Showing posts with label vampires. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vampires. Show all posts

Monday, 17 August 2015

GUEST POST: Elizabeth Bathory - Female Werewolf

by Jazmina Cininas

Jazmina Cininas is a practicing visual artist, curator, arts writer and lecturer in Fine Art Printmaking. Her elaborate linocut portraits reflect a long-standing fascination with representations of female werewolves, and draw on a wide range of sources such as historical records of witch hunts and werewolf trials, psychiatric and medical literature, fiction, folklore, cinema and the internet. Jazmina’s chapter ‘Fur Girls and Wolf Women: Fur, Hair and Subversive Female Lycanthropy’ appears in She-Wolf: A Cultural History of Female Werewolves (Manchester, 2015). For the record, Jazmina is not a werewolf.

Erzsébet was frequently mistaken for a vampire, 2011
reduction linocut
edition: 20
image: 37.0 x 28 cm
paper: 43 x 34.3 cm

In 2011, I created the linocut portrait Erzsébet was frequently mistaken for a vampire commemorating the early seventeenth-century Hungarian countess Erzsébet Báthory, as part of my Girlie Werewolf Hall of Fame PhD project. In his 1980s’ book, Dracula was a Woman: In Search of the Blood Countess of Transylvania, Raymond McNally argues that Erzsébet is at least partly responsible for inspiring Bram Stoker’s Dracula, while Hungarian director Peter Sadsy christened Erzsébet Countess Dracula in his 1970 horror film of the same title. It is a moniker that has persisted not only in popular culture but also amongst Báthory scholars, including Tony Thorne, who named his 1997 biography Countess Dracula: The Life and Times of Elisabeth Báthory. That Erzsébet has come to be immortalised as the Countess of Blood demonstrates just how entrenched vampire lore has become in the Báthory persona; however her earliest supernatural incarnation in popular culture in the West was as a werewolf. It is this lesser known incarnation of Erzsébet’s persona that I commemorate in my portrait.

In his 1912 anthology of werewolf lore, Werwolves (most of it his own invention) Elliot O’Donnell differentiated vampires from werewolves on the basis that the former was a transmissible disease while the latter was not, declaring: “Vampirism is infectious… Lycanthropy is not infectious.” The statement indicates not only that the infected bite is a relatively recent development of werewolf lore, but also that there was sufficient overlap or confusion between vampirism and lycanthropy to necessitate the articulation of a clear distinction between the two at the time. Werewolves found themselves swept up in the vampire wave which peaked in 1730s Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland, sustained within the established concepts of witchcraft, animal familiars and cannibalistic devil worship. Etymology reveals a special intimacy between the occult entities, particularly in Eastern Europe. The Russian volk-odlak, from volk meaning ‘wolf’ and dlak meaning ‘hair’, originally designated the werewolf; however it has come to refer exclusively to vampires, and we see a similar shift in occult allegiances in the Serbian vukolak/vukodlac, the Bulgarian vrkolak, the Czech vilkodlak and the Greek vrykolakos. In Romania, Greece and East Prussia it was furthermore believed that a werewolf could return as a vampire after death or vice versa. Among the other elements of werewolf lore absorbed into the later vampire tradition are the tell tale omens of paranormal inheritance such as having been born with teeth or a tail.

Sabine Baring-Gould first brought Erzsébet’s story to the Western imagination in the English language’s first in-depth examination of werewolfism, The Book of Werewolves. Published in 1865, some thirty-two years before Dracula, Baring-Gould’s text suggests that in the late nineteenth century the Countess was more properly considered a werewolf than a vampire. Baring-Gould conforms to nineteenth-century protocols of self-censorship in not providing a surname, simply referring to the Countess as “Elizabeth __”, which may go some way towards explaining why her association with lycanthropy never took hold in the same way that her directly-identified association with vampirism did, although the former is not completely forgotten. An online search of The Columbia Encyclopedia sees Erzsébet “celebrated in legend as a female werewolf”, and she also rates an entry in Brad Steiger’s 1999 encyclopaedia of all things shape-shifting, The Werewolf Book.

Čachtický hrad, where Báthory was imprisoned from 1610-1614.
Site visit, European Werewolf Odyssey, 20 April 2009

Erzsébet Báthory remains a contested figure, even amongst historians. The general consensus is that Erzsébet was arrested and imprisoned in her own castle tower at Čachtice in the final days of 1610. She was charged with witchcraft and the reputed torture and murder of anywhere between thirty-six and 650 young women from her local village and the lesser gentry, although she was never formally convicted of any crime, unlike four of her servants, believed to be her accomplices. She finally died in her tower prison in 1614.

In his chapter, ‘Posthumous Verdicts’, Thorne points to a number of writers who question the motives of those who brought the accusations against Erzsébet and the legitimacy of the court proceedings against her. In an age and society that saw mistreatment of servants as the nobility’s prerogative, violence as commonplace, and medical practices that were often akin to torture, Thorne argues that the shaming and incarceration of the powerful and wealthy widow was suspiciously convenient for a number of her political rivals, especially those who owed her money. Numerous books, films and visual representations perpetuate the myth that Erzsébet bathed in the girls’ blood in her belief that it would preserve her youth and beauty, and this salacious detail has become the default visualisation of the Countess, as a Google image search will attest. This was certainly the form chosen by the McFarlane toy company for their Elizabeth Bathory action figure, released in 2004 as part of their Monsters Series 3: Six Faces of Madness collection.

McFarlane Toy Company, Elizabeth Bathory painted action figure,
McFarlane’s Monsters Series 3: Six Faces Of Madness,
released June 2004, 15.2 cm

The series is known for its graphic depictions of notoriously bloodthirsty serial killers or tyrants from throughout history, and adds the macabre touch of three heads impaled on a candelabrum in the Báthory figurine while the Countess indulges in a literal bloodbath. Yet this latter motif did not appear in the Báthory legend until 130 years after her death, first appearing in László Túróczi’s 1744 travelogue of the Hungarian nation, A Short Description of Hungary together with its Kings.

Although there are numerous representations of Erzsébet in visual culture, only one portrait of her is known to have been painted from life; however it has either disappeared or is of contested authenticity. Painted in 1585, the portrait inspired a number of copies soon after, leading to speculation and contradictory claims as to which is the original painting. The portraits in question all follow the same template: standing pose in regal dress with laced, deep red bodice, pearl choker/chain and distinct white lace collar.

Anonymous, 17th century copy of the lost 1585 original portrait of Erzsébet Báthory

The question “Who is the Real Erzsébet?” posed on the website is pertinent not only to the five portraits on display, but also to the myriad personifications of the Countess in literature and film, very few of which, however, acknowledge her early ‘career’ as a werewolf.

