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Vampire Legends in Contemporary American Culture

Vampire Legends in Contemporary American Culture: What Becomes a Legend Most

William Patrick Day
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: 1
Pages: 204
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  • Book Info
    Vampire Legends in Contemporary American Culture
    Book Description:

    While vampire stories have been part of popular culture since the beginning of the nineteenth century, it has been in recent decades that they have become a central part of American culture.Vampire Legends in Contemporary American Culturelooks at how vampire stories -- from Bram Stoker'sDraculatoBlacula, from Bela Lugosi's films toLove at First Bite-- have become part of our ongoing debate about what it means to be human. William Patrick Day looks at how writers and filmmakers as diverse as Anne Rice and Andy Warhol present the vampire as an archetype of human identity, as well as how many post-modern vampire stories reflect our fear and attraction to stories of addiction and violence. He argues that contemporary stories use the character of Dracula to explore modern values, and that stories of vampire slayers, such as the popular television seriesBuffy the Vampire Slayer, integrate current feminist ideas and the image of the Vietnam veteran into a new heroic version of the vampire story.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4812-0
    Subjects: Sociology

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. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    If you put on evening clothes, a cape, and rubber fangs everyone will recognize you; they’ll compliment you on how elegant, sexy, mysterious, and scary you are. You can do this because in the one hundred years since Bram Stoker publishedDracula,the vampire and its stories have become a commonplace part of our culture. Vampires are among us in such a variety of ways (they’ve advertised plastic storage bags and sunglasses and taught little children to count) we hardly notice how odd it is to be so familiar with an anachronistic bogeyman made by gluing folklore to bits of...

  5. 1 Vampire History
    (pp. 11-32)

    Since this is a book about vampire stories at the end of the twentieth century rather than the meaning of older vampire stories for their original audiences, one might wonder why it is necessary to address the history of the vampire story at all. My argument is not that there is a kind of vampire story DNA manifested in continuous line of recombinant descent from the vampires of folklore to Buffy Summers’s battles with the undead every Tuesday onBuffy the Vampire Slayer.The vampire is not a monolithic archetype repeated through the ages. In fact, the history of the...

  6. 2 The Vampire Liberation Front
    (pp. 33-60)

    The central event in vampire stories over the last thirty years is the vampire’s transformation from monster or object of covert fascination into a protagonist embodying our utopian aspirations to freedom, self-acceptance, self-expression, and community outside the restrictions and limitations of conventional middle-class American society. Vampire protagonists are complex figures, though, varying widely in the nature and degree of their liberation from both social repression and the traditional characterization of the vampire as an evil monster. As with Barnabas Collins ofDark Shadows,the vampire is the part of us we must transcend, while in portrayals such as Anne Rice’s...

  7. 3 The Dracula Variations: Part I
    (pp. 61-80)

    Though Hammer’s use of Dracula in recreating the nineteenth century as a spectacle of sex and violence bears only an indirect relation to Stoker’s novel, by using Stoker as a source the studio renewed Dracula andDraculafor other contemporary storytellers. But Hammer’s combination of a fascinating menace and sexual innuendo was too narrow to be endlessly repeated. From the mid-1970s until the early 1990s the Count was the protagonist in his own story, which is what allowedDraculato become our story. These are not liberationist tales, though. While Dracula’s violence is modulated into romance (or in the instance...

  8. 4 Post-Human Vampires: “We Are Animals”
    (pp. 81-104)

    The vampires ofMartin(1976),Nosferatu(1979),The Hunger(the 1981 novel and 1983 film),The Vampire Tapestry(1981), Vampire’s Kiss (1983),Habit(1996), andThe Addiction(1996) are images the “post-humanity” we are becoming.¹ The “post-human” vampire is the disturbed and disturbing evil twin of the liberated vampire; while at the center of their stories, they are not protagonists but fill the place left by the absent slayer, who is either missing, ineffective, or uncomprehending. These vampires are not romantic outsiders or gorgeous fiends (though they sometimes look as if they are) but self-alienated, fragmentary beings who cannot define...

  9. 5 The Dracula Variations: Part II
    (pp. 105-128)

    Though the vampire had never left the public eye entirely, the early 1990s saw an upsurge of interest in Dracula and Stoker. The accumulation of vampire stories over the previous twenty-five years had created a stream of continuing interest that needed the right conditions to be tapped. Stoker’s novel also probably benefitted from the upsurge in interest in movies based on nineteenth-century novels of all kinds, soDraculajoined the parade of works by Austen and James on the big screen. The oncoming anniversary of the publication ofDraculaprovided another catalyst and advertising hook; as the century ended, American...

  10. 6 Return of the Slaver
    (pp. 129-166)

    During the ascendance of the vampire as protagonist, slayers began getting some distinctly bad press; Stoker’s heroes and their descendants were, by the 1960s, being transformed into antiques, exemplars of Victorian repression and sentimentality even in the Hammer movies. Slayers became the gang of hysterical idiots inThe Dracula Tape,the brutal gardener inBlood for Dracula,the ridiculous Dr. Jeffrey Rosenberg ofLove at First Bite,the mad Uncle Cuda ofMartin,or the tragically ineffective Sarah Roberts ofThe Hungerand Jonathan Harker of the 1979Nosftratu.Slayers simply disappeared from some works as the vampire’s story became...

  11. Conclusion: The Persistence of Legend
    (pp. 167-172)

    I know that I appear to have created an allegory for the imaginative and ethical history of our era, taming the vampire story by tracing the movement from vampire protagonist to the post-human to the return of the slayer. But the history of the vampire story is not really so neat. After all,Child of the Night, Vampire$, Dracula: The Norton Critical Edition, Nadja, Anno Dracula,andBuffi the Vampire Slayerall appear at virtually the same moment; none dominates the others as the current vampire story. Nor do earlier vampire stories disappear simply because my argument moves on from...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 173-182)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 183-188)
  14. Index
    (pp. 189-192)