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The Vampire Lectures

Copyright Date: 1999
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    The Vampire Lectures
    Book Description:

    Bela Lugosi may-as the eighties gothic rock band Bauhaus sang-be dead, but the vampire lives on. A nightmarish figure dwelling somewhere between genuine terror and high camp, a morbid repository for the psychic projections of diverse cultures, an endlessly recyclable mass-media icon, the vampire is an enduring object of fascination, fear, ridicule, and reverence. In The Vampire Lectures, Laurence A. Rickels sifts through the rich mythology of vampirism, from medieval folklore to Marilyn Manson, to explore the profound and unconscious appeal of the undead.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9050-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
    (pp. ix-xx)
    (pp. 1-14)

    What is a historical fact? It is after the fact. With vampirism, in any event, history comes after to give definition to an unformed body of symptoms. If one could scan, on rewind, the facts and rumors circulating as vampirism, at any given time or over time—in real time—what we would find before us is the polymorphous confusion of activities and desires that go down and out and under the name of vampirism. There are many, many ways in which one can become a vampire, many ways in which one can exercise one’s vampirism. And there are many...

    (pp. 15-25)

    I remember whenThe Return of the LivingDead was first released. The sales pitch and motto was: “Just when you thought it was safe to be dead.” That is the uncanny threat to afterlife that got the attention of the Western Europeans now faced with the undead epidemic taking over Eastern Europe. Over and out.

    The period of publication of Countess Báthory’s murders at the end of the seventeenth century (the family had done time trying to conceal the records) converged with the onset of this turn-of-the-eighteenth-century vampirism epidemic. This, the first manifestation of vampirism to make it into...

    (pp. 26-39)

    One way to go when reading Stoker’sDraculais to look at the novel as an allegory-of-capitalism exclusive. This one reading distributes shares of one investment characterizing all the other reading options. What comes up in fact for alle-gory in Stoker’s novel is circulation, from blood to money, of course—but that does not cover the whole range. What else circulates? Letters circulate; the postal service is a system of circulation. Any transportation network aims to be a system of circulation. Whenever we take a trip, whenever we send out a letter, whenever we sign our life insurance policy, whenever...

    (pp. 40-50)

    Here is the master map of our thought experiment while we work it on out throughDracula. I want you to think of these three items in the middle as somehow interchangeable or competing sciences, institutions, and perspectives. Each of these rival perspectives is asserting itself with regard to this double object: woman, on one side, and a certain relation to mourning or, if you prefer, corpse disposal, on the other.

    In his essay “The Psychoanalysis of Ghost Stories” Maurice Richardson gives his blurb on the Dracula novel: “Mina is saved and Lucy avenged by a noble, brotherly band led...

    (pp. 51-63)

    Celebrations, whether July Fourth or Memorial Day, dedicated to war and war’s backfire—the body count—invite us to commune beachside in order to imitate the rockets and special side effects of war’s invasiveness just to be sure. But we also thus turn on another primal scene, which opens with the corpses washing up onto the beach in the wake of the Normandy invasion and closes with their fitting in your mouth, not in your hands. Because, back to the beach, we are in the primal past or barbecue repast of mourning; the missing corpses must be consumed. It is...

    (pp. 64-76)

    The uncanny, that which should have remained forgotten or repressed but instead is back in the place where it was to be kept hidden—already inside the house but as though invading from without—brings us back, over and again, to Freud’s most radical gesture, his insistence that everything begins in the home, which family-packs the devil, double, phantom, monster into the forget-together of family reunion.

    Freud signs on the dotted line: “The ’double’ was originally an insurance against the destruction of the ego” (SE17: 235). But once the earliest dyadic, mirroring “stage has been surmounted, the ’double’ reverses...

    (pp. 77-89)

    Remember that from the Adam and Eve story on down, one of the biggest symptom builders of our history has always involved the first contact we make only through consumerism or sacrifice. The only way to obtain knowledge, self-knowledge, identity, is through consuming and invading the other’s personal space. And that means, psychoanalysis reminds us, that we all develop or obtain any kind of identity at all only through identification. Identification is always primally grounded and ground up in acts of cannibalism. It starts out early, one-on-one with mother: we drink her milk, we devour her breasts, and at her...

    (pp. 90-98)

    Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau’sNosferatuwas the first film in the genre to cast doubles of Stoker’s novel to do the new medium’s stunts. Horror was seen first in films based onDr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; even the film Murnau made right beforeNosferatuwas a Jekyll and Hyde movie, titledJanus Face(which also counted as Bela Lugosi’s first time in pictures). The earlier candidate for projection,Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, is a story of doubling gone out of control because, by uncontrollable chance, it had been turned on not by the known formula but by some foreign...