In my own interpretation of the Báthory legend, I wanted to draw particular attention to the lycanthropic motifs that have generally been overlooked in visual representations of the Countess without overly romanticising or demonising my subject or neutralising the wolf. My intention is to imbue my female subjects with additional agency through the wolf, part of which requires acknowledgment of the wild canid as top predator. In Erzsébet’s case I was keen to explore whether it was possible to address the complexities of the historical person and her subsequent mythic persona, without casting her as either victim or monster.

The extravagant Hungarian lace collar and the muted maroon and ochre tones, along with the placement of the crest in the top right hand corner, nod towards the historical portraits of the countess, thereby locating my Erzsébet within her ‘legitimate’ visual tradition.

Báthory crest

In their chapter ‘The Social Biology of Werewolves’,* W.M.S. Russell and Claire Russell claim that the ‘E’ in the Báthory coat of arms is constructed from a vertical jawbone intersected by three wolf’s teeth (they are actually dragon claws), and also mention a legend in which Erzsébet was followed about by a she-wolf, reinforcing lycanthropic allusions. I have included this latter element in my portrait as well, further integrating woman and wolf through merging the facial features of the two species.

Julie Delpy as Erzsébet Báthory (top) in Delpy (dir.), The Countess (2009)

Julie Delpy as the werewolf Serafine Pigot
in Anthony Waller (dir.), An American Werewolf in Paris (1997)

From amongst the multiple versions of the Erzsébet Báthory portrait and multiple interpretations of the countess in film, I have chosen Julie Delpy to be the face of my Erzsébet. The French-born actress directs herself as the youth-obsessed lead in her 2009 film of the Báthory legend, The Countess, and also played the female werewolf Serafine Pigot in the 1997 film, An American Werewolf in Paris, thereby serving to further reinforce the lycanthropic references of my portrait. Delpy’s eye has also been merged with the wolf’s profile, offering a less monstrous imagining of the confluence of the lupine with the feminine than seen in An American Werewolf in Paris.

I have resisted the blood bath and fangs, however the ruby red perfume bottle offered up by the extended, bloodied hand nods to popular myths surrounding the Countess and her belief in the cosmetic virtues of blood. The title, Erzsébet was frequently mistaken for a vampire, acknowledges the intimacy between werewolf and vampire lore, as exemplified in the Báthory legend.

Detail of working drawing for Erzsébet was frequently mistaken for a vampire,
2011, digital collage

I have excluded the fang motif from my portrait of Erzsébet Báthory, even though I have used it in other portraits. In the case of Erzsébet, I was concerned that fangs would visually locate her too strongly within the vampiric tradition, reinforcing this version of her culturally constructed persona, whereas I wished to draw attention back to her largely neglected lycanthropic legacy.

Although dominant visualisations of Erzsébet Báthory see her largely aligned with the vampiric tradition and its inherent stereotypes, I hope that returning the focus to her earlier cultural incarnation as a werewolf takes a step towards redressing this largely under-represented aspect of the countess’ mythos in visual culture, while also locating Erzsébet at a significant crossroad of an evolving tradition of representing lupine femininity.

* in Animals in Folklore, edited by J.R. Porter and W.M.S. Russell (Cambridge, 1978)

Monday, 9 June 2014

Coming Soon: New Digital Editions of Victorian Penny Dreadfuls

Serialized Victorian Gothic pulp fiction for the discerning modern reader!

Hic Dragones is pleased to announce a new series of eBook editions of Victorian penny bloods and penny dreadfuls. Digitally remastered and reserialized, these editions are intended to introduce modern readers to the thrills, shocks and cliffhangers of classic blood-curdling tales.

Penny dreadfuls have a significant place in the modern imagination and affections, but they are rarely read in the twenty-first century. And this is hardly surprising—with only a few exceptions, these texts can only be found in original publications or mechanically scanned copies. Until now!

The Digital Periodicals serials from Hic Dragones have been fully formatted (by a human being) to create searchable eBook texts with interactive tables of contents. For the first time since their original publication in the mid-nineteenth century, these texts will be sold as serials, with new instalments (comprising between 5-10 chapters) being released fortnightly. Readers can once again savour the anticipation of a new instalment, and enjoy these episodic stories as they were once intended.

Digital Periodicals launches on Friday 13th June 2014 with two of James Malcolm Rymer’s classic titles: VARNEY THE VAMPYRE; OR, THE FEAST OF BLOOD and VILEROY; OR, THE HORRORS OF ZINDORF CASTLE. Additional serials will be published in due course, with THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF VALENTINE VOX, THE VENTRILOQUIST coming out later in the month. As well as better-known titles, such as WAGNER THE WEHR-WOLF and THE STRING OF PEARLS (Sweeney Todd), Digital Periodicals will introduce readers to works that have unfairly fallen into obscurity: including, George Reynolds’ FAUST, Albert Coates’ SPRING-HEEL’D JACK and Pierce Egan’s WAT TYLER.

Penny dreadfuls were always meant to be pure, sensationalist entertainment, and the Digital Periodicals series is designed to inject the fun back into these under-read masterpieces of lurid, melodramatic, garish pleasure. Readers can subscribe to receive reminders about their favourite serials, and join in discussion about the stories on Twitter and Facebook

Let the feast of blood begin again…

For more information, or to sign up for the mailing list, please see the website or contact Hic Dragones via email. For academic and press enquiries, please contact Hannah Kate (series editor).

Sunday, 16 February 2014

OUT NOW: Undead Memory: Vampires and Human Memory in Popular Culture (Peter Lang)

Edited by Simon Bacon and Katarzyna Bronk
Foreword by Sir Christopher Frayling

Vampires have never been as popular in Western culture as they are now: Twilight, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries and their fans have secured the vampire’s place in contemporary culture. Yet the role vampires play in how we remember our pasts and configure our futures has yet to be explored. The present volume fills this gap, addressing the many ways in which vampire narratives have been used to describe the tensions between memory and identity in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

The first part of the volume considers the use of the vampire to deal with rapid cultural change, both to remember the past and to imagine possible futures. The second part examines vampire narratives as external cultural archives, a memory library allowing us to reference the past and understand how this underpins our present. Finally, the collection explores how the undead comes to embody memorial practice itself: an autonomous entity that gives form to traumatic, feminist, postcolonial and oral traditions and reveals the resilience of minority memory.

Ranging from actual reports of vampire activity to literary and cinematic interpretations of the blood-drinking revenant, this timely study investigates the ways in which the 'undead memory' of the vampire throughout Western culture has helped us to remember more clearly who we were, who we are, and who we will/may become.


