Tuesday, December 7, 2010

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN and “Childhood’s End: Let the Right One In and Other Deaths of Innocence” by John Calhoun

Please read the rest of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN and “Childhood’s End: Let the Right One In and Other Deaths of Innocence” by John Calhoun (on D2L) for this week. Below are a few questions we'll be exploring this week. Feel free to draw from them, or to develop your own questions. You should also feel free to respond to another student's post.

Your blogs will be due on Wednesday at 11:59 pm.

Your comments on other student blogs will be due by FRIDAY at 11:59.

For this week, students will NOT have to post in the discussion forums.

1) John Calhoun argues that Eli “is a repository of adult fears about children, who are so like us yet in crucial ways so different, who are both vulnerable and demanding, and in touch with the id in ways that can elicit great anxiety and discomfort, especially when sexual stirrings begin to take form” (27). What does Calhoun mean by this statement? Describe his survey of the way in which “the child” has been conceptualized throughout history. What sorts of changes, evolutions, and characterizations have the idea of “the child” gone through? What does the recent wave of “horror stories” concerning childhood say about our current culture and our anxieties towards children? How does this novel “trouble” our ideas of childhood and “innocence”?

2) For this blog, do some internet research on Freud’s idea of the “uncanny” or “unheimlich.” How could this concept relate to the novel and to this statement by Calhoun: “Parents and other adults are supposed to protect children, and their potential failure to do so can be a potent source of horror: for both children and adults” (27)?

3) Calhoun cites the director of the film version of LTROI as saying, ““Sweden was halfway behind the Iron Curtain,” and the grim, Soviet-era feel of the housing blocks where Oskar and Eli live conveys the sense of a failed community; few residents seem to venture outside, or have contact with their neighbors, and they certainly aren’t watching out for the local children. The only real communal feeling depicted is among a group of barflies who don’t even have a proper bar to frequent, so they hang out in a dreary Chinese restaurant. Mostly unemployed, these marginal figures are forgotten wards of a welfare state, and in their drunken late-night wanderings are easy targets for predation” (27). For this blog, explore some of the lives of these “marginal figures” and the break down of community in this novel. To what extent is the “vampire figure” a symptom of this breakdown in this and other novels?

4) Calhoun not only remarks about the way in which children have been conceptualized as “innocent,” but the way in which girls in particular are markedly constructed as “clean and sweet-smelling, not [having] matted hair and emanate foul orders like both Regan [from The Exorcist] and Eli” (30). How does this novel and other novels we’ve read redefine and “trouble” strict gender constructions? Furthermore, how does Eli’s ambiguous gender blur the boundaries in terms of identity? What is the significance of the shift in pronouns in the middle of the novel? How does it change the way in which we read the second half of the book?

5) For this blog, explore the character Tommy. What are his motivations in the novel?

6) At the end of the novel, Gunnar Holmberg, a police officer, describes Eli as “an angel,” but “hardly one from heaven” (471). How would you describe Eli? Is she/he an angel? A hero? How does this character push the boundaries of our ideas of the vampire? How is she different from other vampires we’ve read this semester?

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