When you hear someone talk about “the King’” most think of Elvis Presley – that is, unless you are at University of Dayton. Around here, it’s Stephen King – master of the macabre.
That’s because since 1975, King’s novels and the films they’ve inspired have been haunting the classrooms of professor James Farrelly in courses such as Literature of the Occult, Horror Films and Vampires on Film.
While planning his academic schedule for the fall of 2000, Farrelly realized the film course would be in session on September 21, King’s 53rd birthday.
Farrelly couldn’t resist the chance to throw a birthday party for his favorite author during the course, and hence a tradition was born.
Seventeen years later, the courses, Farrelly and King are all still going strong and on September 21 students celebrated to mark King’s 70th birthday. In a fun twist, a cake was also there for Carrie White, one of King’s most famous characters from his first book Carrie, who shares the birthday of her creator, King.
Alex Bourdakos, a senior history major who has taken many of Farrelly’s courses that include King’s work, said he “enjoy[s] how the class focuses on the difference between how an author and a film director view the material in different ways,” noting that the films don’t always exactly follow the book’s plotline.
In addition, the class will watch Carrie, The Shawshank Redemption, The Mist and The Green Mile this semester.
While many of King’s novels offer a range of horror scenarios and characters, Farrelly, who works in the English department, finds there are often powerful hidden subtexts.
“King often focuses on a child’s view of the world. I think it’s his way of preparing them for the evils they will face in life,” he said.
Farrelly met his idol in person when King was persuaded to speak at a writers’ workshop at UD in 1982 and has invited him back for each of the birthday celebrations since they began in 2000. While King has yet to attend, the students are none-the-less enthusiastic to indulge in cake, wear party hats and sing “Happy Birthday” to mark the occasion.
You can check out a video of King’s 1982 talk at UD on YouTube at https://youtu.be/UU_ufhW2PgM)