Monday, December 20, 2010

Final Project

     Writing and record keeping are used for a variety of reasons in early vampire novels, especially Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Sheridan LeFanu’s Carmilla. While each character has his or her own specific reason for beginning to write or to keep records, it is through the written (or recorded) word that many of the characters are able to justify their actions towards the vampire, which in turn helps to validate their sanity. Quite often, it is the character’s own written word that allows them to feel safe, sane, and secure throughout the many horrific situations they find themselves in. Throughout Dracula and Carmilla, it is evident that the band of “heroes” represent a Victorian society based on technology and record-keeping, appearing progressive yet traditional, while Count Dracula and Carmilla both represent the primitive, the irrational, and the unknown. However, a further extension of this idea is exemplified in the technology used by each character to create their respective journal entries, be they recorded by ink, typewriter or phonograph. While each character may begin to write or keep records for their own personal reasons, it is their journals which become an extension of their sanity and personality.

     The narrative style of both Le Fanu’s Carmilla and Stoker’s Dracula are strikingly similar, both told from journal entries and letters. It is clear that Le Fanu’s Carmilla influenced Stoker and his archetypical vampire tale, as the importance of the journal is primary to the story’s development. The reader is informed that “Doctor Hesselius has written a rather elaborate note, which he accompanies with a reference to his Essay on the strange subject which the MS illuminates” (Le Fanu 243). While the reader knows that the tale is fiction, both vampire tales are told from the perspective of journal entries and letters, giving the events a sense of realism. Because the tales are told from the perspectives of the characters within, the reader must decide for themselves what to believe and what to question. In fact, Laura asks the reader for their “faith in [her] veracity to believe [her] story”(Le Fanu 248), as the vampire and what he or she represents was a new adversary to Victorian society.

     The journal takes on a whole new importance in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Out of all the characters, Jonathan Harker seems most concerned with journal keeping and writing in general. Upon entering the Count’s castle, Harker “found, to [his] great delight, a vast number of English books” (25). While Harker does not know the real reason as to why Dracula is studying England, it is important to note that he initially believes Dracula to be a good man because of his knowledge and collection of old literature. Additionally, Harker goes on to validate his own abilities through the letter written to the Count from Harker’s employer, Mr. Hawkins. The letter states that Hawkins “can send a suitable substitute, one in whom [he] has every possible confidence. [Harker] is a young man, full of energy and talent in his own way, and of a very faithful disposition. He is discreet and silent, and has grown into manhood in [his] service” (Stoker 23). It is this letter that also sets the tone for how the reader is supposed to view Jonathan, as while the novel may end with Harker being a courageous protagonist, it certainly is a gradual progression.

     At first, Harker writes in his journal for pleasure. “I am not sleepy, and, as I am not to be called till I awake, naturally I write till sleep comes” (Stoker 13), he notes, prior to traveling to Transylvania. But once he has stayed in the castle for some time, Harker begins to worry and uses his journal to both relieve tension and to attempt to rationalize his situation. Harker writes, “I began to fear as I write in this book that I was getting too diffuse; but now I am glad that I went into detail from the first, for there is something so strange about this place and all in it that I cannot but feel uneasy” (Stoker 30). The fear that Harker feels is alleviated somewhat by his journal entry, as it provides him with an outlet for his emotions and a record of what horrible sights he has witnessed. He is unsure what to believe is real, yet because there is a written record of such events, he is more at ease and more likely to believe what he has seen.

     The fact that Jonathan vows to never read his Transylvania journal conveys the feeling that he wishes to forget whatever events occurred on his journey. His Victorian beliefs make him uncertain of what really occurred on his journey, and it is this uncertainty that leads to the loss of rationality and the beginning of his deterioration into insanity. While Mina had vowed not to read such journal entries herself, she is compelled to after the couple come across an ageless Count Dracula, and thus she must transcribe his manuscripts by typewriter. Harker’s memoirs are first blamed upon “brain fever” (Stoker 95), but soon his sanity is validated due to the existence of his journal entries. Van Helsing, a man who seems to bridge the gap between Harker and the scientific Dr. Seward. He is allowed to read transcripts of Harker’s journal, and because of Van Helsing’s status in the British Victorian community, he is able to validate Harker’s account.

     In contrast, after Mina has recalled her encounters with Dracula, Jonathan notes, “As I must do something or go mad, I write this diary” (Stoker 252). In a way, Harker relies on the fact that Van Helsing validated his sanity earlier after reading his journal entries. But in this instance, Jonathan resorts to writing in his diary, as the written word is the only thing that makes him still feel rational and of sound mind. Furthermore, he “must keep writing at every chance, for [he] dare not stop to think” (Stoker 253), which conveys the feeling that Harker uses writing to soothe the emotional horror that he has just experienced. Additionally, it seems as long as Jonathan has a record of these occurrences, he is recognized as being of sound mind. In ways, it seems that if he stops writing, he will lose his ability to do so, and thus lose his sanity.

     When compared with Jonathan Harker, Van Helsing seems to represent a balance between technology and traditional (or primitive) methods. While Van Helsing may not have relied on his own records to validate his sanity, he uses academic and religious texts that he has previously read in order to corroborate his viewpoint. His reliance upon old texts is symbolic of the traditional Victorian values that he, too, represents, which is also a main reason as to why the men unquestionably accept his knowledge of vampires. It is Van Helsing’s knowledge which causes the men to believe his ideas, and accordingly authorizes the men to hunt down Lucy, and eventually Count Dracula himself.

     Lucy Westerna begins writing for a simple purpose: to imitate Mina Harker, and to communicate with her. Lucy’s first journal entries are out of disbelief, as she has just been proposed to by three different gentlemen callers (Stoker 56 - 61). Yet despite her hysteria, Lucy finds herself calmed by writing her letters to Mina. She, too, is enthralled with writing and keeping records, as she writes “I do not know how I am writing this even to you. I do not want to stop, for I do so want to tell you all.” (Stoker 57) Although Lucy is new to writing, she seems to be just as enthusiastic, or obsessed about writing as Mina, Jonathan, and Seward are. Mina describes Lucy as being “[own the East Cliff, reading and writing all day. Lucy seems to have become as much in love with the spot as I am, and it is hard to get her away from it when it is time to come for lunch or tea or dinner” (Stoker 90).

     Ironically, it is the men’s exclusion of the women that allow Dracula to have his way with Lucy and Mina initially. With the “new woman” of Victorian society in mind, it is quite interesting to note that the only female characters who write and keep records (Laura, Lucy, and Mina) are the only women attacked by the vampire. Yet with all the knowledge and technology that the “heroes” of Dracula possess, they are unable to save Lucy. When contrasted with Mina Harker, Dracula’s other potential victim, Lucy’s fate is clear. It seems as if part of the reason that Mina is able to be saved is due to the fact that she was already technologically adept and able to type. Furthermore, it was Mina who got Lucy started writing journals, as Lucy writes “I must imitate Mina, and keep writing things down” (103). With the deterioration of Lucy’s health comes the decline of entries in her journal. This symbolizes that as Dracula overtakes Lucy, her sanity and rationality are lost as well.

     Mina, similar to her husband Jonathan, writes for pleasure in the initial chapters of the novel. She writes “I am anxious, and it soothes me to express myself here; it is like whispering to one’s self and listening at the same time. And there is also something about the shorthand symbols that makes it different from writing” (Stoker 72). Because of the traditional roles of women in London, writing on a regular basis was somewhat of a new activity for Mina. In addition, Mina is able to both write in shorthand and type, as she “sometimes write letters in shorthand” and was “practicing very hard” (Stoker 55) to type and write in order to communicate with Jonathan. Although Mina is quite traditional in many respects, this seems to enforce the idea that Mina’s character is representative of the “new-world woman” in London.

     Mina finds much importance in keeping records, and almost writes compulsively as she states “Oh, but I am tired! If it were not that I had made my diary a duty, I should not open it to-night” (Stoker 86). Like Jonathan and Lucy, she also uses her writing to cope with the many frightful events, such as Jonathan’s lack of correspondence, as she writes “Another three days, and no news. This suspense is getting dreadful. If I only knew where to write to or where to go, I should feel easier;” (Stoker 73). Furthermore, it is often difficult for Mina to stop writing in her journal. She writes to Lucy, “I must stop [writing], for Jonathan is waking -- I must attend to my husband!” (Stoker 101), which conveys the feeling that even though Mina loves the written word, she abides by traditional Victorian values as loves her husband more and knows that her role in society is to tend to him.

     Similar to Lucy, once Mina has been bitten, the frequency of her journal entries declines. In fact, just prior to Dracula’s death, Van Helsing must take over her job as record-keeper, noting that “for as Madam Mina write not in her stenography, I must, in my cumbrous old fashion, that so each day of us may not go unrecorded” (Stoker 314). Mina’s lack of writing symbolizes the fact that even though the vampire has been vanquished, Dracula’s hold on her is still quite strong and her sanity has slipped away for the time being. The fact that at the end, Mina has typed and transcribed each men’s journal is somewhat comparable to the multiple blood transfusions that Lucy received before her death. While Lucy had four different men’s blood pump through her, Mina had to read and re-write four men’s accounts of the events. In this instance, however it saves the heroes’ sanity, as it was Mina’s transcriptions that allow them to continue to have records after the Count attempted to destroy them all.

     The importance and need that the “heroes” place on keeping records is exemplified on Harker’s note following the end of Dracula. He writes that “We could hardly ask any one, even did we wish to, to accept these as proofs of so wild a story” (Stoker 326 - 327). Van Helsing, Seward, Godalming, and the Harkers know that the general public would find such tales difficult to believe, which is quite similar to the situation that Laura and her family find themselves in Carmilla. However, they keep the records for themselves, as a reminder of the horror that they each experienced, and to remind themselves of their sanity. If these journal entries are to be read by others, they are to be read as a “warning” against the unknown element of the vampire.

