Universities Offer Courses on Dracula, Dexter and Harry Potter

by Jennifer Kabbany - Associate Editor on January 23, 2013

What do Dracula, Dexter and Harry Potter have in common? Besides being fictional characters and the subject of Hollywood lore, they’re the focus of three different courses this semester at two prominent universities.

No, don’t get your hopes up. They’re not film studies electives.

The Dracula class is offered this spring at the University of Virginia, and it’s a billed as a Slavic literature class. The Harry Potter course – ready for this? It’s an ethics-focused elective this spring at Duke University, which also is home to the psychology-based elective this semester on why mass murderers do what they do, and how that’s portrayed onscreen.

For inquiring minds, the annual tuitions this year at UVA and Duke are $38,018 (out-of-state) and $43,623, respectively.

But what these classes lack in substance they make up for in academic rigor, right? Wrong.

“It’s really fun, you watch a lot of movies,” one student who has taken the Dracula class told the University of Virginia’s Cavalier Daily student newspaper. “Easiest thing I’ve ever taken in my life. I loved it.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, the class is highly difficult to get into, with a large waiting list, the newspaper reports.

Officially, the class offers an “introduction to Slavic folklore with special emphasis on the origins and subsequent manifestations of vampirism,” according to its description. “Western perceptions, misperceptions, and adaptations of Slavic culture are explored and explicated.”

In other words, Easy A.

“At its core, the class is an application of demonology,” a university write up on the class states.


Over at Duke, the Harry Potter elective (actually, its official title is “Ethics and Harry Potter: Lessons for Muggles”) delves into the book series “through an ethical lens in an attempt to better understand morality in our muggle world.”

God forbid a mainstream undergrad class referenced the Bible as a moral compass, but use Harry Potter’s adventures – and it’s no problem.

The course description adds that students will compare real-life ethical situations to ones in the book. For example, “how does using Felix Felicis, the lucky potion, to enhance academic or Quidditch performance compare to taking Adderall or steroids in our society?”

Ok, decent question, for a book club.

Duke also offers “Serial Killer Psychology: From Dahmer to Dexter,” in which students get to examine why “seemingly normal people kill so senselessly,” the course description states. First of all, Dexter is not a real person, he’s a character on television. Secondly, whether most nonfiction serial killers are “seemingly normal” is also up for debate.

At any rate, the course promises to teach students “how to interpret the actions of a serial killer and then subsequently apply their newfound knowledge to analyze the public’s portrayal of these murderers through literature, television and film.”

Tuition dollars, hard at work.

Jennifer Kabbany is assistant editor of The College Fix.

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  • calhoun211

    Who plays Dracula? My pick Oscuma., as he is already sucking the taxpayers dry.

    • Jimothy Jones

      You see, this is the problem with america today. Most out there are just as dumb as you are. Your war that you cheered on with your balls in your mouth is sucking us dry.

      • Renatius Barton

        That don’t make no sense. Are you a Duke graduate?

      • calhoun211

        Balls, sucking whats with you? It looks like someone has sexual identity issues.

  • Zsuzsa

    Someone can correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Dracula written by an Englishman? Shouldn’t a Slavic literature course mainly feature works written by, well, Slavs?

    • Stan

      That’s a heavy component of the course, actually. We spend a great deal of time on folklore, including some original Eastern European vampire tales. I only talk about the novel for a single lecture because it’s the major reason why the vampire myth became such a big part of Western culture. As such, the name is more of a symbol for the course, not the focus. Stoker, also, was Irish.

  • SashaDva

    Just a slight correction: both courses mentioned at Duke are house courses, meaning they are student-taught, only count for half a credit, and generally may only be taken in addition to a normal course load.

  • Stan

    As the instructor of Dracula, I will tell you the student who called it “easy” was probably one of the 60% who actually do their work. Don’t take the movies for granted, we watch them to illustrate, and I DO test on them, especially after I go into detail on the history of the vampire in film later in the semester. They’re not just for fun, though I would say the workload is very reasonable for students. But don’t be fooled, I always have at least one F and a few Ds every year. It’s now taught every semester, this past year in two separate sections, so getting in is a little easier now.