Speakers and Abstracts

*** Click on the arrows to expand author biographies and abstracts of papers

1 Prof. Nick Groom (University of Exeter)

Prof. Nick Groom has published extensively on the Gothic, writing on subjects ranging from eighteenth-century mediaevalist poetry to the songs of Nick Cave. He has edited several Gothic novels for the Oxford World’s Classics series, including Matthew Lewis’s The Monk (2016) and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (2018), and is the author of The Gothic: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2012) and, most recently, The Vampire: A New History (Yale University Press, 2018). While he has also written books on English customs, British identities, and literary forgery, he is known in the press as the ‘Prof of Goth’.

The bloody horde of vampires in the Villa Diodati

John Polidori’s epoch-making tale ‘The Vampyre’ famously arose from the ghost stories told at the Villa Diodati in 1816. Yet it was not alone. Other vampire tales were told and indeed written over that summer by the guests at the villa, one of which was to have a profound impact on global literature. This talk will therefore investigate eighteenth-century vampirology and its influence on the writings inspired at Diodati.

 

2 Dr Ivan Phillips (University of Hertfordshire)

Ivan Phillips is Associate Dean (Learning and Teaching) in the School of Creative Arts at the University of Hertfordshire. Since completing a PhD on the poetry of Paul Muldoon at the University of Wales, Swansea in 1998, he has written for The Times Literary Supplement, Critical Studies in Television, The Journal of Wyndham Lewis Studies, The Conversation and HuffPost, and published on subjects ranging from Thomas Chatterton to The Phantom of the Opera. A contributor to Sam George and Bill Hughes’s Open Graves, Open Minds: Representations of Vampires and the Undead from the Enlightenment to the Present (Manchester University Press, 2013) and The Company of Wolves: Werewolves, Wolves and Wild Children (Manchester: Manchester University Press, forthcoming), he has also written chapters for Paul Booth’s Fan Phenomena: Doctor Who (Intellect, 2013) and Andrzej Gąsiorek and Nathan Waddell’s Wyndham Lewis: A Critical Guide (University of Edinburgh Press, 2015). His book Once Upon a Time Lord: The Myths and Stories of Doctor Who will be published by Bloomsbury Academic later in 2019.

‘In their nocturnal orgies’: Polidori’s The Vampyre and the many inventions of special effects

The birth of the modern, popular vampire during the 1800s coincided with the emergence of the mass media technologies which have shaped the modern, popular experience. The fashion for ‘phantasmagoria’ shows from the late 1700s, the development of photographic methods during the 1830s and 1840s, the pioneering of moving-image technologies between the 1820s and the 1890s, the concurrent advances in sound technologies leading to the telephone and the radio – this timeline of technical progression is synchronous with the vampiric progression marked by such publications as John Polidori’s The Vampyre (1819), James Malcolm Rymer’s Varney the Vampire (1845-47), Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla (1872), and, of course, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897). Just two years before the appearance of the first instalment of Varney, Ada Lovelace’s notes on Luigi Menabrea’s account of Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine – widely considered to include the first computer programme – were published. Strikingly, between the first cinematic adaptation of Stoker’s novel, F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922), and the first Hollywood version, Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931), John Logie Baird perfected the earliest television (1927).

After dramatic guest roles in the poetry of the Romantics, the vampire evolved its modern character in step with the evolution of the technologies that would represent it. As the established traditions of literature and the theatre adapted themselves to contain this reborn monstrosity, along with others born in the period, most notably Mary Shelley’s zombie-cyborg Creature (1818), the new screen media of cinema and, eventually, television were faced with a challenge and an opportunity that had not been seen before. The folkloric vampire of oral culture, low-born, bloated, repulsive, had metamorphosed into the literary vampire, aristocratic, lithe, and strangely sexy, necessitating a distinct shift towards visual representation in printed illustrations and physical representation on stage. For cinematic manifestation, techniques were needed to conjure the undead before audiences hungry for the spectacle and thrill of the big screen. In many cases, these techniques were adapted directly from the practices of the theatre, but it became increasingly important for special effects practitioners to find their own ways of bringing the vampire to life. In the process, the filmic vampire – ethereal but visceral, shapeshifting but recognisable – became metaphorical, a symbol of the medium it was inhabiting. This paper, looking at examples ranging from Georges Méliès’ Le Manoir du Diable (1896) to the web series Carmilla (2014-2016), explores the meaning of the methods used to mediate the tales of Lord Ruthven’s descendants.