- Introduction - Simon Bacon and Katarzyna Bronk

Part I: Death and Becoming: How the Human Past Becomes the Vampire Future

- Memento (non)mori: Memory, Discourse and Transmission during the Eighteenth-Century Vampire Epidemic and After - Leo Ruickbie

- Vampire Narratives as Juggling with Romanian History: Dan Simmons's Children of the Night and Elizaeth Kostova's The Historian - Marius Crişan

- André Gide, Nosferatu and the Hydraulics of Youth and Age - Naomi Segal

- Constitutional Amnesia and Future Memory: Science Fiction's Posthuman Vampire - Hadas Elber-Aviram

Part II: Vampiric Memorials: Place, Space and Objects of Undead Memory

- Archives of Horror: Carriers of Memory in Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Katharina Rein

- Vampire Echoes and Cannibal Rituals: Undead Memory, Monstrosity and Genre in J.M. Grau's We Are What We Are - Enrique Ajuria Ibarra

- 'Old things, fine things': Of Vampires, Antique Dealers and Timelessness - Sorcha Ní Fhlainn

Part III: Memory Never Dies: Vampires as Human Memory and Trauma

- Pack versus Coven: Guardianship of Tribal Memory in Vampire versus Werewolf Narratives - Hannah Priest

- Death and the City: Repressed Memory and Unconscious Anxiety in Michael Almereyda's Nadja - Angela Tumini

- The Inescapable Moment: The Vampire as Individual and Collective Trauma in Let Me In by Matt Reeves - Simon Bacon

For more information about the book, please see the publisher's website.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

OUT NOW: The Modern Vampire and Human Identity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)

Edited by Deborah Mutch

Blurb: Why are we surrounded by vampires in the twenty-first century? From the global phenomena of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight and Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse, through films such as Underworld and Blade, television series such as the The Vampire Diaries and Being Human, to video games like Bloodrayne and Legacy of Kain, the reader, viewer and player has never had so many vampires to choose from. This collection considers the importance of the current flurry of vampires for our sense of human identity. Vampires have long been read as bodies through which our sense of ourselves has been reflected back to us. These essays offer readings of the modern vampire as a complex consideration of our modern human selves. Now that we no longer see the vampire as essentially evil, what does that say about us.

Editor: Deborah Mutch is a senior lecturer at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. She has recently become interested in the modern Gothic and has published an article on the Twilight and Sookie Stackhouse series in Critical Survey. She has also published widely on fin-de-siecle British socialist fiction.


1. Blood, Bodies, Books: Kim Newman and the Vampire as Cultural Text by Keith Scott
2. Buffy vs. Bella: Gender, Relationships and the Modern Vampire by Bethan Jones
3. 'Hell! Was I Becoming a Vampyre Slut?': Sex, Sexuality and Morality in Young Adult Vampire Fiction by Hannah Priest
4. Consuming Clothes and Dressing Desire in the Twilight Series by Sarah Heaton
5. Whiteness, Vampires and Humanity in Contemporary Film and Television by Ewan Kirkland
6. The Vampiric Diaspora: The Complications of Victimhood and Post-memory as Configured in the Jewish Migrant Vampire by Simon Bacon
7. Vampires and Gentiles: Jews, Mormons and Embracing the Other by Clare Reed
8. Transcending the Massacre: Vampire Mormons in the Twilight Series by Yael Maurer
9. The Gothic Louisiana of Charlaine Harris and Anne Rice by Victoria Amador
10. Matt Haig's The Radleys: Vampires for the Neoliberal Age by Deborah Mutch

Friday, 27 April 2012

OUT NOW: Journal of Monsters and the Monstrous, Vol. 1, No. 2 (September 2011)


Freeing Woman from Truth and the Unknown: Using Kahlo and Irigaray to Liberate Woman from Haggard's She - Cameron Ellis

The Monstrification of the Monster: How Ceauşescu Became the Red Vampire - Peter Mario Kreuter

Monster as Victim, Victim as Monster: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Redemptive Suffering and the 'Undead' - Sarah Malik Bell

Digging Our Own Grave: Monster Trucks and America - Callie Clare

Monstrous Literature: The Case of Dacre Stoker's Dracula the Undead - Hannah Priest

Film Reviews:

The Dreamers of Dreams: Inception - Sarah Juliet Lauro

The Status is Not Quo: Reflections on Villains as Heroes in Despicable Me (2010), Megamind (2010) and Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (2008) - Harvey O'Brien

Thirst - Colette Balmain

Book Reviews:

Monsters of the Gevaudan: The Making of a Beast - Lance Eaton

Monsters or Martyrs? A Review of Blood That Cries Out From the Earth: The Psychology of Religious Terrorism - John Donovan

Umwege in die Vergangenheit: Star Trek und die griechisch-römische Antike [Detours to the Past: Star Trek and the Greek-Roman Antiquity] - Peter Mario Kreuter

The Victorians and Old Age - C. Riley Augé

In a Glass Darkly - Lee Baxter

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - Lee Baxter

Dark Places: The Haunted House in Film - Colette Balmain

For more information, or for subscriptions, please click here.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Can Zombies Be Gothic?

Two things have inspired tonight's post. Firstly, I have just returned from an international conference on the Gothic in Warsaw. Secondly, I read Rachel Caine's Kiss of Death - the eighth Morganville Vampires book - today. I'm a huge fan of the Morganville books, and my paper at the Warsaw conference was on YA vampire fiction, so I was very interested to see the change in direction the eighth book took. I'll give a brief summary (spoiler warning) first, and the reasoning behind this post should become a bit clearer.

Caine's young adult vampire series is set in the Texas town of Morganville. The series follows the adventures of Claire Danvers, who is a 16/17-year-old student at Texas Prairie University. After being bullied in her college dorm, Claire takes up residence at the Glass House with a group of slightly older teens. It is here that she learns the truth about Morganville - it is run by vampires, who 'protect' (own) the humans and demand 'taxes' (blood) from them. The series continues with Claire negotiating the town's rules, forming alliances with the 'old' vampires, working for the somewhat crazy vampire Myrnin and getting into a relationship with human teen Shane. As I argued in my paper at the Warsaw conference, the series draws on a number of tropes of the Gothic - particularly the invocation of an imagined past, with its concomitant morality and societal regulation.