     When examining the methods in which each character records their experiences, it is evident that each character incorporates elements of their personality in the manner in which they chronicle the incidents involving the vampire. For example, Dr. Seward records most all of his experiences into a phonograph, as his emphasis on technology symbolizes not only the idea that he is both modern and intelligent, but that Britain is beginning to rely upon technology and medicine. His journal entries, which are “KEPT IN PHONOGRAPH” (Stoker 62), focus more on facts than emotion. Whereas many of the characters obsess about love and sentimentality in their writings, Seward takes a logical and factual approach to his journals. Harker, on the other hand, records all of his experiences in his hand-written journal. As he chronicles the events by hand, the traditional method of writing, it is symbolic, as Harker himself seems to represent traditional values in London. In the middle of the binary of these two characters is Van Helsing, who uses the phonograph, the typewriter, and his hand-written journal to keep records. He symbolizes a mixture of old and new methods, both technology and the primitive. Mina learns shorthand for Jonathan, but in this case her learning shorthand symbolizes how she is the “new woman” of sorts. The method in which each character records their experiences adds depth and symbolism to each narrator and their experience.

     Dracula is told from several perspectives, expressed through journal entries, telegrams, and phonograph recordings. But it is interesting to note that two central characters, Dracula and Renfield, do not narrate in the novel, nor do they ever write in a journal, and in similar manner, we learn nothing of the vampire Carmilla from her own perspective. While Dracula is written as a collection of the records of the surviving “heroes,“ Dracula and Renfield’s exclusions are due to the fact that both are considered to be irrational beings who represent the unknown. Quite early in the novel, the Count states to Harker that he knows “the grammar and the words” of London, but he knows “not how to speak them” (Stoker 26). This seems to signify that Dracula is a primitive, Eastern being who represents irrationality and insanity, especially when compared to the other characters and their ability to write.

     Technology and the record keeping were quite important in Bram Stoker‘s Dracula, as phonographs and typewriters were cutting-edge technology in the mid-1800’s. While the journals kept in this novel offered a suitable form of narration and character development, they also reflected the characters’ needs to validate their values, actions, sanity, and rationality. By having records of the strange occurrences, the “heroes” of Dracula and Carmilla seem to believe that it will confirm their sanity to whomever may read their records. When many of the characters’ ability to write declined, so did their ability to function in society. By keeping written and recorded records of their plights against the vampire, the “heroes” of Dracula and Carmilla validate their actions, their sanity, and their society’s values.
Le Fanu, Sheridan, In a Glass Darkly. Oxford University Press, London. 2008.
Stoker, Bram, Dracula. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. New York, 1997.

“Validation of Sanity and Society in the
Early Vampire Novel”

Works Cited

Friday, December 17, 2010

Course Reflection

I definitely feel as if I learned a lot this semester, and I honestly enjoyed everything that we read -- and I especially enjoyed reading everyone‘s blogs. Throughout the semester , we explored the concepts of the Byronic Hero, the uncanny, and Orientalism, among other themes, and applied these ideas to the study of the vampire novel. I found this to be quite interesting, as while most may look at the obvious characteristics of the vampire and the vampire novel, there is much more beneath the surface.

The vampire is significant in literature because of what it says about culture. While early vampire novels often reflected (among other things) the decline of Victorian society, fear of immigration, and female sexual awakening, modern vampire literature conveys ideas of social anxiety, race relations, isolation, and love.  I had already read Dracula before this class years ago, but I looked at it in a new light because of this class.

I think out of all the novels, I enjoyed Matheson’s I am Legend the most. I had preconceived notions regarding this book because of the Will Smith film, but this book definitely turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Not only was it an entertaining story, the subtext, which revolved around isolation and race relations, offered an intriguing look at 1950’s America.

I wish I had experimented with the blog format a little more, although I think that it took a while to get used to blogspot. The online classes that I had taken before were all taught on D2L, which I will admit made it a this class a little difficult at first, making sure I was following everyone and that everyone was following me. But in the end, I found the format to be an effective and useful way to discuss the readings and discussion topics. I thought that aside from the novels we read, the best part of the class was reading everyone’s point of view on the stories and discussion prompts.

So far, I think my final project is coming along quite well. I’ve begun by analyzing the use of the journal by Harker, Mina, Lucy, and Seward in Dracula, and now plan to focus on the use of the journal in Carmilla and possibly Interview with the Vampire. I think it is interesting that in early vampire tales, the use of the written (and recorded, in the case of Dr. Seward) word is important in conveying the characters’ sanity and often times their implied superiority over the vampire and what the vampire represents.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Faceless Community and Castration?

     Lindvquist’s Let the Right One In seems to say a lot about the human condition of Cold-War Sweden and the lack of identity amongst its citizens. As always with the vampire novel, Eli represents a change from the norm, yet the fear that she instills into the city is different from the hysteria found in Carmilla, Dracula, and other vampire novels.
     I think that the essentially faceless nature of the townspeople correlates not only with the lack of history and culture in Blackeberg, but also with the stereotypical idea of Soviet Communism. As Calhoun states in his essay, “these marginal figures are forgotten wards of a welfare state, and in their drunken late-night wanderings are easy targets for predation” (27). While Eli and the fear of an unknown murderer does cause some in the community to take notice, I think that the general reaction is much different than past vampire novels, as there is an overall tone of indifference. I think that this novel correlates more with I am Legend’s perspective of vampires, in that as “marginal figures” (27), the townspeople represent the “old way of thinking”, whereas Eli represents the “new”, or the “evolved“. Even though Eli is over 200 years old, her lifestyle is definitely unique, and actually reflects a progression or evolution in life. This is similar to Ruth and the evolved vampires in I am Legend, as their existence makes Robert Neville’s own existence essentially pointless.
     The deaths in the novel do not affect the community in the ways in which one would expect, or as seen in past vampire novels (especially Dracula). Out of all the deaths of townspeople in the novel, the death of Virginia seems to affect Lacke the most. To Lacke, Virginia’s death seems to give the area a sense of identity or purpose, as the feeling (or Lacke’s sadness) spreads when “he started to cry. Not quietly, no, he wailed like a kid, but worse, more … the cry deepened, started to reverberate against the concrete walls. Lacke’s scream of primal, bottomless sorrow filled the stairwell from top to bottom, streamed through the mail slots, keyholes, transformed the high-rise into one big tomb erected in the memory of love, hope” (421). Yet in reality, there is nothing he can do about it. He is as powerless as he was in the beginning of the novel, essentially frozen in Blackeberg.
     I found the police‘s response to Virginia‘s death to be amusing, as “They had not believed [Lacke]. Or rather, yes, they had believed him but refused to interpret the events in the way that he did” (426). I like how “spontaneous combustion is just about as well-documented and scientifically proven as vampires” (426), which seems to show just how little the government or authority actually cares to take a look into crime (or the unknown) in the area. On that note, I’m wondering if the monotonous or faceless nature of the town could be related to Communism, whereas the government’s lack of concern could apply to the fact that Sweden was somewhat of an absent participant in the Cold War?
     The scene in which Lacke encounters Gosta’s multiple cats is one of the most intriguing scenes in the novel, even though I‘m not sure what to completely make of it. “A large gray and white cat was lying flat on the floor, looked like it barely had the energy to lift its head up. Gosta nodded at it” (332). The cat (“Miriam”) seems to say a lot about the town of Blackeberg, as the cats are complacent in their situation with Gosta. Lacke asks, “You’ve never thought about … having them fixed? Like castration, or whatever it’s called … sterilizing? You could make do with one sex, you know.” (332). The mention of castration definitely stuck out to me, as it seems to be a metaphor for Eli’s situation in Blackeberg. I think this scene is a great contrast between humans and animals, and in that sense, humans and vampires. The lack of energy in the cat seems to reflect broken nature of the Swedish people, and the fact that Lacke suggests sterilization seems to either reflect an overpopulation problem or possibly lack of identity. It is interesting to think about Lacke’s thoughts concerning “one sex” (332), as he almost makes it sound like it would be a step forward for the cats. In addition, with Eli in mind, this can be compared to not only his past but his possible future with Oskar.
     I wasn’t sure what to think of this novel at first, but it was definitely one of the most compelling that we’ve read this semester. I think that the generally emotionless nature of the community only enhances this vampire tale. In past vampire literature, a general theme is that the vampire will prey on innocence if innocence is not protected. No one in this novel is innocent by any means, and the indifferent nature of the community only enhances this idea -- on the surface, the community cares, but in reality, the community only does so because it is supposed to do so.  This is a great contrast to the relationship between Eli and Oskar, as they help each other because they want to, not because they have to.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Let the Right One In: Full of Contrasts

I think that Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In definitely flows with the progression of the vampire and the vampire tale. It is a novel full of character contrasts, and on that note, I think it would be interesting to compare and contrast Eli to some of the vampires found in earlier novels that we have read in this class.

To begin, it is obvious to contrast Eli’s situation with Claudia from Interview with the Vampire, based on their age and appearance. While Claudia is an aged being trapped in a young body, Eli has many difficulties with every-day vampire life because of her size and mental capacity. Claudia is able to grow mentally, yet Eli’s mentality reflects her young appearance. Whereas Claudia grew sick of Louis and Lestat and wished for her own independence, Eli knows that she cannot make it without assistance. But Claudia has a different relationship with Louis and Lestat, as even though they provide for Claudia, they also teach her the ways of the vampire. Eli has no one to teach her what to do, and even if she did, she still would not be able to feed for herself.

