I thought I was finished with vampires. Not in a real life sense, obviously (they don’t really exist to the best of my knowledge, unless we’re talking of the psychic draining variety we might occasionally encounter in our lives). Anyhow, what I mean to say is that I completed my final dissertation for my Master of Arts in Contemporary Literature and Film, with a view to it making some positive career impact (watch this pace; jobs are being applied for, but nothing worthwhile comes easy). My initially anti-climatic feeling after it was handed in has given way to a feeling of…yeah, I’d say pride, but I’m not going to overstate that. The work is never really done is it. I spotted a spelling mistake on the finished bound draft, so I won’t be getting smug.
My thesis was that the vampire has adapted to our changing society; a mirror for our hopes and fears (as Nina Auerbach suggests in her often quoted book Our Vampires, Ourselves), but it has become sanitized in recent times and that this was probably because of a change in our esoteric beliefs. This more romantic version of the uncanny fiend of folklore has appeared gradually, evolving over time. My suggestion was that the vampire was once the epitome of what Freud called Unhiemlich (the Uncanny), and as religion (in particular Christianity) has lost its influence in society, so the vampire has adapted to survive, its previous guise being that of a ‘scapegoat for sin’. It’s been fascinating researching and discovering how and why this change has occurred, what it means and what it says about our current cultural moment. I recommend Susannah Clements’ book The Vampire Defanged: How the Embodiment of Evil Became a Romantic Hero (Brazos Press, 2011). Clements’ presents her arguments from a far less secular viewpoint than my own, but her work was the basis of my own, so I’m biased in my recommendation. If you like vampire mythology, and especially if you’re viewing them through a religious prism, it’s an essential read.
Yet, now, after months of this, I thought I’d be through with vampires. I’m finishing off reading The Tale of the Body Thief, by Anne Rice, which is a good solid novel, but here I am, also glued to the fifth season DVD set of True Blood. I may talk about True Blood later, as it was one of the key texts for the thesis. It’s basically the Dark Shadows of the 21st Century in many ways, if not all (for those who remember Dark Shadows, and if like me, you’re British, you probably won’t. It was an American only infatuation it seems). Basically a gothic soap opera set in the real world that gradually but quite surely introduces more and more bizarre supernatural elements as it goes along. It’s hokum, but very good hokum.
Ironically, I’m now more a vampire fan than I was before the project (despite being a gothic horror fan, I could take or leave much vampire literature and film). I’m seeing them in a whole new light now, and they’re remaining a fascinating barometer of us and our times. In horror fiction, they are unique. The ghost, werewolf and whatever else, remain the same, whereas the vampire changes to suit us.
Some final Dracula film reviews coming up, and then I surely will give vampires a rest on this blog for a while. Stake the obsession, so to speak.
Next time I’ll probably be thinking more about British Summertime and what to do with it. No trips elsewhere planned this year, so what can we do with the persistent rain soaked environs? Music festivals are there in abundance, but I haven’t committed to one yet…and time is ticking by.