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June 03, 2003

Thoughts on the Dracula Conference...

This is the tough part... trying to encapsulate an entire week into a post. Of course I can't, but that won't stop me from doing something similar. The conference: This was a strange fish. The conference that is. It was hosted by the Transylvanian Society of Dracula (TSD), of which Yuka and I are now members. This is a global organization based in Romania. Many members are Romanian academics in the fields of botany, physics, history and folklore. I hope I can give some info on them in another post. Visitors from abroad included members from Germany, Scotland, England, America, and Canada. The anticipated Japanese participant withdrew for fear of SARS. He was worried that being Asian, people might think he was spreading it. But his paper was read on his behalf. The conference itself was held in beautiful chambers in the Sighisoara town hall, one of the more august buildings in the citadel. The mayor opened the proceedings, and hosted us in a reception. The building is lovely, even more so for having a bar, nightclub and cybercafe in the basement at one side. And inside it looked like the most obvious hold over from the socialist era, down to the guards and the funky canteen. The meeting room itself was wonderful, and a bit over the top for a conference, but we lived up to it. More than half the presentations were from the Romanians, and thus had to be translated into English for us. Most of this fell to Nicholae Padararu, our host, conference organizer, president of the organization and all around d00d. More on him later, but imagine that he's was the first to organize tours on both Count Dracula and Vlad 'Dracula' Tepesh in the 60s. Here's a list of the papers and authors, in the order they should have, but didn't occur. Just reading them will get you a sense of the diversity of the participants. The papers will be published in Romanian and English this year. Assume that the Romanian sounding names are from Romania: - Prof Elizabeth Miller: Setting the Record Straight: Bram Stoker, Dracula and Transylvania. - Prof. Silviu Angelescu, Institute of History of Arts: ""Fear of the malefic supernatural: the meaning of the vampire/strigoi."" - Prof. Mashimo Atsushi, Univ. Ritsumeikan, Japan: Oni in Japanese folklore and Literature. - Alan Murdie, chairman of the Ghost Club, England: Scared to Death: the power of fear to injure and kill. [Alan's a lawyer, and conducts tours of the haunted Cambridge.] - Dr. Lokke Heiss, USA: ""Extensive research into Emily Gerard, author of Land Beyond the Forest."" [Gerard lived in Romania and was one of the sources Stoker used. Little else is known about her, except by Lokke. We visited the city library in Sibiu, where she lived, and Lokke showed the librarian there her work on the shelf, and they didn't know it had anything to do with Romania. He's sending his paper.] - Dr. Jason Nolan, Canada: Unearthing Early Vampire Stories in England: Fragments from De Nugis Curralium and Historia Rerum Anglicarum. [I got some very useful feedback from some of the members which will save me a lot of work in the future.] - Alexandru Surdu, Romanian National Academy: ""The Philosophic Approach to Fear."" - Dr. Mark Bendecke, Germany: ""Is the death-penalty something that induces fear? - with references to what happens in the fear-struck brain"" [Mark runs the German arm of the TSD, and is a Forensic Biologist. Most of his work was on how the human body decomposes, with a side bar on the medical aspects of impaling, with pictures!!!] - Sorin Comorosan, Romanian National Academy: ""The Deep Roots of Fear Derived from Mathematical Models"" and ""The Sublimation of Fear in Literature"" [Sorin is a retired Physicist who was a fellow at Berkeley. He was probably the hit of the conference. This man should have his own talk show.] - Gabriela Rusu-Pasarin, University of Craiova: ""Estrangement and its dominance by Aesthetics"" - Professor Victoria Amador, Scotland/USA: ""Fear of the Crone: American Actresses of a Certain Age"" - Dr Silvia Chitimia, Institute of Ethnography and Folklore: ""A Disturbing Hypothesis Regarding the Role of the Strigoi/Vampire"" - Prof. Dr. Constantin Balaceanu-Stolinici, Romanian National Academy: ""Fear, Anthropologically Speaking"" [Constantin is the last authenticated living relative of Vlad Tepesh. And he's a retired neurologist] - Prof. Dr. Constantin Rezachevici, Institute of History: ""Fear in the Medieval Ages."" - Prof. Dr. Marioara Godeanu, Director of the Institute of Applied Ecology, Romania: ""The Sentiment of Fear with Plants."" [This was an insane and wonderful study on the science of plant screams.] - Bogdan Popa (Doctoral Candidate), Romanian-German Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies: ""The Vampire in the German Press of the 18th Century"" - Dr Massimo Introvigne, Director of the Centre for the Study of New Religion, Torino, Italy ""Dracula, Go Home! The International Crusade Against Horror Comics, 1945-1955"" [Massimo has 10,000 vampire comics, among other things.]"

Posted by jason at June 3, 2003 06:05 AM