Out of all the vampire characters, I think that Eli compares and contrasts best with Carmilla. Both charcters are noticeably similar on the surface because of their young ages and mysterious nature.  I think that the relationship between Oskar and Eli is quite similar to the relationship between Laura and Carmilla, as the two are drawn to each other and are more comfortable together than with any other beings. I think that the scene in which Eli comes to Oskar’s house naked shows the bond that these two have. Lindqvist writes, “They laid like that for a long time. When Oskar could tell from his mom’s breathing that she had fallen asleep again, when the lump of their hands was warmed through and starting to get sweaty, he whispered: ‘Where have you been?’ … Oskar nodded, signaling that he wasn’t going to ask her any more questions, and Eli put both her hands under her head, staring up at the ceiling. ‘I was feeling lonely. So I came here. Was that OK?” (168 - 169). Even though Oskar is suspicious of Eli, he doesn’t care because he finally has someone in his life that accepts him for who he is. The fact that Lindqvist takes away Eli‘s sexuality adds a new dimension to their relationship. Oskar asks, “Then what are you?” (170), to which Eli replies “Nothing” (170). So far in the novel, Eli and Oskar’s friendship is one of mutual need for companionship. Oskar’s “friends” (105) clearly aren’t his friends, and Eli needs someone like Oskar in her life. In Carmilla, Laura was drawn to Carmilla because of her dreams, Carmilla’s beauty, and her newfound awakened sexuality. Carmilla claimed to love Laura, yet it is impossible to know if she was telling the truth or merely wanted to feed more off of Laura.

Within the novel itself, I think the contrast between Hakan and Eli is very interesting as well. In a sense, while Eli is the supernatural version of a monster, Hakan is the realistic version of a monster. Hakan will do anything for Eli, although he has his own motivations.

One thing I’m not quite sure about the novel is the constant use of urine and bodily functions. In a way, I think this contrasts to blood -- blood being considered pure, and the bodily functions being considered ‘dirty’. It is difficult to come to a conclusion because the taste of blood is often described by Eli as being impure. Lindqvist writes, “A waft of blue cheese filled Eli’s nostrils as she threw herself over the woman, pushing her mouth against her throat and drinking deeply … The blood tasted like medication. Morphine” (158). Since the narration is from essentially an omniscient perspective, we are given even more information about the vampire than we had from past literature. But the “craving” (161) for blood is contrasted with the human characters’ need for food -- life feeding on life -- which reminded me a lot of Renfield in Dracula.

I don’t think that anyone in this novel can really be considered “innocent”, although Eli and Oskar‘s relationship can probably be considered more uncorrupted than any other relationship in past vampire novels. As far as the title of the story goes, so far I can see it applying to both Eli and Oskar. They each fill a void in the other’s life, yet they are initially hesitant to let each other in because everyone else has let them down so much. Much like Carmilla, I am Legend, and Interview with the Vampire, I think that this vampire novel conveys the need for companionship and unconditional empathy.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Final Project Proposal

     For my final project, I’ve chosen to do Option A, the extended literary analysis. The idea that I’m leaning towards is analyzing the use of the journal-keeping and technology in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It is interesting that the nineteenth century vampire stories that we read in this class all were told from the journalistic point of view -- yet the different ways in which each character relates the tale says a lot about the characters themselves and Victorian society.
     I think in Jonathan Harker’s case, he writes in his journal to validate his own sanity. Mina keeps a journal and often corresponds with Lucy via letters, yet as she is drawn more towards Dracula, she quits writing. Dr. Seward and Van Helsing initially keep their journals as a means of professionalism and documentation of their studies, but as the story progresses, they write to keep their own sanity as well. I also find it interesting that at the end, the men rely on their journal to validate their experience. -- it’s almost as if the events that occurred wouldn’t be as important if there was not a record of them.
     I’d definitely like to compare elements of Dracula to some of the other works that we have read in this class. Robert Neville does not keep a journal, but relies on the written word to learn more about the vampires. Louis comes to “the boy” in order to give a tale of warning against the vampire lifestyle, not just vampires in general. But in Dracula, each character that keeps a journal has a unique perspective that is also symbolic of the ideals found in Victorian society at the time of Dracula’s writing.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Feasting on the Taboo: Why are Anne Rice's Vampires so Popular?

Feasting on the Taboo:  Why are Anne Rice's Vampires so Popular?
Option #1

        One of the reasons for the popularity of Interview with the Vampire and the Vampire Chronicles is the differences between the vampires in the Rice’s novels versus the vampires in past literature. Yet a major difference is that the vampires in The Vampyre, Carmilla, and Dracula were singular threats. They had no companion vampires, and we learned nothing of their thoughts, their point of view, and their motives. While the vampires of Interview with the Vampire feasted off humans, they sought companionship with other vampires. In his article Anne Rice and the Queering of Culture, George Haggerty explores these ideas and wonders why the Vampire Chronicles are so popular in modern culture.
        As the depiction of vampires has evolved over the years, what vampires have come to symbolize has progressed as well. Nineteenth century vampire tales (Dracula, Carmilla) were symbolic of fear of Eastern and Jewish immigration into Britain and Ireland. Neville’s relationship with the vampires in Matheson’s I am Legend could be symbolic of segregation in America in the 1950’s. It is only natural that the next step would be that vampires would come to represent fear of homosexuality. As Haggerty states, “Rice may well be tapping the vampiric past in her delightfully lurid tales, but she is also tantalizing the homophobic present with her sleek and sultry undead” (Haggerty 6). While her Vampire Chronicles may be based in past vampire lore, she has yet again modernized what the vampire has come to symbolize.
        Haggerty notes that “the homoerotic bonds that surface everywhere in Rice's Vampire Chronicles function as part of the self-consuming culture that has produced them” (Haggerty 6). I think this statement coincides a lot with what Colleen mentioned in Discussion Forum A last week: that Lestat might be “the nihilistic aspect of modern existence”.
        Much of the controversy surrounding Rice’s novels is because of the way she combines love, hate, and sexuality within her vampires. Haggerty writes about The Tale of the Body Thief and a scene in which Lestat drains the life out of a man he desires, David. Haggerty claims that Lestat “transforms his act of brutal victimization into an act of love” (Haggerty 15). He notes that “[Lestat]’s fantasy is one of possession: he wants to be David as much he wants to have him. It is as much about himself, that is, as it is about the man whose blood he tastes. As if to emphasize this, his love can only be expressed in this draining of life, this absolute possession” (Haggerty 15 - 16). I think this coincides with the idea that Lestat such a powerful entity that he does what he pleases and takes what he wants when he wants it. Not only does he desire this person, he takes everything from him (his life) so no one else can have it.
        Homosexual themes are certainly nothing new to the vampire genre, as Carmilla’s relationship with Laura implied female sexual awakening through the help of another female. “Rice's vampires express our culture's secret desire for and secret fear of the gay man; the need to fly with him beyond the confines of heterosexual convention and bourgeois family life to an exploration of unauthorized desires, and at the same time to taste his body and his blood; to see him bleed and watch him succumb to death-in-life” (Haggerty 6).
        As always, the vampire is more than just a vampire. Haggerty asserts that “[t]he vampire moves with the suave invisibility of the prototypical gay man: offering companionship, friendship, even love, before revealing his true and deadly nature; appearing silently and taking his pleasure ruthlessly; and suffering for his sexual transgression by being shut out from the light and condemned to an eternity of darkness” (Haggerty 9-10). According to Haggerty, “Rice is about undoing the homosocial and re-eroticizing male relations so as to reawaken the sleeping homosexual threat that at the turn of the century was just being laid to rest” (Haggerty 16). This is quite similar to the threats imposed by the vampires in Dracula, Carmilla, and I am Legend, as the fear of the unknown and loss of power to this unknown are embodied in the vampire. Anne Rice uses homosexuality to enhance the mystique surrounding her vampires. By transcending sexuality, Rice is showing that the her vampires have also transcended mortal life, yet retained the basic human need for deep love and companionship.
        Haggerty declares that the love between Louis and Armand is “the ultimate transgression. This is what culture finally represses: not sexual desire, but love” (Haggerty 15). Yet “[i]t is the measure of the homophobia of the work that Lestat and Louis can never really make love: they can only play at making house” (Haggerty 13 - 14). While many scenes might imply homosexual acts, Lestat, Louis, and Armand are more concerned with companionship and love, rather than sexuality.
        I think that Haggerty makes a good and interesting argument concerning why Interview with the Vampire and the books that followed it are popular. Having only read Interview with the Vampire and The Vampire Lestat, it was nice to read criticism concerning the novels I haven’t read, as it seems Rice’s vampires progressed along with their increase in popularity. I think that Haggerty is correct when he claims that “Lestat is queer, that is, because heterosexist culture needs him as a reflection of its own dark secret.” (Haggerty 7). It is easy to see why readers would want to know more about Lestat and Louis, as they are complete contrasts of one another: Louis is jaded and wishes to take as little as possible, whereas Lestat lives his afterlife to the fullest, taking whatever he pleases along the way. Combing the ‘taboo’ nature of homosexuality and American consumerism, Rice has created vampires that will certainly stand the test of time.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Online Artifact