 

3 Dr Bill Hughes (OGOM)

Bill Hughes has a doctorate in English Literature from the University of Sheffield. His research explores the interrelation of the dialogue genre and English novels of the long eighteenth century. Bill has also published on Richard Hoggart, intertextuality and the Semantic Web, and contemporary Gothic. He is co-organiser, with Dr Sam George, of the Open Graves, Open Minds: Vampires and the Undead in Modern Culture Project at the University of Hertfordshire. Bill’s research and publications with the Project examine paranormal romance and its generic relationships with Gothic, Gothic Romance, and fairy tale. He is co-editor (with Dr George) of ‘Open Graves, Open Minds’: Vampires and the Undead from the Enlightenment to the Present (2013) and In the Company of Wolves: Werewolves, Wolves, and Wild Children (2019).

Rebellion, treachery, and glamour: Lady Caroline Lamb’s Glenarvon and the progress of the Byronic vampire

In ‘The Vampyre’, John Polidori, amplifying a fragment by Byron, famously transformed the grotesque monster of East European folklore into its sophisticated aristocratic literary avatar. His importance cannot be denied but he did not quite get there first; his harnessing of the Byronic persona as political satire and Gothic motif drew on his troubled relationship with the poet, but also on Lady Caroline Lamb’s notorious roman à clef, Glenarvon (1816).

Lamb turned her own attraction-repulsion to the poet into a Gothic and sentimental fiction of amatory seduction and betrayal alongside political revolt. Here, the eponymous Glenarvon is notably Byronic, feeding off Byron’s self-fashioning and Lamb’s mimicry of him while drawing on Milton and Richardson. Glenarvon is characterised with the melancholy nobility and satanic allure that spawned a series of vampiric heroes from the Brontës to the Gothic Romance of Du Maurier and others, and the sympathetic vampires of paranormal romance; he is ‘arch fiend’ and ‘fallen angel’, and howls at the moon (his ancestor drinks blood from a skull).

Glenarvon takes part in the anti-colonial Irish Rebellion of 1803, inciting the people with his rhetoric and personal charm. Glenarvon’s political persuasiveness is linked to his sexual glamour. Glenarvon’s women themselves become Byronic, denouncing God, family, and society, and swearing satanic vows of abjuration; Byronism is an infection, like vampirism. Glenarvon ultimately betrays both his women lovers and Ireland, yet remains an inspirational force, though the rebellions of transgressive women and nation are both doomed. With all these conflicting forces, Lamb’s novel shifts between an anti-Jacobin stance and radicalism.

Polidori’s revision of Ruthven strips away Lamb’s ambivalence, but by clearly marking the aristocratic demon lover as both Byronic and a vampire, inaugurates a literary archetype. Yet many of Ruthven’s descendants, both those that are only metaphorically vampiric and the more explicit incarnations in paranormal romance, resurrect the alluring mix of rebellion and faithlessness that Lamb depicted and whose progress I track in this paper.

 

4 Dr Sam George (University of Hertfordshire)

Phantasmagoria and spectriana: The legacy of Polidori’s vampyre from theatricals to vampire slaying kits

5 Marcus Sedgwick (Author)

Marcus Sedgwick is an award-winning author of over forty books, including novels for adults, young adults, and children. His 2011 novel Midwinterblood won America’s most prestigious prize for YA writing, the Michael L. Printz Award. In addition, he has written two works of non-fiction: Cowards, about the ‘absolutist’ conscientious objectors in WWI), and Snow, a monograph for Little Toller, as well as contributing previously to Open Graves, Open Minds on the folkloric origins of the vampire and the relationship between feral children, wolves and lies. Born in East Kent, he now lives in the French Alps.

Sexual contagions: Vampirism and tuberculosis

As part of an attempt over recent decades to explain the mythological existence of the vampire through pathology and physiology, various diseases have been promoted as playing a part in the origination of this creature in the human mind. Of these, strong attention must be paid to tuberculosis in respect to its role in the transformation of the folkloric vampire of Eastern Europe into the Byronic vampire of Western Literature. This paper argues that John Polidori’s The Vampyre and the doctor/author himself played a part in the ongoing and developing eighteenth-/nineteenth-century relationship between ‘consumption’ and vampirism, in which folkloric belief sought to explain the disease as the supernatural monster, literature played with the boundary between the two, and medical writing reinforced the connection metaphorically.