Kiss of Death, however, offers something different. When new-vampire and aspiring musician Michael Glass (one of Claire's housemates) is offered the chance to record a demo CD in Dallas, the protagonists are given passes to leave Morganville. They have not travelled far before they arrive in the town of Durram. Here, they enter a diner replete with threatening "redneck" locals (who take an immediate dislike to the group of friends), stay at an abandoned motel (run by a shotgun-toting old lady) and are arrested by the town's sheriff on trumped up charges. They eventually escape, and arrive at Blacke - an even more deserted backwater town under siege from a group of 'vampires' that are suffering from a vampire 'disease' that had previously been eradicated in Morganville. (Claire and Myrnin's work to find a cure for this disease is the subject of the earlier books in the series.)

Even before the 'sick' vampires are described, horror-canny readers will notice that the tropes being utilized here are not those of vampire fiction, but those of the horror (specifically zombie) film. Sure enough, when the first of the Blacke vampires makes an appearance, it is clear that this is not the same sort of creature as has featured in the previous Morganville books: the most important difference, perhaps, is that he smells of death. Another Blacke vampire is described thus: "a shuffling, twisted old man with crazy eyes and drifting white hair". As these undead creatures approach, the heroes take a course of action that should be obvious to anyone familiar with zombie films - they run into a room, slam the door against the creatures and barricade themselves in. Near the end of the book, there is an acknowledgement that the teens have, indeed, been fighting a "vampire zombie army".

The departure that this book takes has prompted me to question: what exactly is the difference between a vampire and a zombie? And if we can say that vampire fiction belongs to the Gothic, can we say the same about zombie narratives? If zombies aren't Gothic, why are they not? What is that sets them apart from the Gothic sensibility?

In folkloric terms, the differentiation between the two types of undead is blurred, but in contemporary cinema, literature and art, there is a world of difference. Somewhere along the way, our revenants diverged. Though there is a huge amount of interesting material on folk beliefs in vampires and zombies, I'm not going to talk about that today. My interest is in popular culture, so I'm purely focusing on recent film, TV and literary representations in this post.

To start with, I'll offer a quick definition of the Gothic - though this is by no means absolutely definitive and I'm aware that I'm hurrying over some key points here. I agree with Catherine Spooner, who suggests (in Contemporary Gothic) that one of the clearest definitions of Gothic is to be found in Chris Baldick's introduction to The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales: Gothic texts should encompass "a fearful sense of inheritance in time with a claustrophobic sense of enclosure in space". Spooner elaborates on Baldick's definition by adding, "the dead rise from the grave or lay their cold hands upon the shoulders of the living".

Vampires and zombies are both forms of revenants - they are the walking dead (or undead) - and frequently "lay their cold hands upon the shoulders of the living". Moreover, they share a predilection for anthropophagic eating habits, feasting on the blood and brains of their victims. Being the walking dead, the two creatures occupy a liminal space between life and death, transgressing the boundaries and breaking taboos. This cannibalism and transgression seems to point directly to the Gothic, a genre (or perhaps, more accurately, mode) that often explores and revels in such liminality. It is not, therefore, here that the difference between the two creatures can be found.

It's worth also considering the question of the 'uncanny', a concept which is deeply connected to the Gothic. In the introduction to his The Uncanny, Nicholas Royle describes the concept thus: "it is a peculiar commingling of the familiar and unfamiliar", adding that it can take the form of "something strange and unfamiliar unexpectedly arising in a familiar context". The walking dead are a good example of this. The faces of these entities are familiar (indeed, they are often the 'family' of the human protagonists in zombie and vampire fiction), but the fact that dead do not stay buried, do not behave as they did when living, is 'unfamiliar'.

Theoretically, then, there is nothing to preclude zombies from the Gothic. They are liminal, taboo-breaking, uncanny creatures. And yet, contemporary representations of zombies are seldom read as 'Gothic'. I'd like, then, to suggest a few reasons why this might be.

1. Gothic Aesthetic

However we might theorize the Gothic, it must be noted that the mode is characterized by a certain aesthetic. When I did a quick Twitter poll this evening, people were quick to suggest that zombies cannot be considered Gothic because they are not "beautiful" enough. A brief survey of recent pop culture representations should be enough to reveal the difference between presentations of the vampire (pale, sparkly and Byronic) and presentations of the zombie (grey, flaky and shambolic). The fact that a zombie decays, while a vampire does not is perhaps of paramount importance here: grotesque and repugnant bodies stand in sharp opposition to the Gothic aesthetic.

This clip from the BBC's Being Human (Series 3, Episode 3) illustrates this perfectly. Here, the regular characters (one vampire, two werewolves and a ghost) encounter a zombie. Note the difference between the vampire Mitchell (physically very much the 'Byronic' type) and the zombie Sasha:

While the Gothic does not preclude the grotesque per se, there is something about the repulsiveness of the zombie body that stands at odds with the dominant romantic understanding of the genre. Furthermore, as the clip from Being Human attests, the decaying and putrifying body of the zombie lends itself to humour as often as horror, which again distances it from the overall aesthetic of the Gothic.

2. Rationality and Madness

The origins of the Gothic are closely intertwined with the Enlightenment, and with ideas of rationality and reason. Often in 'classic' or 'High' Gothic texts, we see the rational and enlightened world pitted against the forces of an irrational and benighted past (usually medieval and Catholic). By the time we reach the end of the 19th-century, we see this conflict reach possibly its most fully-developed form; in Bram Stoker's Dracula, the modern heroes battle against the ancient count with the aid of education, medical knowledge, typewriters and train timetables.

It goes without saying, I think, that zombies are not rational creatures; however, they are not strictly irrational either - at least not by the standards used in the Gothic. They do not adhere to 'older' ways of thinking; they do not think at all. The unrelenting mindlessness of the zombie sets it apart from both the traditional villain and the traditional hero of Gothic fiction.

Vampires, of course, do 'lose their minds'. Drusilla from Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a case in point, as is Rachel Caine's Myrnin. They are also prone to a certain type of melancholy, characterized by excessive guilt and self-reflection. Without wanting to open too many cans of worms, Stephenie Meyer's Edward Cullen might be considered as an example of this melancholic vampire.

And now the caveat: some texts do present beautiful or melancholy zombies. Some do allow for an exploration of the irrationality and passion of the zombie. And, conversely, one need only look to F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu for an example of a vampire who does not fit the model suggested above. This brings me to my third, and perhaps most important, distinction between the vampire and the zombie.

3. Place and Time

If we look again at Baldick's theorization of the Gothic, we see that it is characterized by "inheritance in time" and "enclosure in space", and it is in this that the zombie most clearly defies the generic conventions, and the vampire most clearly confirms them. Even a grotesque, irrational creature like Murnau's Count Orlok has a fundamental presence in 'time' and 'place'. His very name implies "inheritance in time", and the staging of the film in the Count's castle evokes the Gothic "enclosure in space". It is the combination of these that creates the claustrophobic terror of Murnau's film.