The Progression of Sexuality and the Popularity of the
Modern Literary Vampire


     For my online artifact, I originally wanted to find a “vampire family tree” of the vampires from Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. Unable to find a valid source (most contained errors and omissions while offering no criticism of the text), I tried to find an interview with Anne Rice. The only problem was that a search for “interview” and “Anne Rice” turns up thousands of links to Interview with the Vampire, rather than interviews with the author. But during this search, I stumbled upon a piece of literary criticism that explores the progression of sexuality and the modern day popularity of literary vampires, both issues that we have written about in our blogs and discussion forums. This article, Love, Lust, and the Literary Vampire by Margaret L. Carter, brings a new insight to the progression of the vampire in literature and offers valid theories and criticisms of many of the stories that we have read this semester.
     The article, found at, compares the sexual nature and imposing threat of literary vampires of the past and present. Carter begins her essay by quoting author Carol Senf’s observations concerning Carmilla and Dracula, stating that “[c]ontemporary authors place ’increasing emphasis on the positive aspects of the vampire’s eroticism and on his or her right to rebel against the stultifying constraints of society’ (Senf 163)” (Carter). She notes that “the very qualities that make the traditional vampire a threat in nineteenth-century stories such as Carmilla and Dracula -- particularly his or her erotic power and unconventional behavior -- make the vampire appealing to twentieth-century readers” (Carter). This is particularly true when concerned with the vampires found in Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire.
     Carter makes a great point concerning Interview with the Vampire and Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles when she notes that “[c]ontemporary readers -- and writers -- more often see the vampire’s otherness and sexual ambiguity as alluring. Hence the more or less traditionally supernatural vampire, as transformed in the novels of such authors as Anne Rice and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, becomes attractive rather than horrible” (Carter). Lestat, Armand, Louis, and the other vampires in Interview are certainly less physically imposing, and often act more threatening towards other vampires and each other, rather than humans. They are given more humanistic qualities than vampires of past novels, similar to Ruth from I am Legend. Modern literary vampires are “exogamous naturalistic vampires [that] can retain much of the sexual magnetism we associate with Carmilla, Dracula, and their descendants” (Carter), yet at the same time, the vampires in Interview are also viewed as much less of a sexual threat. Carter observes that male vampires “in such novels [are] usually incapable of penile-vaginal intercourse” (Carter). Rather than posing a sexual threat to humanity, the vampires are more concerned with companionship instead of sex. Louis’s bonds with Claudia and Armand are out of sympathy and the need for a partner to spend time with and experience his new vampire lifestyle.
     In contrast, Carter discusses the role of the female vampire in literature and the progression of these roles in modern literature. Carter states that “[f]rom the feminine viewpoint, then, vampire sexuality as portrayed in fiction, far from being ‘incomplete,’ instead compensates for the defects in conventional masculine sexual patterns” (Carter). This can be applied to Louis and Claudia, as Louis was neither fatherly nor a protector as a human, yet he gains these qualities after Lestat’s changing of Claudia. Louis feeds on Claudia instinctively, not because he is a sexual threat or predator, but because he “was torn in agony” (Rice 89) over his needs as a vampire and his former human expectations. The vampires in Interview are more consumed with how to spend the rest of eternity, rather than pillaging society of its innocence.
     This is not to say that some of the vampires in Interview with the Vampire do not display animalistic characteristics, as Lestat describes them as “[p]redators” (Rice 82). But while the vampires in Interview prey on humans to an extent, they pose an even bigger threat to other vampires. Lestat remarks to Louis that “Vampires are killers! They don’t want you or your sensibility! They’ll see you coming long before you see them, and they’ll see your flaw; and, distrusting you, they’ll seek to kill you … they are lone predators and seek for companionship no more than cats in the jungle” (Rice 82). Yet Lestat, Louis, Claudia, and Armand want nothing more than companionship. So while the threatening image of the vampire has been lessened to an extent, they still reflect the mysterious and enigmatic qualities of past literary vampires.
     Although this article is written prior to the Twilight series and the rise in popularity of the Southern Vampire Mysteries/the True Blood television series, it clearly applies to the twenty-first century revival of the vampire novel in American culture. At times, Carter seems to credit sexuality too much for the revitalized popularity of the vampire novel, but she makes a great point when she writes that novels such as Interview with the Vampire “appeals to the reader by addressing the human desire to know the mind of the Other” (Carter). Whereas vampire novels of the past (Carmilla, Dracula) offer no narration or viewpoint of the vampires, Interview is told from the perspective of one. By changing to this narrative technique, the reader gains insight into the mysterious, as the “process of touching an alien mind constitutes one of the most powerful attractions of contemporary vampire fiction …. we get a glimpse into a mode of being somehow both human and nonhuman.” (Carter).
     I think that this online artifact provides a new aspect to the debate surrounding the revitalized popularity of the vampire. Having not read most of the modern vampire stories discussed by Carter, she does a good job of summarizing the progression of the vampire from the nineteenth century to present day. Sexuality is unquestionably a constant theme of the vampire novel, and Carter shows how this theme has progressed throughout the years. Yet the vampire no longer simply represents a sexual threat, as the modern “vampire longs for communication and self-disclosure as well as self knowledge” (Carter). Readers have been let into the mind of the literary vampire and have unquestionably decided that they want to know more.


Works Cited 
Carter, Margaret L. Lust, Love, and the Literary Vampire. Strange Horizons.
     July 22, 2002.

Rice, Anne. Interview with the Vampire. Random House Publishing, New York. 1976.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Literary Criticism

     In her essay “Echoes of Dracula: Racial Politics and the Failure of Segregated Spaces in Richard Matheson’s I am Legend”, Dr. Kathy Davis Patterson argues that the vampires in I am Legend coincide with segregation and the Civil Rights movement in America. Dr. Patterson contends that “the dramatic structure of Matheson’s novel contains a very clear, racially charged subtext that reflects the cultural anxieties of a white America newly confronted with the fact that it can no longer segregate itself from those whom it has labeled Other” (Patterson 20), or in this case, an “’Africanist’ presence” (Patterson 20).

     Patterson reminds the reader that “[t]he link between literary vampires and racialized constructions of monstrosity is nothing new. Numerous studies of Dracula, in particular, have explored the characterization of Bram Stoker’s infamous Count as an allegorical representation of late nineteenth-century British anxieties regarding the influx of large numbers of Eastern European Jewish immigrants onto English soil” (Patterson 19). Dracula, Carmilla, and even Polidori’s The Vampyre have all used Orientalist oppositions to suggest white cultural dominance over Eastern cultures that had relocated to central Europe. “Orientalism”, a term made famous by Edward Said in his book of the same name, is a term used to describe the ways in which the Western world views the East, or the Orient. John McLeod, author of Beginning Postcolonialism, writes that “Said’s Orientalism is a study of how the Western colonial powers of Britain and France represented North African and Middle Eastern lands in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries” (McLeod 39). It is partly through Orientalism in European literature that Britain and France maintained cultural hegemony over colonized nations and Eastern immigrants.

     Patterson argues that such Orientalism is present in Matheson’s I am Legend upon examining the relationship between Robert Neville, the story’s protagonist, and the vampires that surround his house in post-outbreak America. Works by authors Toni Morrison, Jules Zanger, Judith Halberstam, and Gwendolyn Whitehead are quoted by Patterson in her argument. According to Patterson, author Toni Morrison “defines ‘Africanism’ as ‘the denotative and connotative blackness that African peoples have come to signify, as well as the entire range of views, assumptions, readings, and misreadings that accompany Eurocentric learning about these people’” (Patterson 20). This mention of “blackness” (Patterson 20) and black characteristics are found throughout Matheson’s I am Legend, Patterson points this out by stating that “Halberstam’s mention of black Africans as ‘threatening Others’ is especially worth noting in the context of this study” (Patterson 19), as evidenced by Neville’s constant connection of the vampires to “blackness” (Patterson 20). Patterson observes that “Neville recalls the Black Plague and thinks to himself that ‘Something black and of the night had come crawling out of the Middle Ages’ (Matheson 28)” (Patterson 20). She relates this to a passage later on in the story in which a preacher compares the vampires to “a black unholy animal” (Matheson 113).

     According to Patterson, “Neville’s feelings towards the vampires in explicitly xenophobic terms and creates a subtext within the novel that makes racial difference and vampirism synonymous” (Patterson 21). She examines a section of the story in which Neville is drunk and rambles to himself about the vampires being a “minority element” (Matheson 32), ending when Neville sarcastically asks himself “would you let your sister marry one?” (Matheson 32). This inner-dialogue that Neville has is one of the best examples of possible racial overtones in I am Legend, as it relays his hatred towards the vampires to the reader while giving the impression that Neville could be talking about racial issues.

     Patterson makes note of the fact that Matheson is quick to describe Neville as “a tall man, thirty-six, born of English-German stock” (Matheson 14), yet “the vampires have no obvious racial attributes per se.” (Patterson 21). It is thus that she describes Neville as “a white man who barricades himself in his house and spends most of his energy trying to keep the monsters out” (Patterson 21). She remarks that “[h]e has established a segregated space that he fights to keep exclusively for himself, a small bastion of civilization in the midst of a suburban wilderness decimated by the effects of the plague. His character parallels, in many ways, the ‘self-conscious but highly problematic construction of the American as a new white man’” (Patterson 21). It is interesting to think of Neville in this way, as in I am Legend, the roles have truly been reversed: Neville, the human, is the minority in a world inhabited by undead vampires.

