Fangs, shape shifters and immortals, oh my. HBO's popular vampire saga "True Blood" is in its fourth season, and it has at least a small group of philosophy students watching with more than casual interest.
These local fans of the goings on between vampires and mortals in the quagmire that is Bon Temps, La., have taken their love of the show to another level - publishing a book of their musings on the themes dealt with in "True Blood" and how they relate to larger, real-life questions.
"Blood Type: Writ(h)ing In & On True Blood Vol. 1," is the brainchild of Lucio Privitello, associate professor of philosophy and religion at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in Galloway Township, and contains work by 28 of his pupils. The students write on themes such as good and evil, the fantastical and beyond.
Teaching at Stockton College since 2005, Privitello's approach has always involved a combining ideas and theories with visual art. He made certain his fall 2010 course, "Philosophies on Life and Death," otherwise known as "True Blood and Philosophy," was a little less textbook and a little more bloodcurdling.
The HBO series follows the adventures of Sookie Stackhouse, a waitress living in a fictional world where humans and vampires co-exist.
Using "True Blood" as the central theme of the general arts and humanities course, Privitello went beyond the classroom by incorporating the show into his lectures, along with appropriate supplementary readings. The professor proved the HBO hit had the potential to be more than a vampire blood bath, but actually a deeper account involving themes of religion, human design and purpose, and immortality.
"With 'True Blood,' there were so many aspects that were relevant," Privitello said. "I would incorporate different episodes and seasons and put them into context," he added.
A published book was not in Privitello's original plan, but the potential was there and the idea soon came to fruition after a short 14 weeks. Privitello and the class worked with Margate publisher, Rob Huberman of ComteQ Publishing. Huberman saw potential for the book immediately.
"To be involved with something that expands the scope, well that was very intriguing," said Huberman.
The students, who all took a "True Blood" quiz in order to gain enrollment in the course, were elated to work with Privitello and to hear of their published work.
Allie Bairan, of Beachwood, who just graduated this spring, loved taking Privitello's class, noting his classes were far from lectures. They were conversations.
"Putting the book together was just icing on the cake," Bairan said. "When I received the book in the mail, I almost screamed," she continued.
The students, whose first assignment was to write their own obituaries, were told their last assignment would be a paper on a topic they were passionate about, whose theme was included in both "True Blood" and their studies throughout the course. Initially, they were unaware their work would be made into a book, so when Privitello shared the news, they realized they had to set the bar higher to produce something great.
"It's exciting to have your work in a book, for everyone to read, especially when it's about something that you love," said Johnny Novitskie, of Vineland.
Both Bairan and Novitskie's chapters have comparable themes and are found within part four of "Blood Type," titled "Drop Dead Sexy." Bairan's chapter, "True Blood Erotica: Sex is Fantasic," is devoted to explaining the show's blatant eroticism and the conceptuality of sex in relation to its supernatural characters, while Novitskie explores eroticism as an inner experience and hyper-sexuality inside his 11-page chapter, "Super Sex and the Supernatural."
Privitello's goal was to raise creativity levels in his students and to push them to share it with others.
"It's any professor's goal to awaken their student's natural curiosity and hope that something will come of their studies," Privitello said.
Privitello and his class also worked with a graphic designer, 2008 Stockton graduate Sarah Messina. Messina was responsible for the art, design, layout and production of the book.
The designer, who had taken multiple philosophy courses with Privitello, said the instructor became a mentor for her. She said she was on board to design for Privitello in the future.
"Working with him was so fun, and great, and freeing. … I'm ready to go for the next one," she said.
Privitello is proud of the work Messina has done for him and all of the dedication it took from the student's to create this book. He wanted to make sure the work the students put in would in turn help more students in the future. All sales for the book will go to a Stockton scholarship program. "Blood Type: Writ(h)ing In & On True Blood Vol. 1" can be purchased from the ComteQ website, www.comteqpublishing.com
This will not be the last of the mastermind professor and the local publisher. Privitello and Huberman are already working on a second edition of Volume I, and hope to publish a second volume. Privitello plans on teaching the course again to a new group of "True Blood" enthusiasts next spring.
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