 

6 Prof. William Hughes (Bath Spa University)

William Hughes is Professor of Medical Humanities and Gothic Literature at Bath Spa University. He is the author, editor or co-editor of nineteen books including Beyond Dracula: Bram Stoker’s Fiction and Its Cultural Context (2000), The Historical Dictionary of Gothic Literature  (2013); That Devil’s Trick: Hypnotism and the Victorian Popular Imagination (2015), and Key Concepts in the Gothic (2018), as well as the co-edited collections Queering the Gothic (2009), EcoGothic (2013), The Encyclopedia of the Gothic (2013), The Victorian Gothic: An Edinburgh Companion (2012), and Gothic Britain: Dark Places in the Provinces and Margins of the British Isles (2018). He was the founder editor of Gothic Studies, and is a Past President of the International Gothic Association as well as a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

‘To fill my heart with deeper crimson’: Physiology and the fictional vampire

Polidori’s ‘The Vampyre’ has proved a paradigmatic text for subsequent narratives of the un-dead. Within its conceptual grammar, this short narrative establishes such enduring motifs as the connection between predatory vampirism and the seduction of the seemingly virtuous; the symbolic functions that may be embodied in travel and invasion; and the role of madness and incredulity in inhibiting an occidental belief in vampires. Lord Ruthven, specifically, has proved something of a model not so much for the physiognomy of subsequent revenants but rather for their characteristic complexion which is, arguably, derived from the ‘deadly hue of his face which never gained a warmer tint’. Ruthven’s descendants range from the bloodless Count Dracula to the bone-white Louis de Pointe du Lac.

This paper will consider first how Polidori’s Ruthven developed in specific contrast to those un-dead first reported to the English-speaking world, before interrogating why the literary vampire evolved from a ruddy to a pallid complexion. Making reference to literary and medical works across the breadth of the nineteenth century, the paper will explore the physiological and psychological implications of exsanguination and the symptomatology attendant upon vampiric predation. Far from being a truly occult phenomenon, vampirism is revealed in Gothic fiction from Polidori to Stoker as being very much founded upon conventional pathology, with many of the associated symptoms of vampiric predation – pallor, syncope, hallucination and the perceived tendency to sexual licentiousness – being likewise founded upon a familiar model which views both blood and brain as physiological organs.

Criticism has, strangely, often overlooked how frequently vampire narratives are written by those with a more than passing interest in medicine and the body: Polidori, of course, was a physician; Le Fanu, though himself a lawyer, was in constant communication with medical professionals due to the long illness endured by his wife; Stoker, another lawyer, was brother to two surgeons. Gothic is, arguably, the most medical of genres and within Gothic, the vampire narrative is specifically clinical in its consistent adherence to conventional human biology.

 

7 Prof. Gina Wisker (University of Brighton)

Gina Wisker is Professor of Contemporary Literature and Higher Education at the University of Brighton, with principal research interests in contemporary women’s Gothic and postcolonial writing. She has published Contemporary Women’s Gothic Fiction (2016), Margaret Atwood, an Introduction to Critical Views of Her Fiction (2012): Key Concepts in Postcolonial Writing (2007), and Horror (2005). Other interests are postgraduate study and supervision: The Postgraduate Research Handbook (2001, 2008), The Good Supervisor (2005, 2012), Getting Published (2015). Gina edits the online dark fantasy journal Dissections and the poetry magazine Spokes. She is a member of the World Horror Association, board member of Femspec and the Katherine Mansfield Association, and past chair of the Contemporary Women’s Writing Association.

