Vampire course will rise again

Campus News
Hugo Wong (photo)
Hugo Wong (photo)

Dr. Peter Gölz’s current office contains less vampire memorabilia than it once did. Without the larger office he once had as a department chair, the Germanic studies professor now displays a pared down selection of collectibles, like a stuffed bat and a Dracula lunchbox. Before taking his photo, I asked him what his favourite item was, and he pointed to his fangs, but said that “the first time I was interviewed, they asked me to wear fangs, and that kind of oversteps the bounds a little, simply because you look ridiculous.”

Best-known for his vampire studies course, Gölz is currently taking a year off, partly to work on an article on We Are The Night, a 2010 German vampire film, and partly to work on a spec script for a film idea. Since 2001, 3 180 students have gone through the course, technically called “A Cultural History of Vampires in Literature and Film”, but his sabbatical means that the vampire course won’t be offered again until fall 2015.

Gölz’s unconventional field of study originated from a longtime fascination with vampires. As a student working on a Mercedes-Benz assembly line, he remained passionate about films like Roman Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers, so after too many early morning shifts building engines on a conveyor belt, he turned towards academia. 

“I was a TA almost from the beginning,” he said, “so I was really, you know, involved, and it just continued . . . I studied in England, then I came to Canada, did my MA, PhD, got the job, and that was that.”

He pitched the course to UVic’s administration almost immediately after arriving here in 1992, but it took several more tries before it was finally approved in 2001. It was immediately popular, attracting a “capacity crowd” of 75 students. The class has since swelled to 300 students in the fall, and around 140 in the summer. 

“I had very good publicity initially, because UVic did a couple of press releases and so when it was first offered, it was actually page 3 in the Globe and Mail, so that was wonderful.”

Though the course is strongly rooted in pop culture, Gölz stresses that it can be viewed through an academic lens. According to Gölz, scholarly research into vampires (vampirology), began with Bram Stoker and Dracula, but really spiked after the success of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There is even an academic journal, Slayage, devoted to academic readings of Buffy and other works of Joss Whedon. 

The sheer size of the course prevents him from going into minute detail, so he wants to offer a smaller seminar-style course next year to do just that. When asked why he thought the course was so popular, Gölz said that most people are interested in vampires, and that “there’s a basically a vampire for everybody, from Buffy to Twilight to True Blood.” The size of the class precludes extensive discussion, so those less inclined to be vocal can remain spectators. 

However, prospective students (spectators or not) will have to wait a year, but it is in keeping with the vampiric tradition. The day before our interview, Gölz ran into a former student who thought he was leaving for good. However, as he assured me, the undead have to rest, but they will rise from the grave eventually. “[You] can’t keep a good vampire down.”