Professor lectures on using vampire stories to reflect political, social issues

Sunny Kim

Vampire stories reflect current political and social issues, said Thomas Garza, a Slavic and Eurasian Studies associate professor, on Monday night. 

Polymathic Scholars, an honors community within the College of Natural Sciences, hosted Garza to celebrate the upcoming 120th anniversary of Bram Stoker’s classic book, “Dracula.”

Garza said vampire stories have the ability to adapt to different cultures and situations because our fear of change transcends time. 

“Vampire stories will never ever die,” Garza said. “They will always adapt to fit whatever culture happens at the time. Vampires are the perfect foil to any problems in society — political, social or economic.”

Polymathic Scholar mentor Savannah Troy said she came to the talk to hear Garza speak, because he has previously spoken to the Polymathic Scholars about his career. 

“I already knew how good a lecturer he is and how interesting his work is,” said Troy, a biology sophomore. “I most enjoyed the historical background they discussed, as I was previously unfamiliar with the cultural tone surrounding the vampire myths.” 

Garza teaches a class called “The Vampire in Slavic Culture,” as well as lower-division classes about vampires.

English associate professor Elizabeth Richmond-Garza, who is married to Garza, also spoke at the event. She said understanding the reactions of the characters to the vampire in the book can help us comprehend our own fears of the unknown.

“Many find these reactions troubling,” Richmond-Garza said. “But I find that when people read those reactions, they themselves are able to understand their own reactions more clearly and more richly.” 

Richmond-Garza said “Dracula” reflects problems the U.S. is faced with in the 21st century surrounding immigration and national identity.

“These issues of who are we, in terms of race, gender and sexuality, all of those ritualistic questions that are related to this fantasy figure of vampire, seem to me what the U.S. has been trying to decide,” Richmond-Garza said. “We are wrestling with this very difficult question politically at the moment, which is why the novel is very interesting as it explores and reflects on those ideas.”