The zombie does not have this sense of inheritance. While vampires are creatures imbued to their very core with the past, zombies belong wholly in the present. Usually devoid of memory (note that in the Being Human clip, the otherwise fairly coherent Sasha has no memory of her own death), and with few (if any) links to their human lives, zombies exist in a temporal vacuum. That is not to say that the zombie is not a product of its time - this has been demonstrated by a number of scholars working on horror fiction - but rather that the individual zombie should be read as a creature devoid of past or future.

Additionally, though the embattled opponents of the zombie often find themselves 'enclosed' in space, the zombie itself has no connection to a particular locality. Unlike other revenants, zombies do not haunt a specific place. They may attack a house, a mall, a pub or a diner, but these attacks are based on the proximity of human victims, rather than a pre-existing individualized connection to the location itself. In the majority of pop culture representations, zombies roam - this itinerant nature is a distinct contrast to the vampire's Gothic enclosure in a particular building or town.

As noted above, the Gothic is closely connected to the notion of the uncanny. In turn, the uncanny is aligned with the Freudian concept of the unheimlich (literally, the 'unhomely'). The unheimlich suggests foreignness, strangeness and the alien, but also relies on a comprehension of its inverse: the heimlich (the homely or familiar). Zombies explode these categorizations in their denial of the 'home'. In zombie narratives, spaces are consistently repurposed and distinctions between the 'home' and 'not home' are collapsed as territories are continually refigured.

The two ideas go hand-in-hand. It is in the zombie's denial of the past that the rejection of the concept of 'home' is seen most clearly. How can a creature that exists solely in the present be said to 'haunt' anything? And, as the Gothic frequently situates inheritance and past in a particular locality, the rejection of an individual place implies a concomitant rejection of time. If the Gothic requires a particular utilization of time and place, how can we describe something as 'Gothic' if it is based in a rejection of both concepts?

There are, of course, exceptions that prove every rule. There are also far more facets and implications to both the 'Gothic' and 'zombies' than I have had time to consider tonight. So rather than offer any definite conclusion to this post, I'd like to throw it open to discussion... do you agree? Have I missed something? Can you offer any examples of 'Gothic zombies'?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Baldick, Chris (ed.), The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992)

Caine, Rachel, Kiss of Death (London: Allison & Busby, 2010)

Royle, Nicholas, The Uncanny (Manchester & New York: Manchester University Press, 2003)

Spooner, Catherine, Contemporary Gothic (London: Reaktion Books, 2006)

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Vampires, Memeplexes and McFly

This is not one of my planned blog posts - I have some interesting things lined up to say on Shakira and on medieval research at the University of Manchester - but it came to me, and I feel compelled. Apart from being a scholar of medieval literature and contemporary popular culture, apart from being an aspiring novelist and a published poet, I am also a massive McFly fan. And I make no apologies for that.

When I heard that McFly were releasing a video featuring vampires (for the 2010 single 'Party Girl'), I was interested on two levels. One: I adore McFly. And two: I have a scholarly interest in vampires, monsters and all things strange. Given the preponderence of abstinent and sympathetic vampires in literature (and I mean here, in all literature - I am of the school of thought that sees Dracula as a break in tradition, not the tradition itself), I expected this band to appeal to the Twilight generation. I thought I would see tragic, struggling vamps, forcing themselves to endure blood pangs with a romantic fortitude. (I mean, I love McFly, but I still expected them to tap in to mainstream tastes.)

However, this is the video:

Some really interesting things occur to me in watching this video, and I think the theory of memes and memeplexes is useful here. A meme is a piece of information, which survives and flourishes through transmission, replication and mutation. The idea of the the meme was originally posited by Richard Dawkins in 1976 - before he went all fundamentalist athesist - and was understood as the cornerstone of human intelligence. Call it 'understanding', 'intelligence' or 'consciousness', it's all down to 'memes'. Furthermore, memes evolve in much the same way as genes do... they pass on through endless repetition and replication; a mutation occurs; the mutated version is then relicated. (Although, unlike genes, memes do not need a mutation to be 'beneficial' in order for the mutation to survive.) A memeplex is a complex group of memes, which exists in much the same way. Within the memeplex are a wide variety of memes, all or some of which are necessary for the overall concept to be understood. Thus, the 'vampire memeplex' is a complex 'grab bag' of ideas that exists (in some combination or another) for the concept of the 'vampire' to be understood. We might include in this aversion to garlic, aversion to sunlight, heightened sexuality, heightened sense of morality/immorality, aversion to silver, affiliations to the Victorian era, etc.

The idea of the 'memeplex' overlaps, to some extent, with the idea of 'mythos'. Additionally, issues of intertextuality are equally difficult to separate from 'memeplex'. This overlapping and intercrossing is evident in watching the McFly video. As the video starts, we see red letters on a black background, and a cross serving as the letter 't' in 'party'. This draws on both colour associations and intertextual reference to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The font of the wording should also be familiar to any pop culture vampire afficianados.

Following this, we have a series of visual referents for the vampire genre: black birds circling, a single star, a tortured male face. At 00.15 in the video, you will also notice a clear visual depiction of an eclipse (referencing Stephenie Meyer's book/movie of the same name). Next, we see a gargoyle - evidence of the use of gothic architecture in almost all vampire fiction.

The image which follows signals a diversion from the more common pop culture 'abstinent male vampire' memes. A large, red-lipped, fanged, and undoubtedly female mouth fills the screen. The mouth reminds me of Barbara Creed's association of the vampiric mouth with the mythical 'vagina dentata', and this reminds us that the focus of the song is a 'Party Girl'. The lyrics, and much of the rest of the video, concentrate on the idea of dangerous and seductive femininity. We see Harry engaging in seedy sex in a dark room, being infected and singing 'fangs out' on stage. We also have an image (at 1.30 in the video) of 'Dracula's brides' attacking the male protagonist. Words flash up on the screen to remind us of this feminine monstrousness: 'doomed', 'kill', 'kiss', 'sinks her teeth in'.

Nevertheless, there is much more to this video than simply a rehashing of the monstrousness of female sexuality. Consider, for example, the fact that the main female vamp is originally presented (at 1.03 in the video) as an apparent victim of sexual assault. Her appearance as a killer (1.17) is shadowed by the earlier image of her victimhood. Additionally, the video makes explicit reference to ideas of uncontrollable and dangerous testosterone: see 1.18 as an instance. At 1.54, there is an image of a very gentle and feminine female face, followed immediately by a further image of the 'macho' male lifting weights. Polaroid photographs suggest pornographic treatment of women. And, towards the end of the video, we see blood dripping slowly down a very phallic guitar, before the McFly boys break into another riff.