From Polidori’s holiday escapes: Florence Marryatt’s The Blood of the Vampire, Sarah Smith’s ‘The Red Storm Comes’, and Moira Buffini/Neil Jordan’s Byzantium

Who would expect vampires at the seaside, with its promise of escape into a place and time away from the everyday demands of mundane life; its staid tea rooms and wine bars; its long history of offering eternal relaxation, indulgence, rest? The ostensibly calm, safe environment is also laced with potential and the allure of the strange and in flux, of fascinating foreign visitors from some other places, and of perpetual holiday. Vampires as we know them in literature have been, of course, the product of such holiday escapes since Polidori and his friends Mary Shelley and Byron each wrote Gothic tales one wild stormy summer in the Villa Diodati on the shores of Lake Geneva in 1816. Brighton-born Florence Marryatt, whose father wrote sea tales, aligns the lure of the exotic visitor and the premise of a coastal holiday escape (the South of France) giving us a rich foreign (Caribbean) female vampire, Harriet Brandt, daughter of a voodoo priestess preying on other rich holidaymakers. Sarah Smith’s bored young seaside visitor, stuck as the world is poised before the outbreak of the First World War, meets a handsome nobleman who shows her a sea of blood and offers to take her away from all this, forever. Byzantium the film is set down the South Coast in socially deprived, artistic, bohemian Hastings where the elderly come to live forever but desire, with a little help, to die in their own time, and where histories of enslavement, prostitution, dubious foreign trade, are replayed in the seaside business of two seventeenth-century vampire women hiding in plain sight, one as a care worker, her mother as a seaside hotel (and brothel) manager. Holidays and vampires are strange, alluring, potentially deadly companions. Be careful what you wish for.

 

8 Prof. Catherine Spooner (Lancaster University)

Catherine Spooner is Professor of Literature and Culture at Lancaster University. She specialises in Gothic literature, film and popular culture, with a particular emphasis on fashion. She has published six books including Fashioning Gothic Bodies, Contemporary Gothic and Post-millennial Gothic: Comedy, Romance and the Rise of Happy Gothic, and is currently co-editing The Cambridge History of the Gothic. She makes regular media appearances and has featured on shows including BBC Breakfast, BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking and The Steve Lamacq Show on BBC Radio 6 Music.She was co-president of the International Gothic Association 2013-17.

‘Now my clothes are right again’: Byronic vampires in the long 1960s

With the release of Hammer Studios’ Dracula starring Christopher Lee in 1958, vampire fictions began a new cycle. The Hammer vampire brought to the surface thinly repressed sexual desires; thus, as the 1960s went on, it became increasingly framed as the agent of sexual liberation and inciter of countercultural rebellion. This development was partly informed by the emergent counterculture’s recourse to the Romantic poets for inspiration, and in particular, the rehabilitation of the Byronic dandy as a model for countercultural masculinity. The Romantics were, intellectually and sartorially, back in fashion. Thus, while Stoker’s Dracula is the most overt inspiration for vampires in the 1960s, Polidori’s Vampyre exerts an influence in important and sometimes unexpected ways. These range from the Greek setting and preoccupation with mind-altering drugs in Simon Raven’s novel Doctors Wear Scarlet and its film adaptation, Incense for the Damned (1971), to the construction of the vampire as sexually charged, countercultural anti-hero in Jane Gaskell’s novel The Shiny Narrow Grin (1964) and the Hammer films Dracula, Prince of Darkness (1966) and Dracula AD 1972 (1972). The paper will argue that, as in Polidori’s fiction, the Byronic vampire is an ambivalent figure who simultaneously stimulates desire and moral revulsion, and who acts as a catalyst, illuminating the flaws of the society that surrounds him. Byronic vampires in the long 1960s thus operate as a tool for commenting on and critiquing countercultural excess.

 

9 Dr Stacey Abbott (University of Roehampton)

Stacey Abbott is Reader in Film and Television Studies at the University of Roehampton. She is the author of Celluloid Vampires (2007), Angel: TV Milestone (2009), Undead Apocalypse: Vampires and Zombies in the 21st Century (2016), and co-author, with Lorna Jowett, of TV Horror: Investigating the Dark Side of the Small Screen (2013). Her research expertise is focused on horror and gothic film and television, and has also written extensively about cult TV, including BuffyAngel, Hannibal, and Supernatural. She is currently co-editing, with Lorna Jowett, a book on Global TV Horror and writing the BFI classic on Near Dark.

