vampires have been around for so long, I wish that Meyer had shown more influence of the vampires on the humans. Instead, vampires remained segregated from human society and took care of their own.

  7. September 15, 2010 5:38 pm

    Mmm my favorite book is the divine comedy, I need to think about it to see if I find parallels. I always though that Bella and Edward were on a personal journey. While Edward journey was a more emotional one (coming to terms with his guilt about being a vampire and realize that he was not a bad person and indeed wanted and deserved a happy ending) while Bella was a more physical one (stop being clumsy, coward,and physically weak to become coordinate and strong).

    The Harry Potter and the way humans are portrayed is something I noticed all the time, specially when regarding Hermione’s parents they were considered good humans and yet were pretty much on the dark about her daughter’s life and on the last book when she decided to erase their memories of her (even if I totally understand and consider it a beautiful sacrifice) I think it was the last F you muggles! that J.K. did given that they didn’t even deserved to know how brave their daughter was and mourn her accordingly. Really as much as I adore Hermione it showed the little appreciation JK had for the humans on this world.

    I mean as a writer I understand it but she like Stephenie places the supernatural above us by miles. Again not a problem with that I can see the narrative just curious how both of our more best selling books (written by women) have the same disregard for our species and create something even better beyond us. Maybe post-human/trans human ideas are part of their thinking?

    Not sure if you read an old comment I made here where I compared Bella’s journey to Psyche’s one. They both fell in love with supernatural creatures and both had to pass some tests of character to become supernatural themselves.

    I think Smeyer didn’t wanted to delve too deeply on the implications of vampire among us because it would need to stay away from the romance and that is the epicenter of the story. She did had some inside jokes like the sucubus and incubus and the crown’s jewels but again this is a romance story with some fantasy and adventure in it. If she would had tried to do something ala Harry Potter and actually have a fantasy adventure story with some romance in it, then she probably would had done this references about the origin of vampires (even though I suspect she might reveal more about that part when she starts to write about Reneesme and Leah if the story is going the way I suspect it will) but then again Harry Potter with vampires instead of wizards might had not been as popular as this books are.

    Also another thing we disagree is that you think Smeyer never read a vampire books not sure if she read modern versions but doing a research for a conference I gave about Twilight I read some passages of Carmilla that were almost copy pasted to the books and there is words used on Varney (like dazzle) that were also used by Smeyer so I wouldn’t be surprised if she read a lot of Victorian vampires to feed her twilight imaginary, YMMV.


  1. Twilight: The Texts and The Fandom, Week 3 Re-Cap « Seduced by Twilight

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