In this way, the Party Girl video presents images of out-of-control feminine sexuality/monstrosity, while always undermining them with the violence of patriarchal masculinity. This is further underlined by the ambiguity of the lyrics: "I love this little party girl/ yeah/ she likes to dance all by herself". Is this the story of the fetishization of an infantilized female? Or the empowerment of the female through monstrosity?

The McFly video plays around with pop culture references. Among them are a vamp-dusting in the style of Buffy and (my favourite) Breaking Dawn-esque flying feathers (1.33 onwards). This demonstrates the overlapping of 'memeplex' - the ideas that create our concept of 'vampire' - and intertextuality. However, what is also of interest is the apparently easy crossover between the vampire memeplex and that of the werewolf. At 1.47, Harry stands illuminated by a full moon, in the grips of an apparently painful transformation (sans shirt). At 2.43, Danny is heard to say 'Dougie - don't go into the woods!': surely, this is more reminiscent of werewolf films than vampire films?

So, what do we make of these conflicting referents in the McFly video? It could be argued that the team behind the video are simply cashing in on a slew of visual referents to mainstream pop culture texts. Nevertheless, I would suggest that this video, in fact, reveals how use of a 'grab bag' mythos - or memeplex - along with a 'postmodern' sense of intertextuality, creates twenty-first-century cultural products. All contemporary vampiric texts have one eye backwards and one eye sideways... McFly are simply utilizing this to encourage downloads. The complexity of the references in this particular video, along with the ambiguity of the lyrics, is one of the main reasons why I am not ashamed to describe myself as a McFly Fangirl and Proud. I love pop culture in all its bizarre forms and complexities.

And in case you think that the vampiric context of this latest video is simply a cash-in on recent pop culture trends, have a look at the video for McFly's 2007 single 'Transylvania'. I know I've admitted I'm a fangirl - but even the most anti-McFly amongst you will be hard-pressed not to love such a beautifully absurist mash-up of vampire memeplex, WWI imagery, fin-de-siecle extravagance, cross-dressing, Nosferatu and 'Bohemian Rhapsody' reference. And it begins with a sample for Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor'. Enjoy...

And here's a lovely presentation of zombie imagery with reference to the 'Thriller' vid (and a nice little intertextual reference to the film that gave the band their name - released the very year guitarist/vocalist Tom Fletcher was born):

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Light of my life... fire of my loins... My Comment on Twilight

In the past ten days, I have worked my way through Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series. Although I have been tweeting my immediate reactions to the books, I felt that a lengthier review was in order. This post is intended to address my main misgivings with the series. I think my approach should be fairly self-explanatory.

Quotations are taken from Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955; Penguin Books, 1995) and Stephanie Meyer, Twilight (Atom, 2006); Eclipse (Atom, 2007); Breaking Dawn (Atom, 2008)

Light of my life... fire of my loins...

"While my body knew what it craved for, my mind rejected my body's every plea. One moment I was ashamed and frightened, another recklessly optimistic. Taboos strangulated me." (Lolita, p. 18)

"He started to pull away - that was his automatic response whenever he decided things had gone too far, his reflex reaction whenever he most wanted to keep going. Edward had spent most of his life rejecting any kind of physical gratification. I knew it was terrifying to him trying to change those habits now." (Breaking Dawn, p. 23)

"He had the utmost respect for ordinary children, with their purity and vulnerability, and under no circumstances would he have interfered with the innocence of a child, if there was the least risk of a row. But how his heart beat when, among the innocent throng, he espied a demon child..." (Lolita, pp. 19-20)

"'Quil... imprinted... with a two-year-old?' I was finally able to ask.
'You're making judgments,' he accused. 'I can see it on your face.'
'Sorry,' I muttered. 'But it sounds really creepy.'
'It's not like that; you've got it all wrong,' Jacob defended his friend, suddenly vehement. 'I've seen what it's like, through his eyes. There's nothing romantic about it all, not for Quil, not now. [...] When you see her, suddenly it's not the earth holding you anymore. She does. And nothing matters more than her. And you would do anything for her, be anything for her...'" (Eclipse, p. 156)

"Let me repeat with quiet force: I was, and still am, despite mes malheurs, an exceptionally handsome male; slow-moving, tall, with soft dark hair and a gloomy but all the more seductive cast of demeanour. Exceptional virility often reflects in the subject's displayable features a sullen and congested something that pertains to what he has to conceal. And this was my case. Well did I know, alas, that I could obtain at the snap of my fingers any adult female I chose; in fact, it had become quite a habit with me of not being too attentive to women lest they come toppling, bloodripe, into my cold lap." (Lolita, p. 25)

"'That's Edward. He's gorgeous, of course, but don't waste your time. He doesn't date. Apparently none of the girls here are good-looking enough for him.'" (Twilight, p. 19)

"When he sat next to me in class, as far away from me as the table would allow, he seemed totally unaware of my presence." (Twilight, p. 59)

"I find it most difficult to express with adequate force that flash, that shiver, that impact of passionate recognition... the vacuum of my soul managed to suck in every detail of her bright beauty..." (Lolita, p. 39)

"I could see that now - how the universe swirled around this one point. I'd never seen the symmetry of the universe before, but now it was plain.
The gravity of the earth no longer tied me to the place where I stood.
It was the baby girl in the blonde vampire's arms that held me now." (Breaking Dawn, p. 331)

"I shall probably have another breakdown if I stay any longer in this house, under the strain of this intolerable temptation, by the side of my darling - my darling - my life and my bride." (Lolita, p. 47)

"'Why are you doing this to me?' he said through his teeth, his tone suddenly angry. 'Isn't it hard enough without all of this?' He grabbed a handful of lace that was ruffled on my thigh. For a moment, I thought he was going to rip it from the seam. Then his hand relaxed. 'It doesn't matter. I won't make any deals with you.'" (Breaking Dawn, p. 93)

"By this time I was in a state of excitement bordering on insanity; but I also had the cunning of the insane. Sitting there, on the sofa, I managed to attune, by a series of stealthy movements, my masked lust to her guileless limbs. It was no easy matter to divert the little maiden's attention while I performed the obscure adjustments necessary for the success of the trick." (Lolita, p. 58)

"His hand curved around my elbow, moving slowly down my arm, across my ribs and over my waist, tracing along my hip and down my leg, around my knee. He paused there, his hand curling around my calf. He pulled my leg up suddenly, hitching it around his hip.
I stopped breathing." (Eclipse, p. 165)

