Teaching History with blood-sucking, stake-driving style, Or, Why Historians Should Be Vampire Hunters

W. Scott Poole: Why Historians Should Be Vampire Hunters.

Literature and History can be taught in a complementary fashion.  Literature is a primary source for its culture and society; the events of History enrich our reading of many great books; and, in general these two subjects are often complimentary as Literature deals with a certain realism of life that History seeks in past eras.  Literature, itself, can use fiction to teach something about History–indeed, most authors are far more conscientious than Hollywood.  (For the moment we will leave behind my favorite personal anecdote about the graphic novel a student read, and believed, that features the pope ordering the crusades be carried out by his zombie armies.)  But, perhaps few would have anticipated a history scholar advocating the recent novel, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer.

Professor W. Scott Poole makes a fantastic argument for making use of the fiction, even that as fantastic as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.  (If nothing else the book is a salve for the obnoxious Twilight series, but that’s my argument–not Professor Poole’s.)  He assigned it in his History department’s mandatory “The Historian’s Craft” boot-camp-for-history-majors class as a way to demonstrate how, “primary historical sources, the raw material of history, can be repurposed in surprising ways.”

The author of the novel, Seth Grahame-Smith, used primary sources to, “recreate the 19th century, indeed give it a lived-in sort of feeling.”  Read the article linked above and, if nothing else, credit Poole with thinking outside of the box and getting his students to really stretch their brains about the era and history.  His students helped him arrive at some interesting conclusions about the book and its interpretation!



Filed under Experiencing History - Project Based Learning, Fiction

2 responses to “Teaching History with blood-sucking, stake-driving style, Or, Why Historians Should Be Vampire Hunters

  1. I’ve told countless friends who borrowed my copy of Abe Lincoln: Vampire Slayer that you can get a solid understanding of his life from it. I’m a huge Lincoln fan and the book refreshed so many memories about his life for me. It’s a novel (pun not intended) approach to history, but the fact it engages while being fairly accurate could certainly be used to teach aspects of history.

    My fear would be someone’s use of this technique to change the focus of history away from embarrassing issues, much like dictator’s have learned to do. But that’s why there’s more than one historian.

    • I think you are right on both counts. Much of the biography literature is already guilty of that, I believe. Poole did a great job in the article in pointing to the value of Vampire Hunter’s research.

      Indirectly, I think he makes a great argument for historical fiction writing as part of history assignments–a point that was perhaps more clear in the course he was teaching.

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