     Kathy Davis Patterson also relates Neville’s protection of his wife’s corpse to white society’s attempts to keep African Americans’ bloodlines out of their race. Patterson contends that “[i]n Neville’s worldview, hybrid blood equals contaminated blood.” (Patterson 23). But this protection not only relates to racial issues, as Neville‘s protection of his wife correlates with the male predisposition to look at women as a possession. Patterson declares that: 

The phallicism of the stake, however, ensures that the sexual connotation remains. After being infected by the bacteria that causes vampirism, Virginia becomes a contaminated creature who threatens to reproduce her contagion in others. Her staking at the hands of Robert, her still-human husband and representative of the American cultural status quo, is a final act of possession, a gesture of his exclusive rights to penetrate her body. (Patterson 23)Yet when Neville rids his wife’s crypt of a vampire, Patterson argues that a deeper act has been committed, as“[t]hanks to [Neville’s] efforts, [Virginia’s] body will neither produce nor nourish any vampires. Metaphorically, the white male has protected the sanctity of the white female body, thereby assuring the continued incorruptibility of white blood” (Patterson 23).

     I think that Kathy Davis Patterson provides a fascinating insight into Matheson’s story, as much of her argument is sound and based in past literary criticism. At some times, however, her theory seems a bit far-fetched, especially when concerned with “blackness” (Patterson 20) and Neville’s “protection” (Patterson 23) of his wife. Yet Patterson backs up her claims with enough evidence that I have certainly looked at I am Legend in a while different manner. I especially like that Patterson points out how at the end of the story, “it is Neville who has become stagnant, ‘passé’, a persistent stereotype that refuses to die” (Patterson 27). This criticism brings to mind many issues concerning race and the modern vampire novel. I find it interesting to wonder if Matheson actually intended his story to reflect so much of the racial situation of 1950’s America, or if it truly is “coincidence” (Patterson 19). The criticism also makes me wonder how the connotations regarding “black” and “blackness” actually found their way into literature -- was it because of religion, superstitions, or Orientalism? Patterson notes that at the end of the story, Neville realizes that he is also a “monster” (Patterson 26) and also part of a dying breed. But with Patterson’s racial issues in mind, it is interesting to examine whether or not Neville’s relationship with Ruth led to this understanding, and whether or not Neville himself feels corrupted and therefore must end his life. This criticism has made me think of I am Legend in a different way. Even if Matheson’s intention was not to base his story on race, past vampire novels and the stereotypes presented have made Patterson’s criticism of I am Legend valid and interesting to contemplate.
                               Works Cited

Matheson, Richard. I Am Legend. New York: Tom Doherty Associates LLC. 1995.

McLeod, John. Beginning Postcolonialism. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Patterson, Kathy Davis. Echoes of Dracula: Racial Politics and the Failure of
     Segregated Spaces in Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Byronic Hero in Post-Apocalyptic America

A Byronic Hero in Post-Apocalyptic America
Option #2

Robert Neville is a significantly different character than the typical hero of past vampire novels. In Robert’s apocalyptic situation, the roles have been reversed in a significant manner, as not only is he the “hunter”, he is also the “hunted”. Neville exhibits several of the traits of the stereotypical Byronic hero: he is intelligent to the point of arrogance, struggles with himself and the past, and holds a distaste for social institutions and norms. He is quite the contrast from the protagonists found in the other vampire stories that we have read this semester.  Neville’s depiction as a hero depends very much upon whether or not the reader sides with Neville or the vampires.

I actually found Neville to be most similar to Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, when compared to all the other stories we have read, because of the alienation and despair that he endures and the death that he dishes out on a daily basis. Neville sees it as his duty to rid the world of as many undead as he can, even though he knows that he is fighting a losing battle. “Despite everything he had or might have … life gave no promise of improvement or even of change.” (95). Having lost his wife and daughter, Robert has nothing left to lose -- the possibility of being shot for not burying his wife means little to him, other than that he will no longer be alive. Being the last “living” human being on Earth took its toll on Robert’s psyche, as “[t]he thought of forty more years of living as he was made him shudder” (95).

For being the last “living“ being, Neville is certainly not kind to himself. He abuses his body out of boredom and because of the solitude he faces, as “[t]rying to analyze it, he came to the conclusion that his last drunk had put him on the bottom, at the very nadir of frustrated despair. Now, unless he put himself under the ground, the only way he could go was up” (110). Robert knows that his only true escape is death, and for the most part, he does not fear death, as exemplified when he thinks to himself “I’ll drown myself in whiskey! Like Clarence in his malmsey, I’ll die, die, die!” (92). With all Byronic heroes, his tragic flaw is his need for companionship, as “he had clung to the hope that someday he would find someone like himself -- a man, a woman, a child, it didn’t matter. Sex was fast losing its meaning without the endless prodding of mass hypnosis. Loneliness he still felt” (101).

Robert’s interaction with the dog offers a great deal of insight into his loneliness and Matheson’s views on the food chain. Upon seeing the living dog, Robert undergoes a change, as he can no longer stand his loneliness and simply needs a companion. Matheson writes that “Somehow, though, he managed to ignore his iconoclastic self and went on praying anyway. Because he wanted the dog, because he needed the dog” (97). Similar to Heathcliff, Neville does whatever it takes to get the dog inside of his house. Neville is amazed by the dog’s intelligence and ability to survive just as long as he has, and even though it is another losing battle, he feels it to be his duty to nurse the dog back to health. The relationship with the dog is also representative of the dilemma he faces with the vampires -- “trust” (107). The dog does not trust Robert because of the actions of the undead. If Robert and the vampires were to even consider calling a truce, there would similarly be no trust because of everything that has already happened.

I found it quite interesting when Neville began to turn to science and technology in his search for the possible causes and cures of the disease. Neville’s relationship with technology is quite similar to his struggle against the vampires: as much as he loathes technology for what it has caused, he knows that it is the only way that he can possibly cure and end the disease. At the same time, as much as Neville taunts and hates the vampires around his house, he needs them in order to have a purpose in his solitary life. Neville obsesses about finding a cure much in the same way that Dr. Seward obsessed over his psychiatry but also in the same way that Carmilla obsessed over Laura and “the men” obsessed over Dracula’s demise.

I found Neville’s relationship with Ben Cortman, his neighbor-and-friend-turned-vampire, to be another interesting aspect of the story. Cortman’s taunting of Neville becomes expected after a while -- it’s almost as if it wouldn’t be nighttime without the vampire Ben saying “Come out, Neville!” (23). Neville, out of boredom and out of spite, plays games with the vampires. Ben Cortman and Robert Neville, two beings that were friends in a past life, are both out for each other’s blood -- yet when there is a possibility that Neville might not be the one to end Cortman’s undead existence, Neville feels distressed. “He couldn’t fight the sick apprehension he felt at the thought of Cortman’s being killed by these brutal strangers. Objectively, it was pointless, but he could not repress the feeling. Cortman was not theirs to put to rest” (159). I think this is a fascinating contrast when compared to Dracula and Carmilla, as the men kill the vampires out of fear, rather than spite. Neville knows that life as he knew it is over, and his post-apocalyptic lifestyle will come to an end sooner than later as well. Robert compares the situation to the “end of Oliver Hardy, he thought, the death of all comedy and all laughter. He didn’t hear the continuous full-scale of shots. He didn’t even feel the tears running down his. His eyes were riveted on the ungainly form of his old friend inching up the brightly lit roof” (160). Without a rival, Neville’s life would be even more unfulfilling -- just as he treats the undead as worthless unnatural beings, the undead treat him as worthless aside from the blood he will provide. Yet both need each other: Neville needs the vampires to keep his sanity, while the vampires need Neville to rally against and help form their new society.

Written in post-World War II American society, I found this story to be a great contrast to the other vampire novels and stories we have read this semester. Instead of a fear of Victorian decline, Americans at the time feared post-war change and the political based “Red Scare”, or fear of Communism. It is interesting especially as the roles have been reversed: instead of a society of humans fighting a single vampire, it was a society of vampires fighting against a single human -- “the world that was theirs and no longer his” (162). I also found Matheson’s usage and explanations of the stereotypical vampire hunting tools to be enjoyable. As Neville states, “Witches, vampires -- in all these feared being there was a sort of interwoven kinship. Legends and superstitions could overlap, and did.” (116). Matheson has twisted the archetypical vampire story into a new tale of survival, yet the underlying themes remain similar to the other vampire and gothic novels we have read so far this year.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dracula and Victorian Fear of Decline

Dracula and Victorian Fear
Option # 2

In his criticism The Occidental Tourist: Dracula and the Anxiety of Reverse Colonization, Stephen D. Arata conveys the idea that the vampire represents the “decline of the empire” and Victorian society. I think much of the subtext of the novel clearly has to do with Victorian society’s fear of loss.

In his criticism, Arata writes that Stoker “transforms the materials of the vampire myth, making them bear the weight of the culture’s fears over its declining status. The appearance of vampires becomes the sign of profound trouble” (465). This statement relates Victorian society’s fear of decline and the arrival or integration of the unknown. Harker facilitates Dracula’s moving to London, in essence, letting the vampire “in” to Victorian society. British fears concerning outsiders and outside cultures are manifested in the character of Dracula and what he represents -- this not only shows an Orientalist attitude towards cultures that are not British and do not reflect the ideal Victorian viewpoint, but also the coming change (and fear of decline) of British culture. Once Dracula is “let in” to Victorian culture, he corrupts and alters society to the point that the men are motivated to action -- they must drive the interloper from their (supposedly) pure society. As Arata states, “[t]he Count endangers Britain’s integrity as a nation at the same time that he impales the personal integrity of individual citizens” (465). The fears expressed by the men are the fears of Victorian society -- fear of the unknown, loss of power, loss of culture, and loss of subservience when concerning women. In essence, the vampire, or the outsider, opposes everything that Victorian culture stands for.