"In my self-made seraglio, I was a radiant and robust Turk, deliberately, in the full consciousness of his freedom, postponing the moment of actually enjoying the youngest and frailest of his slaves." (Lolita, p. 60)

"'Getting married is a stretch for me. I'm not giving in unless I get something in return.'
He leaned down to whisper in my ear. 'No,' he murmured silkily. 'It's not possible now. Later, when you're less breakable. Be patient, Bella.'
[...] He was too beautiful. What was the word he'd used just now? Unbearable - that was it. His beauty was too much to bear...
[...] 'I'm not saying no,' he reassured me. 'I'm just saying not tonight.'" (Eclipse, p. 399)

"The word 'forever' referred only to my own passion, to the eternal Lolita as reflected in my blood." (p. 65)

"I laughed breathlessly when his urgent kiss interrupted my efforts again.
[...] 'Damn it,' he growled, kissing hungrily down the edge of my jaw.
'We have plenty of time to work on it,' I reminded him.
'Forever and forever and forever,' he murmured." (Breaking Dawn, p. 699)

"Then she crept into my waiting arms, radiant, relaxed, caressing me with her tender, mysterious, impure, indifferent, twilight eyes - for all the world, like the cheapest of cheap cuties. For this is what nymphets imitate - while we moan and die." (Lolita, p. 120)

"... so tonight I pulled out one of the scarier pieces as I got ready in the panelled bathroom. It was black, lacy, and embarrassing to look at even when it wasn't on. I was careful not to look in the mirror before I went back to the bathroom. I didn't want to lose my nerve.
I had the satisfaction of watching his eyes pop open wide for just a second before he controlled his expression.
[...] I couldn't tell if he was moved by the tears trembling in my voice, or if he was unprepared to deal with the suddenness of my attack, or if his need was simply as unbearable in that moment as my own. But whatever the reason, he pulled my lips back to his, surrendering with a groan." (Breaking Dawn, pp. 92; 98)

"I was still firmly resolved to pursue my policy of sparing her purity by operating only in the stealth of night, only upon a completely anaesthetized little nude." (Lolita, p. 124)

"I still didn't turn around. 'How often do you come here?'
'I come here almost every night.'
I whirled, stunned. 'Why?'
'You're interesting when you sleep.' He spoke matter-of-factly." (Twilight, p. 256)

"This was a lone child, an absolute waif, with whom a heavy-limbed, foul-smelling adult had had strenuous intercourse three times that very morning. Whether or not the realization of a lifelong dream had surpassed all expectations, it had, in a sense, overshot its mark - and plunged into a nightmare. I had been careless, stupid, and ignoble." (Lolita, p. 140)

"His eyes tightened. 'How badly are you hurt, Bella? The truth - don't try to downplay it.'
[...] 'Why would you jump to that conclusion? I've never been better than I am now.'
His eyes closed. 'Stop that.'
'Stop what?'
'Stop acting like I'm not a monster for having agreed to this.'
[...] Under the dusting of feathers, large purplish bruises were beginning to blossom across the pale skin of my arm. My eyes followed the trail they made up to my shoulder, and then down across my ribs. I pulled my hand free to poke at a discoloration on my left forearm, watching it fade where I touched and then reappear. It throbbed a little.
So lightly that he barely touching me, Edward placed his hand against the bruises on my arm, one at a time, matching his long fingers to the patterns.
[...] 'I'm... so sorry, Bella,' he whispered while I stared at the bruises. 'I knew better than this. I should not have -' He made a low, revolted sound in the back of his throat. 'I am more sorry that I can tell you.'" (Breaking Dawn, pp. 80-82)

"Presently, making a sizzling sound with her lips, she started complaining of pains, said she could not sit, said I had torn something inside her." (Lolita, p. 141)

"I took a deep breath. I was feeling more of the soreness now, but it wasn't that bad. Sort of like the day after lifting weights." (Breaking Dawn, p. 83)

"I want to protect you, dear, from all the horrors that happen to little girls in coal sheds and alley ways, and, alas, comme vous le savez trop bien, ma gentille, in the blueberry woods during the bluest of summers. Through thick and thin I will stay your guardian, and if you are good, I hope a court may legalize that guardianship before long." (Lolita, p. 149)

"'It's going to sound cruel, I suppose. But I've come too close to losing you in the past. I know what it feels like to think I have. I am not going to tolerate anything dangerous. [...] No werewolves.'
'I'm not going along with that. I have to see Jacob.'
'Then I'll have to stop you.'" (Eclipse, pp. 29-30)

"'I don't need any fanfare. You won't have to tell anyone or make any changes. We'll go to Vegas - you can wear old jeans and we'll go to the chapel with the drive-through window. I just want to make it official - that you belong to me and no one else.'" (Eclipse, p. 404)

"... with patience and luck I might have her produce eventually a nymphet with my blood in her exquisite veins, a Lolita the Second, who would be eight or nine around 1960, when I would still be dans la force de l'age..." (Lolita, p. 174)

"'Because you're the one who told me this. Do you remember? You said we belonged in each other's lives, right? That we were family. You said that was how you and I were supposed to be. So... now we are. It's what you wanted.'
[...] 'You think you'll be part of my family as my son-in-law!' I screeched.
[...] 'Do you remember how much you wanted me around three days ago? How hard it was to be apart from each other? That's gone now for you, isn't it? [...] That was her,' he told me. 'From the very beginning. We had to be together, even then.'" (Breaking Dawn, pp. 415-16)

"First the old ogre drew up a list under 'absolutely forbidden' and another under 'reluctantly allowed'... She might visit a candy bar with her girl friends, and there giggle-chat with occasional young males, while I waited in the car at a discreet distance..." (Lolita, p. 186)

"The Quileute school was already out for the summer, so he told me to come over as early as I could. I was pleased to have an option besides being babysat. There was a tiny bit more dignity in spending the day with Jacob.
Some of that dignity was lost when Edward insisted again on delivering me to the border line like a child being exchanged by custodial guardians.
[...] He laughed again, but suddenly stopped when we turned the last bend and saw the red car waiting. He frowned in concentration, and then, as he parked the car, he sighed." (Eclipse, pp. 282-83)

"On playgrounds and beaches, my sullen and stealthy eye, against my will, still sought out the flash of a nymphet's limbs, the sly tokens of Lolita's handmaids and rosegirls." (Lolita, p. 257)

