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Vampires in Literature and Cinema: Lecture One
Transcript of Vampires in Literature and Cinema: Lecture One
The history and definition of vampirism, both in legend and in fiction, fact, and folklore, has evolved over time.
in Literature and Cinema
A large, incoherent body of characteristics, elements, and desires has been lumped over hundred, if not thousands, of years all around the world under the name "vampire."
The vampire can be understood from many perspectives:
The history of the vampire in the West has four highpoints....
the Middle Ages
the 18th century
The vampire is 'born' as an undead monster returned from the grave because of sins committed against the Christian ethos during life.
German and French Universities began researching and writing about a wave of vampirism in eastern Europe.
Bram Stoker's book, published in 1897, was based on extensive research into the history of vampirism.
Anne Rice's novel made the vampire a sympathetic if tragic figure of existential suffering.
"[O]therness is generally conceived of as that which is not 'self.'"
A large element of the history of vampirism is
"The social definition of who we are also implies who we are not. Mentally drawing a circle that defines 'us' (the ingroup) excludes 'them' (the outgroup). Such group identifications typically promote an ingroup bias-favoring one's own group."
So when a social climate pits...
...demonizing as a social punishment is born.
"People who are different, unpopular or great sinners are apt to return from the dead." -Paul Barber
Bachelors or maidens who died alone
Buried without proper rites
Children born with a cleft palate or extra teeth or other deformities
Children who die unbaptized
Mothers who die in childbirth
People buried in unhallowed ground
Someone who weans too long or for a second time after already having weaned
Stillborn illegitimate offspring of bastard parents
People who defied the Christian ethos of the time were often declared monstrous or practitioners of evil magic.
The Freudian Vampire
Besides the historic definition of vampirism, there is a psychoanalytic view of vampirism:
-anxiety over sex,
-fear over the death of loved ones.
-the unconscious denial of one's own death &
Anxiety About Sex
-Symbolism: penetration of fangs and stakes can represent intercourse
-Penetration = Power; Vampresses as empowered, sexual females
-Blood as both literal bodily fluid and displaced sexual fluids
-Penetration of fangs as a violent and fatal form of rape, but also restorative/resurrective
The sexual imagery utilized by the vampire myth is both positive and negative.
"All human experiences of morbid dread signify the presence of repressed sexual and aggressive wishes, and in vampirism we see these repressed wishes becoming plainly visible." -Freud
These metaphors reveal our deep moral and biological ambivalence towards sex and procreation as both a necessary but dangerous/anxiety-inducing part of existence.
The Death of the Self
The Death of Loved Ones
-The unconscious cannot conceive of it's own death and rejects it
-The indestructible perspective of the child and the internalized voice of the parents (manifesting as the superego) are retained into adulthood
The vampire is a metaphor for the understanding of this aspect of the human psyche--the denial that our "self" is going to die.
-Note a focus on mourning rites within vampire literature (and that those not buried with proper rites were apt to become vampires themselves)
-A lack of understanding regarding disease transmission could make a sequence of deaths in a family seem more like a supernatural rather than biological force (See: Arnold Paole)
The death of loved ones must be confronted somehow.
The vampire is a metaphor for that anxiety over the dead or missing over.
A denial of death is a denial of God's Grace. In the Christian ethos, this a condemnable thought.
Other psychological connections:
Sleep & Nightime
Monsters & Dead People
Nightmares may bring visions of terrible beasts and dead loved ones
Sexual dreams and nocturnal emissions were seen as visitations of evil forces
Succubus & Incubus
"to lie under"
suck blood and breath out of sleeping victims
blood as displaced sexual fluids
sexual imagery for a sexually repressed time
"There is also a very general rumor. Many have verified it by their own experience and trustworthy persons have corroborated the experience others told, that sylvans and fauns, commonly called incubi, have often made wicked assaults upon women."
Lamiae & Striges
Lamia: a woman who had sex with Zeus, cursed with a serpent's tail below the waist - ate children
"Left to herself, the serpent now began
To change; her elfin blood in madness ran,
Her mouth foam’d, and the grass, therewith besprent,
Wither’d at dew so sweet and virulent;
Her eyes in torture fix’d, and anguish drear,
Hot, glaz’d, and wide, with lid-lashes all sear,
Flash’d phosphor and sharp sparks, without one cooling tear."
"to lie upon"
Derived from Romanian strigăt, "scream."
Derived from Greek laimos, "gullet."
Striges: a woman gone under metamorphosis to become like a bird of prey - ate human flesh and blood
Note that these monsters come from what people at the time considered morally reprehensible people; sexually promiscuous women.
“The blood is the life!”
It's not a unique idea...
Christians symbolically drink the blood of Jesus.
"After the same manner also he took the cup, after he had eaten, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do you, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." (1 Cor 11:25)
Greeks used blood in chthonic rituals to contact the dead.
The Cult of the Virgin Mary believed blood of virgin women had miraculous healing powers
Christians of the Middle Ages believed that ghosts drank blood and possessed people.
Specially trained priests or other clerical figures specialized in the hunting, discovery, and usually slaying of vampires, witches, and werewolves.
In the heyday of the Inquisition's search for heretics and monsters, witches and werewolves took most of the brunt of this holy wraith.
For example, between 1520 and the mid-seventeenth century, 30,000 cases of lycanthropy were investigated by Church officials.
Prince of Walachia in Eastern Europe
Also known as Dracula, the son of Draul.
Defended his territory against Saxon traders who were moving into Eastern Europe. Imperialism is a key element.
"Imperialism is the object-less disposition of a state to expansion by force without assigned limits." Joseph A. Schumpeter
The history of Europe can be understood as the West making incursions into the East, the East fighting back, and the West going home to demonize the East.
The West attacks the East first, but it is justified in the Western mind because they consider the East sub-human and constantly on the verge of attack.
The Saxons returned to the West bearing gruesome stories. We can also see the influence of journalism on this process, especially in Bram Stoker's Dracula
Reportedly impaled Western prisoners alive.
This method takes days to kill someone; they slowly die of blood loss and exposure.
According to reports, he ate dinner below their writhing, screaming corpses.
VLAD THE IMPALER
It was heavily implied that he may have eaten the flesh and blood of his victims
1431 – 1476
THE BLOOD COUNTESS
1560 – 1614
Convicted in 1611 for the murders of 650 young girls, allegedly because she bathed in their virginal blood to restore her youthful appearance
A narcissistic, sadistic obsession with her own appearance.
The idea of bathing in blood may have came from her slapping a handmaiden, whose blood fell upon the Countess's skin. When wiped away, the skin appeared younger.
Mirror symbolism ties into the legend; the countess sacrificed virgins to the spirit behind the mirror so that she could stay young.
Báthory supposedly devised torture machines, adding a new element to the vampire legend: anxiety over technology in a modern era.