    (pp. 99-110)

    Music has a long-standing score to settle with the visual media, in particular with the movies, which started out silent, with music in the background “covering” sound. Even Murnau’sNosferatuwas subtitledA Symphony of Horror. The crossover into the “Land of Phantoms” forces entry of visibility into spheres and fear of the invisible. Thus, the professor looks through a microscope to behold the polyp blown up out of invisibility and identifies it for his students as “almost a phantom.”

    Points can be made and gained about music claiming one sense for haunting as opposed to another. It is as...

    (pp. 111-117)

    I read a story in theSanta Barbara News-Pressthat confirms some of the reservations I have been making with regard to phantasms of vampirism and the different kinds of circulation connected with the same non-life. The headline reads, “Postman stored three tons of mail in home”:

    Mail carrier John Cade lived in a labyrinth of more than two tons of undelivered junk mail, magazines and letters that he stacked in his ranch home in Boulder, and postal inspectors can’t imagine why. Cade, 36, moved into his home in 1984 and apparently started hoarding the mail shortly thereafter. He lived...

    (pp. 118-130)

    Here is a quote concerning the original reception of Tod Browning’sDracula: “Its success was immediate. Two years later the Count was accorded the signal honour, roughly equivalent at the time to a presentation at Court, of appearing in a Mickey Mouse cartoon” (Butler, 42).

    How does the film medium press for representation in Browning’sDracula? What are some differences between theNosferatuvampire and Bela Lugosi. Yes, Bela is way more glamorous. And it is not only that he is better looking than Nosferatu, the vampire who seems to personify every corpse’s excremental survival of itself in the final...

    (pp. 131-146)

    AroundDraculathe fastest puns in the West have drawn in the blanks: Batula, Blacula, Spermula, Suckula, and, twice in the seventies, the era of the other’s bad taste, Dragula. Once it starts putting itself on, the drag of mourning is not transmittable: but its unconscious makeup will transmit until the look it has is out and over. At the crowded intersection where drive power exceeds most transferential models—the crossing that is jamming with perversion, psychosis, and the psychology of the group or group-of-one—transvestitism (or “TV”) nevertheless puts on the one and only mourning show available within a...

    (pp. 147-159)

    In F. Marion Crawford’s “For the Blood Is the Life,” which begins with Old Alario’s deathbed scene, the father’s death comes complete with a prehistory or economy of loss turned to profit:

    They say that he made his money by selling sham jewelry in South America, and escaped with his gains when he was found out. (172)

    His wife was dead, and he had an only son called Angelo....Angelo was to marry the daughter of the richest man in the village. (173)

    But Cristina, who is the other woman—in other words, delegate of mother—is in love with Angelo....

    (pp. 160-172)

    The burial plot in Sheridan Le Fanu’s case covers his young wife, who died after a beloved sister had passed away too. And this double departure of young wife and sister caused Le Fanu to withdraw gradually from society. He had been a great wit about town. And his writing covered a whole range of topics and genres (he even wrote journalistic essays). But from this point of withdrawal onward, he would increasingly write only stories about the occult. He was known in Dublin as the “invisible prince” because he went out only late at night to rummage through used-book...

    (pp. 173-188)

    Carl-Theodor Dreyer’s filmVampyris almost impossible to follow, but its non-followability has everything to do with its self-representation as medium, which goes comparison hopping around the other visual media of representation (like painting). And it has everything else to do with the film’s built-in interpretation of vampirism within the greater consumerist setting. At the beginning of the film a painting comes into focus; it is just one fumbling stopover within a frame of stability while the course of the film has already been set on losing control of the frame, the space of representation. The film takes its departure...

    (pp. 189-200)

    It has been by stuffing projections down the tube during a one-time-only period of medium transition that Stephen King, who was there first, came up with the building-blockbusters of a screen coextensive with the preconscious, a clearing house where it all comes together, the to-be-consciously-admitted and the to-be-repressed, but as everything and nothing, as Everyman, as nobody. With this monstrous rewiring of TV through the circuits of big screen projection, King alone could win the lottery of this clearing, the space of the dread in front of the test tube.Ittranslates into English the German word that, by way...

    (pp. 201-218)

    In Anthony Boucher’s “They Bite” the prospects for vampirization are once again projected societywide. These ogres that continue to inhabit the earth are called cannibals; the super-ogre or super-cannibal is as big as the whole white race (20). Do notice what kind of a figure this Tallant person is. He is someone on the lookout for total control; he has a dream of being the ruler of a new American corporate state that would follow “the war.” He will be its phantom ruler.

