Twilight
Stephenie Meyer
Contributed by Sung Miele
Context

Author’s Biography

Stephenie Meyer was born on December 24, 1973 in Connecticut. She grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and attended Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. She married in 1994 and has three sons, and is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

The inspiration for Twilight came to her after a dream on June 2, 2003, that involved a human girl and a sparkling vampire sitting in a meadow. (This would become Chapter 13 of Twilight.) She wrote what would be Twilight - which originally was titled Forks - and signed a three-book deal with Little, Brown and Company. Twilight was published in 2005 to great success and critical acclaim. The second book in the Twilight series was 2006’s New Moon, followed by Eclipse in 2007. The last book in the series, Breaking Dawn, is set for 2008, as is a companion novel Midnight Sun, which tells the story of the first book Twilight from the perspective of Edward Cullen.

The Twilight series has earned a strong and dedicated fan following, and a movie adaptation of the first book is set to be released in 2008. Meyer has also published a science fiction romance, The Host, in 2008.

Context

Twilight follows several literary traditions, combining them in an interesting fashion. The most important traditions worth noting are: romances; supernatural horror, specifically vampire stories; and Young Adult.

The romance genre in the broadest sense involves any story that focuses primarily on the relationship between two people who are attracted to each other and, after some obstacles are presented, eventually come together. In a more narrow sense, the romance refers to a specific marketing category in modern publishing which often follows a specific formula in terms of plot and characterization. This includes: an initial misunderstanding between the two main characters that sets them in opposition at the start of the story; a romantic rival of some sort, either male or female; and the male being a physical Adonis who presents himself as a stoic distant figure despite possessing great emotional sensitivity. While there is often strong critical disdain for the modern romance, it is the most popular category of fiction in the modern publishing world and some academics (most notably Janice Radway in her book Reading the Romance) see a powerful social function that romance novels provide for their regular readers.

Horror fiction has its roots going back to various myths, with monstrous creatures figuring largely in how earlier civilizations understood the world around them. Vampires in particular have a long literary tradition, going as far back to ancient legends before surfacing as we know it today in John Polidori’s 1819 story The Vampyre. (The social meeting that inspired this work also led to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley writing Frankenstein.) Among the many literary works about vampires that have appeared in the following two centuries are the penny dreadful Varney the Vampire by James Malcolm Rymer, Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, Samuel Coleridge’s Christabel, and Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend. Of course, the best known work about a vampire is Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a structurally innovative novel which also helped establish many of the conventions regarding vampires as a popular culture icon.

Young Adult literature is often set in high school and involves rites of passages such as first loves and epiphanies about the true natural of the world. As a genre, it emphasizes strongly with the challenges that are presented when making the transition from childhood to adulthood. Young Adult fiction has also long included novels with horror, supernatural, and fantasy elements. They not only provide strong visceral thrills for readers, but also employ the fantastic elements of these genres to dramatize those everyday concerns of teenagers as powerful metaphors. While best known for his scary books for younger readers, R.L. Stine originally wrote young adult horror novels such as Blind Date and the Fear Street franchise. Another popular writer of young adult horror novels is Christopher Pike, whose works include Slumber Party, The Last Vampire series and Fall Into Darkness. Further, there are many notable horror authors who have works that are often considered Young Adult friendly, including Stephen King’s Carrie, Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire, and Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Perhaps the most obvious comparison that can be drawn with the Twilight series is the television version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a major multimedia franchise with a strong female protagonist who juggles everyday high school concerns with supernatural adventures. Buffy, like Bella, falls in love with vampires - but while Buffy is charged with killing monsters, Bella wishes to become one because of true love.

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