Reading the Vampire (Popular Fictions Series)
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Insatiable bloodlust, dangerous sexualities, the horror of the undead, uncharted Trannsylvanian wildernesses, and a morbid fascination with the `other': the legend of the vampire continues to haunt popular imagination.
Reading the Vampire examines the vampire in all its various manifestations and cultural meanings. Ken Gelder investigates vampire narratives in literature and in film, from early vampire stories like Sheridan Le Fanu's `lesbian vampire' tale Carmilla and Bram Stoker's Dracula, the most famous vampire narrative of all, to contemporary American vampire blockbusters by Stephen King and others, the vampire chronicles of Anne Rice, `post-Ceausescu' vampire narratives, and films such as FW Murnau's Nosferatu and Bram Stoker's Dracula.
Reading the Vampire embeds vampires in their cultural contexts, showing vampire narratives feeding off the anxieties and fascinations of their times: from the nineteenth century perils of tourism, issues of colonialism and national identity, and obsessions with sex and death, to the `queer' identity of the vampire or current vampiric metaphors for dangerous exchanges of bodily fluids and AIDS.
Jameson than it would seem to imagine, since it reproduces the Self/Other polarity by representing the uncanny as simply another Thing in a chain of Things to be repressed. The complicated mutual inhabitation of the familiar and the unfamiliar is forgotten here; Dolar emphasises the ideological drive to make the unfamiliar seem familiar, whereas in Freud’s essay the unfamiliar is already familiar. Moreover, Dolar relies on a view of ideology as fundamentally repressive and exclusive, a view that
conventions at work in these opening pages: as well as complaining about the trains in Eastern Europe, Harker searches for a suitably ‘oldfashioned’ hotel, ‘samples the native cuisine . . . ogles the indigenous folk . . . marvels at the breathtaking scenery . . . wonders at local customs . . . and, interspersed throughout, provides pertinent facts about the region’s geography, history, and population’ (Arata, 1990, 636). Harker uses the word ‘picturesque’ often enough to make Arata wonder if
and index. 1. Vampires in literature. 2. Vampire films–History and criticism. I. Title. II. Series: Popular fiction series. PN56.V3G45 1994 809.3’9375–dc20 93–44485 ISBN 0–415–08012–6 (hbk) 0–415–08013–4 (pbk) ISBN 0-203-13205-X Master e-book ISBN ISBN 0-203-17785-1 (Glassbook Format) For Hannah and Christian CONTENTS Preface 1 ETHNIC VAMPIRES: TRANSYLVANIA AND BEYOND ix 1 2 VAMPIRES IN GREECE: BYRON AND POLIDORI 24 3 VAMPIRES AND THE UNCANNY: LE FANU’S ‘CARMILLA’ 42 4 READING DRACULA
intellectual writer of popular fiction. Her novels unfold as meditations; their moments of ecstasy puncture long passages of inquiry amongst vampires into a range of ‘classical’ topics – faith, art, humanity, purpose. The vampire is itself, of course, a contemplative creature who is subject to distractions – a philosopher and a sensualist, a frequenter of libraries and galleries who must regularly surrender to an uncontrollable appetite. For Lestat, this appetite is also a topic to be
of this word, ‘horror, textuality, morality, hilarity’ (Brophy, 1983, 85). This is contemporary vampire fiction at its most ambitious and its most excessive. It is as if all the characteristics of the subgenre described so far – which the novels under discussion in this chapter (and in Chapter 6) know only too well – have here been pushed to the limit, including the vampire itself. 136 VAMPIRE BLOCKBUSTERS Somtow’s young vampire protagonist, Timmy Valentine, is thus also a ‘saturated’ creature