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Metamorphoses of the Vampire in Literature and Film

Metamorphoses of the Vampire in Literature and Film: Cultural Transformations in Europe, 1732-1933

Erik Butler
Volume: 54
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 238
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  • Book Info
    Metamorphoses of the Vampire in Literature and Film
    Book Description:

    For the last three hundred years, fictions of the vampire have fed off anxieties about cultural continuity. Though commonly represented as a parasitic aggressor from without, the vampire is in fact a native of Europe, and its "metamorphoses," to quote Baudelaire, a distorted image of social transformation. Because the vampire grows strong whenever and wherever traditions weaken, its representations have multiplied with every political, economic, and technological revolution from the eighteenth century on. Today, in the age of globalization, vampire fictions are more virulent than ever, and the monster enjoys hunting grounds as vast as the international market. ‘Metamorphoses of the Vampire’ explains why representations of vampirism began in the eighteenth century, flourished in the nineteenth, and came to eclipse nearly all other forms of monstrosity in the early twentieth century. Many of the works by French and German authors discussed here have never been presented to students and scholars in the English-speaking world. While there are many excellent studies that examine Victorian vampires, the undead in cinema, contemporary vampire fictions, and the vampire in folklore, until now no work has attempted to account for the unifying logic that underlies the vampire's many and often apparently contradictory forms. Erik Butler holds a PhD from Yale University and has taught at Emory University and Swarthmore College. His publications include ‘The Bellum Gramaticale and the Rise of European Literature’ (2010) and a translation with commentary of ‘Regrowth’ (‘Vidervuks’) by the Soviet Jewish author Der Nister (2011).

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-817-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction: Cultural Teratology
    (pp. 1-24)

    Metamorphoses of the Vampire — a title stolen from a poem by Charles Baudelaire — examines a figure of humble origin that achieved sudden prominence in the period preceding the Age of Revolution, had a flourishing career during this tumultuous epoch, and finally achieved seemingly universal notoriety before it was over: the vampire. Despite the celebrity this monster has enjoyed, however, it possesses no distinct profile over time. For example, the aristocratic dress and debonair ways commonly associated with the vampire today are but two of many possible attributes, and they are relatively recent developments. Representations of vampires in literature,...

  6. Part I: The Rise of the Vampire

    • 1: Vampire Country: Borders of Culture and Power in Central Europe
      (pp. 27-51)

      For about twenty years in the early half of the eighteenth century, parts of Europe caught vampire fever. The etiology and epidemic nature of the phenomenon are not well known today, and, at first glance, the matter has little to do with the forms that vampirism subsequently assumed. This chapter does not discuss the aristocratic and refined creatures that emerged at later stages of the vampire’s career. Instead, it examines peasants who, once they had died, would not stay dead and buried, but instead rose from the grave to kill their former family and friends. This chapter’s attention then to...

    • 2: Vampires and Satire in the Enlightenment and Romanticism
      (pp. 52-82)

      In chapter 1, we saw how, in the earliest stages of the vampire’s history — that is, first among Balkan hajduks and then for German and Austrian academicians — the name of this monster marked sites of troubled cultural continuity. Enlightenment sensibilities quickly dispelled the earnest speculation of early academic vampirologists. After the rash of vampire treatises in the 1730s and early 1740s, the monster ceased to provide an object of serious contemplation. In Vienna, at midcentury, the royal adviser Gerard van Swieten, a Dutchman exemplifying the sober mindset of his native country, prevailed upon Maria Theresa to regard the...

  7. Part II: England and France

    • 3: The Bourgeois Vampire and Nineteenth-Century Identity Theft
      (pp. 85-106)

      Enlightenment works that employed the word “vampire” did not present a creature with much personality; the name was above all a term of ridicule — a pejorative designation for someone who held power abusively. Romantic fictions, on the other hand, made this figure of moral bankruptcy and spiritual destitution the very opposite of what it had been: the vampire became an emblem of anguished consciousness, representing psychological interiority as a kind of bottomless pit of imperfectly disavowed culpability. This chapter examines both the chronological and the symbolic middle ground between the “empty” vampires of Enlightenment polemic and the “overfull” vampires...

    • 4: Dracula: Vampiric Contagion in the Late Nineteenth Century
      (pp. 107-126)

      Shortly before his death, Bram Stoker published Famous Impostors(1910). In this work, the author admits that he has set himself a task potentially limitless in scope:

      Impostors in one shape or another are likely to flourish as long as human nature remains what it is, and society shows itself ready to be gulled. [ . . . ] So numerous are instances [of imposture], indeed, that the book cannot profess to exhaust a theme which might easily fill a dozen volumes.¹

      Imposture, as Stoker understood it, is a phenomenon of vast dimensions spanning all times and places. His book surveys...

  8. Part III: Germany

    • 5: Vampirism, the Writing Cure, and Realpolitik: Daniel Paul Schreber’s Memoirs of My Nervous Illness
      (pp. 129-151)

      At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the English poet John Stagg (1770–1823) set the stage for a Romantic ballad with the following historical reminder:

      The story of the Vampyre is founded on an opinion or report which prevailed in Hungary, and several parts of Germany, towards the beginning of the last century: — It was then asserted, that, in several places, dead persons had been known to leave their graves, and, by night, to revisit the habitations of their friends. . . .¹

      Decades later, Charlotte Brontë had not forgotten, either. In Jane Eyre(1847), when the heroine discovers...

    • 6: Vampires in Weimar: Shades of History
      (pp. 152-176)

      There is good reason, Siegfried Kracauer argued in his classic study From Caligari to Hitler (1947), why Weimar Germany provided the crucible for horror cinema. The social, historical, and political conditions of the country between the First and Second World Wars created a style in the new mass medium that exalted elemental passions and turbulent states of mind.¹ Lotte Eisner, another authority on the period, entitled her influential book L’écran démoniaque (The Haunted Screen, 1952). The visual language of Weimar cinema, Eisner observes, is characterized by a stunning use of light and darkness. The signature chiaroscuro of these films gives...

  9. Conclusion: The Vampire in the Americas and Beyond
    (pp. 177-198)

    The vampire as we know it, its frequent allure of great antiquity and exotic provenance notwithstanding, is fundamentally a modern, European monster. Each of the vampire’s many incarnations draws on the anxiety and desire loosed by accelerating social transformations since the 1700s. The first half of this study examined the monster in light of economic changes, political conflicts, and encounters between different ethnicities in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The last three chapters have explored how the vampire subsequently mutated and thrived in the imaginary space shaped, at the turn of the twentieth century, by modern technologies — all the...

  10. Works Cited
    (pp. 199-214)
  11. Filmography
    (pp. 215-216)
  12. Index
    (pp. 217-226)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. None)