Mina’s saviors’ fears are rooted in Orientalism and Orientalist oppositions -- Dracula represents the unknown, the mysterious, and the non-British. The characters that come in contact with Dracula experience a regression of sorts from the typical Victorian lifestyle: Renfield goes mad and reverts to primitive ways. Mina and Lucy experience a sexual awakening of sorts, and many characters that represent the “old blood” (Lucy’s mother, Mr. Hawkins) meet their demise after Dracula‘s arrival.

The fear of the unknown relates to Said’s theory of Orientalism in which the notion that colonized nations are inferior is imposed on both the colonized and the colonizer. With this in mind, the coming of Dracula represents Victorian society’s fears of losing racial identity. Lucy succumbs to the power of Dracula, representing the fear that Victorian women might be corrupted by the non-British culture spreading across western Europe. Not only is Dracula from the anomalous Transylvania, his servants are described as “gypsies” (323), further exemplifying Orientalist oppositions. In essence, the men in the story wish to do what Colonial Britain poised to do: dominate and assimilate other cultures. Dracula stands in opposition to this philosophy, and therefore must be removed. It is interesting to note that Quincey, an American, is the only man who suffers death during the final encounter. I think this could be Stoker’s way of contrasting Quincey with the pure-blooded British men who live to tell the tale and to re-validate Victorian ideals. Quincey is described as “all man” (285), perhaps insinuating that although he holds physical power, he lacks the superior rationale of pure British society.

The loss of Victorian power coincides with the loss of female obedience and virtue. Mina is seen as pure and strong (or at least as strong as a woman is allowed to be), and thus she is able to survive Dracula’s attempts at corruption. Lucy, on the other hand, shows weakness and succumbs to his actions. Dracula distorts the Victorian ideas of what is right and wrong. The men’s attempt to save Mina doubles as Victorian society’s efforts to confine the female sexual awakening in Britain. With Orientalism in mind, it is interesting to examine the power that religion holds over the men and the vampires. Most Victorian ideas come from Christianity, and the power that religious iconography holds over the vampires is certainly of note, as it is the ultimate “squelcher” of the unknown.

I’m not quite sure if the reinvigorated popularity of the vampire in American culture is due to “a sign of profound trouble in our current society”, however it is an interesting idea to explore.   I really don’t think that the popularity of True Blood or Twilight is due to immigration issues or the Iraq war, however many of the themes found in Dracula are valid, especially if the vampire and other characters were transported to 2010 America. I think that over the years, the “mystique” of the vampire has become less frightening and more interesting -- rather than driving Dracula from the land, we choose to look closer. Orientalist attitudes still exist in America and other countries, however the modern vampire tale seems to work in reverse. As society is obviously much more “open” than it was in Victorian times, it is intriguing that we now choose to embrace the vampire and the vampire tale.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dr. Seward and Technology

Dr. Seward and Technology
Option #5
My blog this week is going to focus mostly on option #5, but it is difficult to discuss the character of Dr. Seward without mentioning technology, science, and Renfield (options 2 and 3). Much of Dracula is revealed from the perspective of Dr. Seward. It is through this perspective that we get a sense of the purpose of technology and science, two aspects of Victorian society that offset the presence of Dracula and the unknown.

Dr. Seward seems to represent the growing reliance upon technology and medicine in Victorian society. The simple fact that Seward’s journal is “KEPT IN PHONOGRAPH” (62), whereas the other characters physically write letters says a great deal about his role in the novel. While some characters (Renfield) keep no journal, and others communicate frequently via letters (Jonathan, Mina, Lucy), Seward keeps notes on his phonograph, which was innovative at the time as it had just been invented and few would have access to such a device. Seward’s actions reflect the use of such technology, as he tends to act and observe more logically (or factually) than the other characters -- unlike the other characters, his passion appears to consist of science and facts, rather than emotions.

Unlike the other perspectives used in Dracula, Seward’s journal entries seem to focus more on facts than emotion. This could be due to proximity to the Count, as Harker’s letters begin as being more fact-based, but soon turn towards emotion. Lucy and Mina’s correspondences focus almost primarily on their emotions. It is also through Seward that we are exposed to the frequency of Lucy’s sleepwalking and a medical perspective of Dracula‘s effects on a young Victorian woman. Seward notes that “Lucy walks more now than ever” (72) before choosing a suitor, which could be symbolizing that without the guardianship (or protection) of a man , Lucy would give into her impulses. It is also interesting to note that the only times when Seward shows emotion are concerning Lucy and her rejections of him.

Not only does Seward use the phonograph, he relies on it to validate his memories. Seward states that “I began a new record. So it will be until the Great Recorder sums me up closes my ledger account with a balance to profit or loss” (71). Instead of obsessing about sex or emotion, Seward obsesses with science and technology. He uses the phonograph to calm his fears -- in fact, it often seems that characters write (or keep record) to calm their fears. Seward does physically write when necessary to communicate (104-108), but prefers to use the telegraph. It is also because of Seward that Professor Van Helsing, another character who represents knowledge and science, is brought into the situation.

Perhaps the most interesting part of Seward’s diary is the asylum that he supervises. It is through Dr. Seward that we learn about the odd plight of Renfield, one of his patients.. Seward’s fascination with Renfield is definitely worth examining because it seems to slowly lead Seward into madness himself. Instead of the vampire causing Seward to stay up late into the night, it is his obsession with studying Renfield. It is also interesting to contrast the manner in which Seward observes Renfield with the way that Renfield interacts with his “pets” (69). I think much of Seward’s interaction with Renfield is representative of the advent of psychology. The theories of Sigmund Freud were being published and studied around the time of this novel, and although they might have been controversial at the time, they marked the beginning of psychoanalysis. Seward’s psychoanalysis of Renfield often follows Freud’s notions. Seward notes that Renfield “has certain qualities very largely developed: selfishness, secrecy, and purpose” (69). Not only are Renfield’s actions symbolic of the coming of the vampire, they offer an examination of primitive vs. civilized from the viewpoint of a doctor. As Renfield consumes his “pets” (69), Seward invents “a new classification for him, [calling] him a zoophagous (life-eating) maniac” (71). His fear of Renfield is also intriguing, as Seward notes “a strong man with homicidal and religious mania at once might be dangerous. The combination is a dreadful one” (96). The fear of the primitive is clearly noted, but it is also worth noting Seward’s trepidation with religion, especially when concerning the ways that Catholicism is used to protect the women from the vampire.

I especially find it is interesting to contrast the way that Seward appears in his own journals compared with the way that he is written about by others. Lucy remarks in a letter to Mina that Seward “is a doctor and really clever. Just fancy! He is only nine-and-twenty, and he has an immense lunatic asylum all under his own care” (56). Lucy is not attracted to him, rather, she is attracted to his position in society (although obviously not enough to marry him). In fact, Lucy suggests that Seward “would just do for [Mina]” (56), if Mina was not already engaged to Jonathan. Seward is described by Lucy as “the most resolute” (56) and “the most calm” (56) person that she has ever saw -- two traits also shown through Seward’s reliance on technology and science.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Carmilla from the Perspective of Orientalism