    Now what I like about that, this American corporate state or this state of incorporation, is something...

    (pp. 219-233)

    InNear Darkwe are set up inside a contest between, in one corner, shitkicker bloodsuckers (what is the difference between this pack and a family of psycho killers?) and, in the far corner, the transference set of family ties with the future through a couple bond between two teens, the couple that must survive the horror of group metabolization and the loss of a mother. Caleb, the son out on the town for a spell, is cast as vampire fledgling by the bite job the blonde he is trying to date-rape gives him. It is the bite that saves...

    (pp. 234-248)

    The spiritist connection, which picks up its primal but really recent momentum when it makes first contact with the live transmission of telegraphy, also passes through the return of Egyptoid burial practices that were counting their latest arrival (which is still with us) in the United States, at first as a by-product of the Civil War, originally to keep dead soldiers “fresh” or “live” for their train transmission to the proper place of burial back home. This new alternative to being dumped out of sight at the target site of battle reflected a kind of photographic desire, potentiated through the...

    (pp. 249-263)

    John Polidori, who attended Byron as his personal physician with a bedside mannerism that left too much to be desired, was the first to introduce the vampire into English letters, just a heartbeat away from his most unholy and unnatural act of plagiarizing, improperly burying inside his corpus, what was, in the beginning, Byron’s conception. The contamination of twos by the third place set for haunting organizes Polidori’sThe Vampyre, which opens with a double entry. There is Lord Ruthven, who runs on the power of his dead gray eye. Sure, its beam is repulsively uncanny, but it is an...

    (pp. 264-276)

    All the meanings and stations of the crossing of the Christian mass with the masses celebrate communion inVarney the Vampyre. There are two aspects of Freud’s thinking about social structures that we might bring back for our discussion ofVarney the Vampyre: one has to do with the demands of civilization, and the other concerns the role of love when it comes to fulfilling those demands. Before looking into the meeting of demands, let’s examine the meaning behind Freud’s claim that by putting a check on narcissism, love showed civilization the way. Now narcissism, that could be another word...

    (pp. 277-286)

    We read at the start of the movieGothicthat on a certain datable night in history “two legends were born.”Frankensteinand Polidori’sThe Vampyrewere the two productions to make the finish line of the Geneva contest. The light show of electrical storm activity grounded the perpetually teen contestants at Byron’s place and made them captive audience to the public’s fear of ghosts. Who can pen the most uncanny tale uponPhantasmagoria, the collection of German ghost stories they had just read out loud in group? SoGothiccovers the Geneva scene, and Ken Russell gets mileage plus...

    (pp. 287-303)

    I have insisted that every haunting takes nourishment from the blood bond with mother. Now, that claim is not made because you can always identify a maternal corpse within every haunted story.Draculais indeed hard to read as haunted one way from cover to cover. At times inDraculait looks like a father’s position is being applied for by phantoms and vampire killers alike.

    But the way to go, I think, in Stoker’s novel, is to look at the new woman problem and the way it gets covered between Lucy and Mina. And then, if you track back...

    (pp. 304-325)

    At first it looked like vampirism’s drag race of mourning had reached a finish line by the seventies at the latest. InThe Rocky Horror Picture Show, the Hollywood sexological reading of couplification and the Hammer reading of horror as aphrodisiac for that James Bond enforcement of sexual desire had conjoined on a last laugh track. But then there was AIDS, and then, beyond repression or liberation, death was back in sex, with sex, and as big as, if not bigger than, sex. We were forced back down the channels occupied by death or the dead, the channeling of identification....

    (pp. 326-334)

    For the Rice trilogy, Nietzsche is our teacher. Nietzsche, in one of his anti-reactive modes or moods, gives us ultimately a mixed message about the hold of ideas and ideals over our material life.

    Ideas are worse seductresses than our senses, for all their cold and anemic appearance, and not even in spite of this appearance: they have lived on the "blood" of the philosopher, they always consumed his senses, and even, if you will believe us, his "heart." These old philosophers were heartless; philosophizing was always a kind of vampirism....Do you not sense in the background, for a long...

    (pp. 335-350)

    Reflecting the transition from the feel for killing as affirmation of life to the consumer-protected search for substitute measures for sucking unto death or even for surrogates for the blood is the life, the vampire heroine inInnocent Bloodprotests, even while caught in a compromise, her innocence too much by half. Yes, she feels guilty about her feeding times. That is why she restricts her diet to asshole crooks. But her volunteer disposal service goes beyond the call of the past or part that is played out, the casting call of bitpart players, and takes on and in the...

    (pp. 351-356)
    (pp. 357-358)
  32. Back Matter
    (pp. 359-359)