Twi-historian wants you on Team History
It's sexy. It's violent. And it's something you can sink your teeth into.
History ... with a twist.
Just ask Civil War buff, teacher and author Elizabeth Hardy.
"When people think of history, sometimes they think of something dry," she said. "To me, history is always intriguing."
She's not just a historian. She's a twi-hard. To you twi-nots out there, that means she's a reader and aficionado of what goes bump in Forks, Wash., specifically the vampire fantasy culture of Stephanie Meyer's "Twilight" novel series.
The jump from historian to twi-hard isn't as far as you might think, and Hardy, a teacher at Mayland Community College, has made a second career out of the case for "Twilight." To Hardy, historical context is part of the appeal.
Co-author of "Twilight and History," Hardy plans to make her case Thursday at Watauga County Library by delving into some of the minor characters in the series. It's Hardy's belief that, whether you're on Team Edward or Team Jacob, the "Twilight" series can suck you into American history.
"Instead of thinking of dusty history books, if you're thinking of Emmett and Jasper, suddenly it's a whole different story," she said.
The chapters she authored on Emmett and Jasper, two of the Cullen vampire clan at the heart of the novels, focus on the historical context surrounding the characters. While Jasper, a Confederate soldier before he "changed" fueled her Civil War passion, of particular relevance to this area is her research regarding Emmett, a vampire "changed" in Gatlinberg in 1935.
"I wrote about him, what his life would have been like growing up ... how he both fulfilled and doesn't fulfill a lot of the stereotypes people have about mountain people," she said.
Emmett is particularly interesting because his change happened around the time when mainstream media picked up on the hillbilly stereotype that Appalachia has been trying to shake for generations.
"It's a really interesting time for Emmett's transformation," Hardy said. "He is this big guy, this big strong guy, and he does in some ways fall into that stereotype, but he's a much more complex character."
The Cullens as a whole, she said, fall into the Appalachia stereotype, both in their isolation and their interdependence on each other as a family unit. "And they all suffer under misrepresentations," she said.
As for Emmett and the bear, well, she'll go into that during her Thursday lecture. "I have a lot to say about that," she said.
It's not just about Emmett and Jasper. Meyer's world is full of historical context, and Hardy hopes it will foster young minds beyond the Team Edward buttons.
"One thing Meyer has done nicely ... is show how people from different time periods are different," Hardy said. "Certainly, there are some things that don't change about human beings, but there are things that do ... and she has a diverse cast of characters from different time periods. When they read ["Twilight and History"], they're going to know what it means, and they're going to realize there's more to these characters."
Her twi-hardedness came as a surprise, even to Hardy.
"My students had all constantly been telling me, 'You've got to read these books,' and once I finally did, I was so into the history aspect," she said.
And she's happy she gave it a chance.
"I'm able to use something everybody loves to help them learn more about areas of scholarship that may not seem as interesting and exciting until you have context with something you already like," she said.
As for what team she's on?
"I'm Team History."
Hardy speaks Thursday, May 6, at 6:30 p.m. in the meeting room of the Watauga County Library. She'll be on hand to sign books and answer questions.