I walk and the past walks with me’: Rewriting Polidori’s vampyre in Byzantium

Byzantium (2012, UK/Ireland), directed by Neil Jordan and based upon the play by Moiri Buffini, marked the return of Jordan to the vampire film following his 1995 adaptation of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire. In this paper, I will consider how the film revisits and builds upon Interview’s examination and articulation of Rice’s reluctant/sympathetic vampires, reimagined here as mother and daughter. I will examine how Byzantium explores the lived experience of the female vampire; their relationships, their passions, their storytelling and their desire to make a mark on the world. In so doing, I will demonstrate how these women, Eleanor and Clara, embody, and reimagine, a legacy of vampire texts, with a particular focus on Polidori’s Vampyre. In so doing, the film does not simply perpetuate the tradition of the passionate and melancholic Byronic hero but interrogates it through a dialogue with these earlier vampire traditions. Offering a feminist re-imagining of Polidori’s tale, Buffini and Jordan update the vampire for the twenty-first century by highlighting the voice of the female vampire, one which historically has been silenced.

 

10 Dr Sorcha Ni Fhlainn (MMU)

Dr Sorcha Ní Fhlainn is Senior Lecturer in Film Studies and American Studies, and a founding member of the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies, at Manchester Metropolitan University. She has diverse research interests in Gothic Studies, including vampires and serial killers and postmodern subjectivities. She is co-editor of the journal Open Screens: The Journal of the British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies and Reviews Editor for Gothic Studies, the journal of the International Gothic Association. Recent and forthcoming books include Clive Barker: Dark Imaginer (with Manchester University Press, 2017), Postmodern Vampires: Film, Fiction, and Popular Culture (with Palgrave Macmillan, May 2019), and a monograph on Gothic and Horror film in the long 1980s (late 2021).

‘The Vulgar Fictions of a demented Irishman’: Postmodern vampirism and the cinema of Neil Jordan

John Polidori’s The Vampyre (1819) initiates two tantalising elements in vampire fiction which continue to inform its postmodern iterations today. The discovery of a terrible secret and the forbidden, if not downright blasphemous, nature of vampirism itself haunts Polidori’s tortured protagonist, Aubrey, and informs the subsequent psychological haunting experienced by the young Englishman, knowing that one day, the vampire Lord Ruthven will return from death. The influential reach of Polidori’s tale has been undermined in popular culture, which often cites Stoker’s Dracula as the fount of twentieth-century and contemporary vampiric fascination; and yet, contemporary filmmakers, including Neil Jordan, whose cinematic vampires are the subject of my paper, return to numerous themes hinted at and haunting the margins of Polidori’s tale, ruminating on the guilt and terrible burden of vampiric secrets and the dangers of encountering immortals. Jordan’s own vampire films, Interview with the Vampire (1994) and Byzantium (2012), adapted to the screen from Anne Rice’s novel of the same name and Moira Buffini’s play A Vampire Story (2008) respectively, meditate on the horrid nature of immortality as a brutal, masculine force which threatens to strip away and destroy all remnants of emotional and feminine attributes—the lingering domain of humanity in these tales—in its wake. Jordan’s texts foreground a gloomy aesthetic and often beautiful expression of guilt-ridden terror which, alongside the adapted material, includes the return of Lord Ruthven (played by Jonny Lee Miller) in Byzantium to underscore Polidori’s literary legacy. Using Jordan’s films as exemplary vampire films in the Postmodern era, Jordan’s ‘vulgar fictions’ (which dismiss Stoker’s influence) disclose an unpaid debt to Polidori’s tale, and how influential it has been on Jordan’s own fascination with guilt, blood bonds, and immortality.

 

11 Daisy Butcher (University of Hertfordshire)

Daisy Butcher is a PhD student in literature of the Gothic and horror at the University of Hertfordshire, attached to The Open Graves Open Minds Project. Her thesis, ‘Vagina dentata: The representation of the female monster from nineteenth-century literature to contemporary film and television’, focuses on the monstrous feminine, psychoanalysis, and body horror from the nineteenth-century Gothic short story to modern film and TV. She is currently compiling and editing Evil Roots: Killer Tales of the Botanical Gothic for the British Library’s Tales of the Weird series; it will be released in Autumn 2019.

The legacy of Romanticism’s female fiends: Christabel, ‘Carmilla’, ‘Luella Miller’, and the psychic vampire

The female vampire has captured the imagination of writers and artists for centuries. She has a deep and rich history in mythology and folklore and it is important to analyse the ways in which she can be more compelling, terrifying and effective than her male counterparts. One of the earliest examples of the female vampire as we know it comes from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famously unfinished Gothic ballad Christabel (1797-1800). In this tale Christabel meets a mysterious woman called Geraldine and provides her with shelter. Christabel soon becomes bewitched under Geraldine’s spell and it is revealed Geraldine is not the damsel in distress she appeared to be. In this paper I will compare Christabel as a prototype for the psychic vampire and also elaborate on an element of sympathy for these monsters. Using Sheridan Le Fanu’s ‘Carmilla’ (1872) and Mary E. Wilkins Freeman’s ‘Luella Miller’ (1902), I will investigate this enduring strand of the female vampire as a reluctant psychic vampire with parasitic symbolism and lesbian undertones.

