Monday, October 8, 2012

Vampires in the 19th-century imagination

English: A screenshot from Dracula Italiano: U...
Vampire-related lore had existed in pan-European folk legends for centuries before it went "viral" through Bram Stoker's Dracula and the subsequent film with Bela Lugosi (right). The anthology Vintage Vampire Stories collects many fascinating and diverse pre-Stoker stories from 19th-century authors, some of them published in America for the first time. Sabine Baring-Gould's 1865 Book of Werewolves yielded many details Stoker appropriated for his nocturnal demon, including canine teeth, pointed fingernails, and the ability to change shape, and Baring-Gould's intriguing vampire story "Margery of Quether," included in this volume, was one of several texts to which the Daily Mail compared Dracula in 1867 (the others were Wuthering Heights, The Mysteries of Udolpho, Frankenstein, and "The Fall of the House of Usher"). Also included is "Count Wampyr," an early draft of Dracula when Stoker was calling it The Un-Dead.
Interpretation of a vampire in a 19th-century Victorian engraving
Illustrations from the 1840s serial novel 'Varney the Vampire'
A depiction of female vampirism, Sheridan LeFanu's Carmilla (above and below) was first published in the magazine The Dark Blue in 1872 and in his collection of short stories In a Glass Darkly the same year.
Another film interpretation of a vampire, from Nosferatu, F.W. Murnau's classic German Expressionist horror film of 1922

21 comments:

  1. It's fitting that you ended with Nosferatu, still the high watermark for Dracula in film (in my VERY humble opinion). It's puzzling, however, that after all these years we can do no better than "Twilight" or "True Blood." Who then to truly carry the torch??

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    1. Hey! True Blood is quality television...

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    2. Ha, I knew that'd get your attention. It's "Days Of Our Lives" + vampires - talent = yawnfest.

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    3. Your argument is invalid.

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    4. I totally agree with Sookie, True Blood not only is quality TV, it's also probably the most entertaining show on the tube today!!!!!

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    5. YES, Penny! That and Honey Boo Boo. For sure.

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    6. I think there will have to be a rumble over True Blood's merits. I'm on the no side.

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  2. I wonder what our fascination with vampires is, since it has lasted such a long period of time and throughout many cultural eras? I mean, the vampire has always had a sense of romance to it, in the way in which it sustains itself -- usually taking the life from a young, beautiful maiden everywhere from the early stories to the more recent surge of vampire texts. Just my guess, we tend to go towards stories where an innocent woman is seduced by a creature who just can't help himself: see, every image in this post. What's interesting is when the women fight back (i.e., Buffy).

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    1. The combination of scary, inhuman monsters amongst us and the search for eternal life are very powerful tropes that play with transgression and taboos. I agree about the fighting back!

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    2. Seeing as how women have been depicted as vampires as well, and not just men feeding on innocent girls, I'd have to go with JP's theories. The fact that vampires APPEAR human but are not, paired with the immortality thing. What's more fascinating seductive than the idea of eternal life?

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    3. Woops there was supposed to be an 'and' in that last sentence. Embarrassing.

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  3. Love the illustrations, but what's Mark Twain doing tied up in the next to last one ? Sam Clemens, Vampire Slayer.

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    1. I think he's supposed to be coming through the door with a sword. But same caption applies!

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    2. Illustration's from Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla, a "lesbian vampire" who predates Dracula by 25 years.

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  4. The 1936 horror film Dracula's daughter has to be one of my favorite vampire movies, the plot picks up where 1931's Dracula left off, just as clever as the original. The modern day vampire films are always a letdown, The Twilight Saga = AWFUL, I think the last great blood sucking movie was 1994's Interview With A Vampire.

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    1. Definitely agree with you there. Interview With a Vampire was pretty amazing. But I still have yet to see a truly scary vampire movie... Lolz remember the version of Dracula with Keanu Reeves? Epic fail.

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    2. I am honored to have someone w/ your screen name engage on this topic! What a great character!

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  5. If you've yet to see a truly scary vampire movie, you probably haven't seen Mario Bava's Black Sabbath--one segment about "The Wurdalak" concerns vampires. And as inured as I have become to this absurd idea, when the child cries, "MAMA, I'm cold!", I felt the chill.

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    1. Wow, thanks for the peek into the arcane! I also want to see Penny's recommendation; hope it's on Netflix.

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  6. I vant to suck your blood

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