Carmilla from the Perspective of Orientalism
Option #4

     In the essay The Vampire in the House: Hysteria, Female Sexuality, and Female Knowledge in Le Fanu’s ‘Carmilla’, Tamar Hellar comments on the elements of Orientalism found in Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla. Carmilla exemplifies Orientalist stereotypes and binary oppositions, as the vampire and everything that surrounds her are shrouded in Orientalist contrasts.
     Having taken Professor Wilson’s American Indian/Postcolonial Literature class (English 520), I am familiar with the term Orientalism and its significance. To define the term, I simply had to dig out my English 520 textbook, Beginning Postcolonialism by John McLeod. “Orientalism” is a term made famous by Edward Said in his book of the same name to describe the ways in which the Western world views the East, or the Orient. McLeod states that “Said’s Orientalism is a study of how the Western colonial powers of Britain and France represented North African and Middle Eastern lands in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries” (McLeod 39). McLeod notes that “’Orientalism’ refers to the sum of the West’s representations of the Orient” (McLeod 39), and also observes that “Said shows how the modes of representation common to colonialism have continued after decolonization and are still very much a part of the contemporary world” (McLeod 40).
     Upon close examination of almost any text from the 19th and 20th centuries, the term “Orientalism” can be applied as many authors (some knowingly, some unknowingly) have asserted binary oppositions towards what is considered to be odd or ‘the unknown’ in their literature. McLeod states that “Orientalism constructs binary divisions … is a western fantasy … is literary … and acts as an institution” (McLeod 40 - 45). Orientalism essentially uses western or “civilized” stereotypes to compare what eastern and “uncivilized” lands are like and should be like. Nations that do not act in the western “norm” are quite often made to look inferior by drawing binary oppositions between western culture and non-western culture. Once Carmilla is exterminated (or executed), the Baron speculates that evils such as Carmilla could not come from within a civilized land such as Styria, as he “[assumes], at starting, a territory perfectly free from the pest” (318). Since Carmilla and her characteristics are far from the implicit “norm,” nothing of her kind could come from within a civilized society.
     Much of Carmilla’s secrecy is shrouded in binary oppositions and Orientalist ideas, beginning with the crash of the carriage. Le Fanu writes “she described a hideous black woman, with a sort of colored turban on her head, who was gazing all the time from the carriage window, nodding and grinning derisively towards the ladies, with gleaming eyes and large white eye-balls, and her teeth set as if in fury” (257). Laura’s father and Madame Perrodon immediately draw Orientalist oppositions, as Laura’s father describes the men as “ugly, hang-dog looking fellows … They are clever rogues” (257). In reply, Madame Perrodon remarks that “Besides looking wicked, their faces were so strangely lean, and dark, and sullen” (257), yet she is “curious” (257) to hear why Carmilla would be traveling with them to begin with.
     This brings to mind the “return of the repressed”, which is the process whereby repressed elements, preserved in the unconscious, tend to reappear, in consciousness or in behavior, in the shape of secondary and more or less unrecognizable "derivatives of the unconscious." ( This theory derived by Sigmund Freud in his The Interpretation of Dreams, focuses on the subconscious. Because we (or Laura and the villagers of Styria), have repressed certain memories, our thoughts and actions are influenced by what is being repressed. This applies to both what Laura has been taught and what happened in her first encounter with Carmilla as a young girl. Laura’s awakening (282) and new sexual feelings are dually influenced by the “norms” of Styria and what happened to her as a child -- the main reason that she does not give in completely to her newfound feelings is because she has been taught not to. This coincides with Said’s Orientalism, as people of a savage or uncivilized nature are considered to be primitive, and thus more animalistic and sexually free.
     Some of McLeod and Said’s descriptions of Orientalism struck me as imperative to the discussion of Carmilla and Orientalism, especially when concerned with Heller‘s essay. In his criticism, Said states that “Orientalism makes assumptions about gender” (McLeod 45), that “the orient is degenerate” (McLeod 46), but most notably, that “the Orient is feminine” (McLeod 45). Heller explores this notion in her essay when she writes that the “feminine invasion is figured in terms of imperialist anxiety, for Carmilla rides into Styria -- already, because of its orientalism, an only tenuously domesticated zone -- like the return of the repressed colonized Other” (84). I think that Heller’s opinion is justified and quite valid, as Carmilla’s sexuality and sexual nature threaten the male hegemony of Styria (and other Western cultures). Laura states that Carmilla’s “confidence won [her] the first night [Laura] saw her” (262), which shows that Carmilla is clearly unlike the stereotypical 19th century woman -- she is opinionated, assertive, and obviously a major contrast to any female Laura has encountered before. The fact that Carmilla attempts to impose her sexual feelings on another female shows the male fear of losing authority and the restructuring of power. She is described in exotic manner to convey her differences from the town of Styria and the conventional norms -- Carmilla exposes her history with “an ever wakeful reserve” (262), is surrounded by images of “black” (262), and constantly conveys a representation of the unknown.
     After taking a class that focused on Orientalism, it is difficult to read any text without Orientalist oppositions in mind. Knowing that most of the “classics” in literature are filled with Orientalist thoughts and oppositions is difficult to fathom, yet such Orientalist viewpoints must be examined to truly understand the text. While most of the oppositions in this tale were evident, they say a great deal about 19th century beliefs while adding to Carmilla’s mystique at the same time.


Works cited
Definition of Return of the Repressed -

Hellar, Tamar. The Vampire in the House: Hysteria, Female Sexuality, and Female
     Knowledge in Le Fanu’s Carmilla (1872)
. Harman, Barbara, and Meyer,
     Susan (ed). The New Nineteenth Century: Feminist Readings of Underread
     Victorian Fiction
. USA. 1996.

Le Fanu, Sheridan. In a Glass Darkly. Oxford University Press, New York, 2008.

McLeod, John. Beginning Postcolonialism. Manchester University Press,
     Manchester, 2000

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Catholic Vampire in Ireland?

Upon reading the first nine chapters of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, I think it is safe to say that the text is replete with social commentary on mid-19th century Irish culture. The character of Carmilla, a vampire dating back to the late 1600’s, is representative of the many changes Ireland was undergoing in the mid 1850’s. The text is a vessel to relate Le Fanu’s views on the awakening of female sexuality and the growing Irish Catholic culture of the mid-19th century.

The introduction to this text, written by Robert Tracy, offers good insight into Ireland’s circumstances and Le Fanu’s beliefs during the writing of Carmilla and 19th century Ireland -- if anyone is having trouble understanding the text, I highly recommend reading the introduction. Tracy begins by stating that “Sheridan Le Fanu’s chief interests were Ireland and the supernatural, interests which often coalesced” (vii). The interest in the supernatural is obvious throughout the first nine chapters of Carmilla, but it is interesting to examine the subtext in the Irish sense, rather than the universal stories that focus on British, French, or American ideas.

Tracy writes that “Political issues can be rephrased in supernatural terms when religion is intermixed with politics” (xx), most notably because these issues “aroused as the Catholic Irish began to assert themselves, especially in terms of the central issue of nineteenth-century Ireland” (xix). Much of Carmilla’s dialogue is suggestive of the Irish Catholic church’s teachings and beliefs, and Le Fanu‘s fear of their growing dominance over Irish society. An example of this is when Carmilla, in a discussion with Laura, says “Dearest, your little heart is wounded; think me not cruel because I obey the irresistible law of my strength and weakness; if your dear heart is wounded, my wild heart bleeds with yours … and you shall die -- die, sweetly die -- into mine. I cannot help it, as I draw near to you, you, in your turn, will draw near to others … but trust me with all your loving spirit” (263). This dissertation is reminiscent of the Catholic church’s teachings regarding the “holy trinity” and spreading the Catholic gospel. Carmilla asks for unquestioned trust, similar to religion, and the mention of becoming one is also quite similar to the Catholic view of the afterlife. This is also worth examining when contrasting the Irish Catholic view of eternal life and the archetypical vampire’s version of eternal life. It is also worth noting that Le Fanu’s letters written in the late 1860’s “show an increasing fear of Catholic power” (xxvi). Instead of blatantly writing out against the church‘s expansion, he projected his fears into an innovative vampire tale.

Le Fanu’s story also exudes the tension regarding sexual repression and awakening. With the broadening of the Catholic faith in Ireland and the changing culture regarding sexual repression, Carmilla must also be read as a rejection of the sexual repression of the time. I think that the best example of female sexual awakening can be found after Laura has the dream about the “monstrous cat” (278). Laura describes her encounter, stating that “Certain vague and strange sensations visited me in my sleep. The prevailing one was of that pleasant, peculiar cold thrill which we feel in bathing, when we move against the current of a river. This was soon accompanied by dreams that seemed interminable … they left an awful impression, and a sense of exhaustion, as if I had passed through a long period of great mental exertion and danger” (282). This passage goes on to describe the caress of Carmilla, as Laura’s “heart beat faster, [her] breathing rose into a sense of strangulation, supervened, and turned into a dreadful convulsion, in which my senses left [her] and [she] became unconscious” (282). This passage, although describing a supposed dream involving a vampire, can obviously be read in a sexual tone, an experience that Laura had only experienced before in a similar meeting with Carmilla. Tracy writes that “In the threat that Carmilla poses to Laura, we can see a fear of female sexuality which reappears in Dracula” (xxvi). The fact that the tale revolves around the feelings of two women is a great example of this, and the manner in which Carmilla serves as an “awakener” is quite symbolic of the fear of sexual awakening in Irish culture of the time.

I also find the whole metaphor of the bite, or the fact that Carmilla lives in part off of Laura, to be quite interesting. Great Britain was imposing its authority over Ireland at the time of this story, something that most Irish grew to detest. Although Tracy does not make much note of it, it is worth considering whether or not the fact that Carmilla drinks from Laura and uses the land could be symbolic of Britain’s occupation and “sucking” of Ireland. Tracy does note that Carmilla is “predatory” (xxiii) in her nature, something that could be said of the way that Britain implemented its will on the country of Ireland.

It will be interesting to see what becomes of Carmilla and Laura, although I expecting Carmilla to share the same destiny experienced by Dracula and other vampires of the time.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Psychic Vampire

A Psychic Vampire
(response to question #4)

After reading Wuthering Heights and Lakshmi Krishnan’s essay Why am I so Changed?, I completely agree with the assessment that Wuthering Heights should be read as a vampire novel. While not featuring any otherworldly monsters, Wuthering Heights presents duality, revenge, and passion in a way similar to a vampire novel. Although he might not suck the life out of his “victims” with his teeth, Heathcliff can certainly be considered a “psychic vampire” because of the way he drains the life from those around him.

Krishnan writes that “readings that view Gothic monsters as reflections, either of other characters, or of the readers themselves … [are] compelling, namely because of the prominence of doubling in Gothic fictions; as a literature that defines itself in opposition, it is appropriate for its creatures to be figures of contrast” (Krishnan 3). This statement alone provides a convincing argument that Wuthering Heights should be read as a vampire novel. Heathcliff’s loss and penchant for revenge provide a great example of this “reflection” (3) theory. I find it interesting that most of the binary oppositions found in this novel are found in the circumstances (rich / poor, educated / uneducated), rather than the characters. No one in the novel seems to represent a clear-cut opposition of good / evil. Similar to the archetypal vampire novel, there is no 100% “good“ or “evil.”

Bronte's Wuthering Heights echoes many of the same themes of classic vampire novels, such as passion, un-acted upon love, youth, revenge, and knowledge. Krishnan writes that “to decipher Gothic fiction, we must turn to its monsters, figures that embody its doubleness” (Krishnan 3). Throughout the novel, Heathcliff is referred to as a “fiend” (258), “villain” (254), and “wicked” (224). It is obvious that he is Wuthering Heights’ version of a monster -- not in the physical Shelley/Frankenstein or the Stoker/Dracula sense, but due to the fact that he dominates everything around him in misguided spite. With Krishnan’s statement in mind, I find it interesting that Linton claims that he would “rather be hugged by a snake” (258-259) when Cathy is being pressured to marry Linton. The duality between Cathy and a snake suggests the Adam & Eve myth, another example of passion gone wrong.

