VampiraVampira. Slender Man. The “Ebola Zombie” meme.

Last week I had the chance to give a lecture and sign books for the University of South Florida’s Humanities Institute in Tampa.

My talk, entitled, “Old Dark House,” began by reflecting on the 1950s and what the character of Vampira meant in what we imagine as a very staid and deeply conservative era. I tried to let the idea of “the fifties” float free from its context a bit and link post-WWII America with some contemporary themes that have been of interest to me lately including the idea of “fakelore,” Slender Man, the nature of coercive language, and the idea of a linguistic virus.

Oh, and James Whale.

The USF Humanities Institute films the talks and puts them online, so I will be posting a link. You can let me know if I managed to tie these disparate threads together or just left them hanging in the air (I think I did a bit of both).

I should add that my hosts, Elizabeth Bird and Elizabeth Kicak, gave me a couple of pleasant days in Tampa. Also had the chance to have dinner with Jay Hopler (a scarily gifted poet whose collection Green Squall is a favorite of mine) and Amy Rust, a brilliant film studies scholar whose horror film class I think I need to take. I think we all should take it. And I mean all of us, the world.

The students at USF really made my talk. I found the Q&A very bracing, with some compelling questions about the relationship between rationality and the monstrous. I was also pleasantly surprised that the book signing became a free ranging discussion with students about everything from the nature of memes to Vampira and gay rights and on to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Next up, book signing at “the home of horror,”  Dark Delicacies in Burbank, CA. on November 8 at 2:00 PM. Hope to see some of you.

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