Tag Archives: Library Book Club

Dracula — a word from the Library Book Club

First edition of Dracula, published by Archibald Constable and Company (UK), 26 May 1897 First edition of Dracula, published by Archibald Constable and Company (UK), 26 May 1897

This week (September 22 – 28) is Banned Books Week, so it seems appropriate to address the controversy surrounding Dracula, one of the titles on the Library Book Club’s fall reading list.

The purpose of the Library Book Club is to encourage the reading of literary classics as well as contemporary works that may become classics. We strive to read as diverse a list each year as possible. The main criteria for inclusion on the schedule are literary quality, readability and appropriate length, and projected interest by the Regent community.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula, like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, is a recognized classic in which Christian themes such as temptation, sin, and good versus evil are everywhere present. Dr. Susannah Clements, author of The Vampire Defanged: How the Embodiment of Evil Became a Romantic Hero, offers this explanation of the novel’s relevance for Christians:

Dracula is all about sin and faith. Stoker uses the figure of the vampire to explore metaphorically what sin and temptation look like—how sin infects the human heart and the consequences of it. Just as in other literature with fantasy elements (e.g. The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia), the fantastic, paranormal elements are used to give the author a way to explore themes in a context that strikes readers unexpectedly and therefore gives them more power.

It’s important to understand that the book is not on the side of the vampire (and therefore evil and sin). It’s all about how sin may appear darkly compelling, but how absolutely and invariably destructive it is. In more contemporary vampire stories, there is ambiguity around this issue—many of them questioning any sort of distinction between good and evil. There is no such ambiguity in Stoker. The heroes are Christian warriors, armed with faith and consciously seeing themselves as fighting the vampire for the sake of God’s kingdom. The novel is fully grounded in a Christian worldview. Ultimately, it is only faith in the power of Christ that leads to victory over sin, symbolized by the vampire.

Unlike The Arabian Nights, Canterbury Tales, and Leaves of Grass, among other classic works of literature, one distinction that Dracula cannot claim is placement on the list of frequently challenged or banned books. The Library Book Club invites readers who question the appropriateness of reading Dracula at a Christian university to read the novel, and join us on November 8 for a robust exchange of opinion.

Library Book Club now reading “The Good Earth”

On Thursday, February 21st, at 12:00 p.m. in the Library Conference Room, Library Dean Sara Baron will lead a discussion of The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck. The Good Earth is the author’s haunting story of peasant life in China during the final years of imperial rule. Since its publication in 1931, the novel has been enormously influential, introducing millions of readers in the West to Chinese culture.

The daughter of Presbyterian missionaries, Pearl Buck was born in West Virginia, but grew up in China, where she received a Chinese and Western education. Her first language was Chinese, and she considered herself culturally both Chinese and American. In addition to writing nearly 70 books, Pearl Buck was also one of the 20th century’s most important humanitarian figures, taking up issues largely ignored at the time, such as the plight of Asian bi-racial children. In 1949, she established the Welcome House adoption program to “find adoptive families for bi-racial children that were considered ‘unadoptable’ because of their ethnic status.”

Gale Literature Resource Center has some good articles about Pearl Buck and The Good Earth, but first-time readers may wish to check out Oprah’s Book Club, which read the book in 2004. The Good Earth was adapted for cinema shortly after publication of the book. After three years of production, the film was released in 1937, winning the Academy Award for Best Cinematography for that year. We will view clips from the film at the book discussion.

The Book Club selected The Good Earth as its February book to compliment and support the University’s Global Roundtable, Leading in the Name of Jesus, which will be held on February 22nd.

For information about this or other Library Book Club events, please contact Harold Henkel at harohen@regent.edu.