Heathcliff is described as the manifestation of a beast in a paragraph where he is engrossed in a fire. “Mr. Heathcliff paused and wiped his forehead … his eyes were fixed on the red embers of the fire; the brows not contracted, but raised next the temples … imparting a peculiar look of trouble, and a painful appearance of mental tension towards one absorbing subject” (273). Ellen “didn’t like to hear him talk!” (273), which only further exemplifies the duality of Heathcliff as a gothic monster. It is interesting that essentially every character that comes into contact with Heathcliff for an extended period of time ends up becoming ill. This is similar to what Lord Aubrey encounters in Polidori’s The Vampyre and what Harker, Lucy, Mina, and others endure in Brahm Stoker’s Dracula. The sicknesses portrayed in Wuthering Heights are suggestive of the loss of will to live. Catherine Earnshaw-Linton is as healthy as most young girls in London before Heathcliff returns to Wuthering Heights, yet upon his return, she feels “a sense of physical violence by the violent, unequal throbbing of her heart, which beat visibly and audibly under this excess of agitation“ (151) when in Heathcliff‘s presence. Her sickness coincides with Heathcliff’s increase in power, similar to the effect that a vampire has on its victims. Linton Heathcliff’s sickness is quite similar, as his father has, in essence, sucked the life out of him and refuses to help him -- it is all part of his plot. Upon Linton’s death, young Catherine remarks that he is “safe” (276) from Heathcliff, now that his father cannot make his life miserable any longer, yet Heathcliff has gained power from his loss of life.  Edgar Linton obviously wants to endure to make sure that his daughter is not corrupted by Heathcliff’s wishes. Edgar walks “feebly, and looked so pale” (245) throughout his final days, which is quite similar to the sickness that Aubrey endures and the effect that Dracula has over others.

Krishnan refers to Dracula as a “corrupter” (3), which is clearly what Heathcliff has become to Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. Heathcliff has a draining effect on everyone, although young Cathy is somewhat able to resist his inclinations as she rebukes him by stating, “Mr. Heathcliff, you’re a cruel man, but you’re not a fiend, and you won’t, from mere malice, destroy, irrevocably, all my happiness” (258). Much like the archetypical vampire, Heathcliff is only able to have effect on those who allow it. In a similar manner, Heathcliff himself feels a “torture” (272) from the loss of Catherine. While he “sucks” the life out of those around him, Catherine (or the lack of her presence) haunts and sucks the life out of Heathcliff.

While “there is no single, colossal vampire in Wuthering Heights” (Krishnan 8), I think that the effect that Heathcliff imposes on those around him is quite similar to those of a vampire. Instead of blood, he feasts on love and the lives of those around him. When he is not given love, he resorts to ruining the lives of those around him and, in essence, sucking the life from them.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Thorns and Seasons in Wuthering Heights

Bronte’s descriptions of both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange are representative of the characters inhabiting them and their disposition at the time. The descriptions of the landscape, although not frequent in the first section of the novel, give an additional dimension to the characters, especially Heathcliff and Catherine, and also indicate that obviously there is much more to their pasts to be revealed.

Bronte’s first description of Wuthering Heights sets the tone for letting the reader into Heathcliff’s complex and tumultuous life, as she expresses her choice of words with “’Wuthering’ being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather” (2). The appearance of Wuthering Heights during Lockwood’s visit is quite symbolic of Heathcliff and the despair that we do not yet know about. It is fitting that Heathcliff is described as “morose … some people might suspect him of a degree of underbred pride” (3). Lockwood describes a “grotesque carving” (2) at the threshold of Wuthering Heights, which also seems to be metaphoric of Heathcliff’s inner turmoil.

Later on in the novel, when Ellen is walking to Wuthering Heights, she describes a “weather-worn block … a hole near the bottom still full of snail-shells and pebbles, which we were very fond of storing there with more perishable things” (102). This is symbolic of Heathcliff on many levels -- the void in his life without Catherine, and possibly innocence or remnants of his early years still present in his mind.

During Heathcliff’s childhood, the Lintons’ occupation of Thrushcross Grange portrays the estate as a bit of a mystery. When Heathcliff peeks in the house, what he sees is “beautiful -- a splendid place carpeted with crimson, and crimson-covered chairs and tables … shimmering with little soft tapers” (43 - 44). The children are alone in a beautiful house, yet they are sad: “Isabella … lay screaming … Edgar stood on the hearth weeping silently, and in the middle of the table sat a little dog, shaking its paw and yelping” (44). While it may appear that the Linton children have wealth and nothing to be sad about, it is quite symbolic that wealth does not buy happiness.

I found Emily Bronte’s use of the weather and seasons to be quite interesting, similar to the way that Charlotte Bronte uses the seasons and elements in Jane Eyre. During Lockwood’s visit to Wuthering Heights, the weather is described as “misty and cold” (6). This is both foreshadowing of what he is about to experience and symbolic of the emptiness in Heathcliff’s life. Catherine’s longing for a different life are expressed when Bronte writes, “There was no moon, and everything beneath lay in darkness: not a light gleamed from any house, far or near -- all had been extinguished long ago; and those at Wuthering Heights were never visible -- still she asserted she caught their shining” (119). Before Catherine dies, “the scarcely perceptible wind fluttered its leaves at intervals” (148). She longs for Wuthering Heights and Heathcliff, as “[a]t Wuthering Heights [the bells] always sounded on quiet days following a great thaw or a season of steady rain” (148). The contrast of seasons, spring and fall, are contrasting what is about to happen to Catherine -- while her cycle is ending, her daughter’s is soon to begin. Additionally, after Catherine’s death, “the weather broke; the wind shifted from south to north-east, and brought rain first, then sleet and snow” (160). The turbulent weather is symbolic of what everyone feels -- the rain symbolizes a new beginning, and the beginning of winter is representative of the loss of Catherine -- life will not be the same for Heathcliff without Catherine.

I think that special attention should be paid to the use of thorns in the scenery and their use as a metaphor. Upon a re-read of the first descriptions of Wuthering Heights, I noticed a passage in which Bronte writes, “the power of the north wind blowing over the edge, by the excessive slant of a few stunted firs at the end of the house; and by a range of gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving alms of the sun” (2). This description is interesting when compared to a passage later on, after Catherine has gone to live at Thrushcross Grange. Bronte writes that Catherine living there “was not the thorn bending to the honeysuckles, but the honeysuckles embracing the thorn” (86). The fact that Catherine is referred to as a “thorn” certainly broadens the implications of the earlier description of Wuthering Heights, as it not only foreshadows her “haunting,” but it also seems to say that although Catherine was at Thrushcross Grange, her soul still remains at Wuthering Heights with Heathcliff.

I think that when reading the second half of the novel, it will be interesting to continue to pay attention to the descriptions concerning Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross grange, and to consider what feelings are being conveyed with the changes in seasons.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Before it was Cliche...

I found John Polidori’s The Vampyre to be an interesting, although somewhat cumbersome read, especially because so many of the events that occur were not cliché at the time of its writing -- this text was actually the “innovator” of what is now often considered the cliché vampire story. 

From what I remember of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, many of The Count’s characteristics are found within the character of Lord Ruthven, characteristics that have almost become stereotypical or comical in the “history” of vampires. 

This also coincides with Aubrey, as his character seems to be a mixture of Jonathan Harker and Mina’s suitors. Although Aubrey is not the narrator, The Vampyre generally consists of all of his experiences. This coincides with Dracula’s Jonathan Harker -- Harker records every event in his journal and letters, which is how the majority of Dracula is told.

I also found the sickness that Aubrey undergoes to coincide with Harker’s sickness upon meeting The Count. Polidori writes:
          Aubrey being put to bed was seized with a most violent fever, and was often
          delirious; in these intervals he would call upon Lord Ruthven and upon Ianthe--
          by some unaccountable combination he seemed to beg of his former
          companion to spare the being he loved. At other times he would
          imprecate maledictions upon his head, and curse him as her destroyer. Lord
          Ruthven, chanced at this time to arrive at Athens, and, from whatever motive,
          upon hearing of the state of Aubrey, immediately placed himself in the same
          house, and became his constant attendant. When the latter recovered from his
          delirium, he was horrified and startled at the sight of him whose image he had
          now combined with that of a Vampyre; but Lord Ruthven, by his kind words,
          implying almost repentance for the fault that had caused their separation, and
          still more by the attention, anxiety, and care which he showed, soon reconciled
          him to his presence. His lordship seemed quite changed; he no longer appeared
          that apathetic being who had so astonished Aubrey; but as soon as his
          convalescence began to be rapid, he again gradually retired into the same state
          of mind, and Aubrey perceived no difference from the former man, except that
          at times he was surprised to meet his gaze fixed intently upon him, with a smile
          of malicious exultation playing upon his lips: he knew not why, but this smile
          haunted him. (Polidori 13)

Although it has been a while, I remember Harker undergoing a similar sickness and fever, and Lord Ruthven’s actions are eerily similar to those of Count Dracula. Both Harker and Aubrey do not have complete recollection of their recoveries, which makes them unsure about their circumstances and their hosts. Yet what makes this scene different is that Harker is tended to by three females that attempt to seduce him and drink his blood.

Many of these same characteristics that Lord Ruthven portrays, although modernized, are prevalent in the works of today. While I have not read, nor seen the Twilight saga (thank you!), I have seen True Blood and several of the other “modern” depictions of vampires. It actually seems as if the depiction of the vampire has changed in the fact that the secrecy that Lord Ruthven and Count Dracula lived in are considered comical or over-used to the point of mimicry in modern works. I think it is essential to read works such as The Vampyre in order to fully understand the progression of the vampire from its inception.