"I kept going north, and it got more and more crowded. Eventually, I found a big park full of kids and families and skateboards and bikes and kites and picnics. [...] I walked around for what felt like hours. Long enough that the sun changed sides in the sky. I stared into the face of every girl who passed anywhere near me, making myself really look, noticing who was pretty and who had blue eyes and who looked good in braces and who had way too much make-up on. I tried to find something interesting about each face, so that I would know for sure that I'd really tried. [...] As time went on, I started noticing all the wrong things. Bella things. This one's hair was the same colour. This one's eyes were sort of shaped the same. This one's cheekbones cut across her face in just the same way." (Breaking Dawn, pp. 304-305)

"She was frankly and hugely pregnant. Her head looked smaller (only two seconds had passed really, but let me give them as much wooden duration as life can stand), and her pale-freckled cheeks were hollowed, and her bare shins and arms had lost all their tan, so that the little hairs showed. She wore a brown, sleeveless cotton dress and sloppy felt slippers." (Lolita, p. 269)

"Bella's body was swollen, her torso ballooning out in a strange, sick way. It strained against the faded grey sweatshirt that was way too big for her shoulders and arms. The rest of her seemed thinner, like the big bulge had grown out of what it had sucked from her. It took me a second to realize what the deformed part was - I didn't understand until she folded her hands tenderly around her bloated stomach, one above and one below. Like she was cradling it.
I saw it then, but I couldn't believe it. I'd seen her just a month ago. There was no way she could be pregnant. Not that pregnant." (Breaking Dawn, p. 160)

"'You chump,' she said, smiling sweetly at me. 'You revolting creature. I was a daisy-fresh girl, and look what you've done to me. I ought to call the police and tell them you raped me. Oh, you dirty, dirty old man." (Lolita, p. 141)

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

De Montfort Vampire Conference - Schedule and Registration now available

Last month I posted details of the Vegetarians, VILFs and Fangbangers Conference at De Montfort University, to be held on 24th November 2010.

The conference schedule is now available, and you can register online for the event. Click here for more details.

The programme looks amazing, and there are a lot of papers to choose from. The day begins with a plenary address from Nickianne Moody (Liverpool John Moores University), on 'Interview with the Postfeminist: Researching the Paranormal Romance'. My own paper is entitled 'What's the Difference Between a Vampire and a Fairy': Supernatural Lovers in Young Adult Urban Fantasy'.

Hope to see some of you there!

Monday, 6 September 2010

Vegetarians, VILFs and Fang-Bangers: Modern Vampire Romance in print and on screen

A one day conference, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Keynote Speaker: Dr Nickianne Moody, Liverpool John Moores University

Vampites have had a long and complex relationship with human beings and have been threatening and attracting us through folklore, literature, film and television for centuries. But now they walk among us, seeking to integrate themselves into our culture, to be our business partners, friends and lovers.

Why do we now prefer our vampires with a sensitive nature or with their ruthlessness focused on business deals? How does this change affect the relationship between both species and genders?

This one-day conference seeks to understand and criticise the phenomenal popularity of what is sometimes termed Dark Romance.

Papers are sought on authors such as Stephanie Meyer, Charlene Harris, and Lauren K. Hamilton, the adaptation of Dark Romance books for both film and TV and a general consideration of the change in our relationship with the vampire.

Proposals are invited for 20-minute papers, which might address (though not exclusively) the following areas:
  • 21st-century vampires in the Gothic literary tradition
  • Vampires and gender/relations
  • Adaptation and the shift of audience
  • Debates on the Other
  • Difference between film and television adaptation
  • Colonialism/postcolonialism/postnationalism
  • Vampires and money/business
  • Vampires and class relations
  • Vampires, authors and fans

Please send abstracts, or not more than 200 words, to

Dr. Deborah Mutch
Department of English
Clephan Building
De Montfort University

Email: Deborah Mutch

Find us on Facebook.

For more information, click here.

Conference fee: £30/£15 postgraduate/unwaged, including lunch and refreshments.

Deadline for abstracts: 8th September 2010.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Vampire Conference in London (November 2011)

Vampires: Myths of the Past and the Future

An interdisciplinary conference organised by Simon Bacon, The London Consortium in collaboration with the Centre for the Study of Cultural Memory, Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies, University of London

Deadline for submissions: 30 April 2011
Conference dates: 2nd-4th November 2011
Venue: Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London

Myths of vampires and the undead are as old as civilisation itself, wherever humans gather these 'dark reflections' are sure to follow. Whether as hungry spirits, avenging furies or as the disgruntled dearly departed, they have been used to signify the monstrous other and the consequences of social transgression. Embodying the result of a life lived beyond patriarchal protective proscription that quickly changes from dream to nightmare and from fairy tale to ghost story.
However their manifold and multifarious manifestation also provides a point of opposition and resistance, one that subverts majority narrative and gives agency to the disenfranchised and oppressed within society. This is seen most clearly in the late twentieth century where, in a plethora of filmic and literary texts, amidst a growing 'sympathy for the devil' the vampire is constructed as a site of personal and social transition. Here alternative narratives (e.g. feminist, ethnic, post-colonial discourses etc) find expression and ways in which to configure their own identity within, or in opposition to, the dominant cultural parameters revealing hybridity as the catalyst for future myth making.
In the course of the past century the vampire has undergone many transformations which now see them as a separate evolutionary species, both genetically and cybernetically, signifying all that late capitalist society admires and desires thus completing its change from an adhorational figure to an aspirational one; the vampire is no longer the myth of a murky superstitious past but that of a bright new future and one that will last forever.
This interdisciplinary conference will look at the various ways the vampire has been used in the past and present to construct narratives of possible futures, both positive and negative, that facilitate both individual and colelctive, either in the face of hegemonic discourse or in the continuance of its ideological meta-narratives.

Keynote speakers include:

Stacey Abbott
Milly Williamson
Catherine Spooner

We invite papers from a wide range of disciplines and approaches such as: anthropology, art history, cultural studies, film studies, history, literary studies, philosophy, psychology, theology, etc.

Possible themes include, but are not limited to:

  • Myths, fairy tales and urban legends
  • Cross cultural colonisation, vampiric appropriation and reappropriation
  • Cinema, Manga/Anime and gaming

  • Fandom, lifestyle, 'real' vampires and identity configuration

  • Minority discourse and the transcultural vampire

  • Genetics, cybernetics and the post human

  • Blood memory, vampiric memory and the immortal archive

  • Dracula vs. Nosferatu; Urban vs. Rural

  • Globalisation, corporations and 'Dark' societies

  • Immortality, transcendence and cyberspace

  • Old World/New World and vampiric migration

  • From stakes to crosses to sunlight

  • Blood Relations and the vampiric family

  • Abjection, psychoanalysis and transitional objects

Papers will also be considered on any related themes. Abstracts of 300 words should be submitted to Simon Bacon no later than April 30th 2011.