 

12 Dr Sue Chaplin (Leeds Beckett University)

Sue Chaplin is a senior lecturer in Romanticism and Gothic Studies at Leeds Beckett University. Her most recent publication is The Postmillennial Vampire: Power, Sacrifice and Simulation (Palgrave, 2017). She is the author of The Gothic and the Rule of Law: 1760-1820 (2007), and Speaking of Dread: Law, Sensibility and the Sublime in Eighteenth-Century Women’s Fiction (2004).

Polidori and the Postmillennial Vampyre

Current critical wisdom has it that the vampire of the new millennium has changed beyond recognition since Polidori. The postmillennial vampire is the humanised, often romanticised ‘vampire’ of hugely successful and lucrative franchises, rather than the mysteriously, monstrously undead ‘vampyre’ of Polidori’s tale. This paper examines the shift in the representation of the vampyre/vampire in terms of philosopher Rene Girard’s theory of the Sacred. Girard’s account of the relation between violence and the sacred, the devastating logic of ‘mimetic violence’ and the phenomenon of ‘scapegoating’ offers a lens through which to view the vampy/ire as a ‘sacred creature’ in a Girardian sense. This is the demonic/sublime Monster-God of myth that embodies, enacts and takes upon itself the violence of the sacred, moving by means of often rapid, complex symbolic shifts (to which exchanges and offerings of blood are always vital, argues Girard) from monster, to scapegoat, to ‘sacred creature’. In the new millennium, these transformations have acquired an extra dimension: the ‘sacred creature’ becomes the vulnerable ‘human’ subject; the ‘vampyre’, to quote Anne Rice’s Lestat, becomes ‘the vampire for these times, the monster that looks like everyone else’. This paper considers this remarkable shift as evidence, amongst other things, of the fragmentation of formations of the sacred in postmillennial Neo-Liberal Western culture, but contends that the vampire/vampyre still functions as ‘sacred creature’. This mercurial monster still embodies and enacts (often, crucially, through the exchange of commodified blood ‘products’) the violence of the sacred, albeit on very different terms. Lestat, for instance, ‘resurrected’ in late-twentieth-century America, immediately buys a Sony Walkman and a Harley Davidson. The postmillennial vampy/ire/’human’ is wedded to commodities and brands, and this paper ultimately argues that the transition from ‘vampyre’ to ‘vampire’, from Ruthven to Lestat and beyond, marks a displacement of (sacred) violence from blood bonds to brand loyalties.

 

13 Dr Kaja Franck (University of Hertfordshire)

Kaja Franck’s PhD thesis looked at the literary werewolf as an eco-Gothic monster, concentrating on the relationship between wilderness, wolves, and werewolves, and how language is used to demarcate animal alterity. She is part of the Open Graves, Open Minds research project for which she has co-organised the Company of Wolves conference (2015), the Urban Weird conference (2018), and this Polidori symposium. Previous publications include chapters on the depiction of (were)wolves in Dracula and contemporary culture, and co-editing the online journal Revenant’s special edition on werewolves. She has recently finished a chapter on the eco-Gothic for Clive Bloom’s Modern Gothic handbook,and an article on the Canadian wilderness and the Ginger Snaps trilogy for a special edition of Gothic Studies.

‘The deadly hue of his face’: The Genesis of the Vampiric Gentleman and his Deadly Beauty; Or, how Lord Ruthven became Edward Cullen

John Polidori’s Lord Ruthven has been identified as the beginning of the gentlemanly vampire. Unlike his progeny, Count Dracula, Ruthven is able to pass in polite society, making his seductive nature more insidious and damaging. Thus he predicts the arrival of late twentieth-century vampires such as Anne Rice’s much lauded ‘sympathetic vampires’. However, this paper will concentrate on Ruthven’s twenty-first-century children, the sparkling vampires of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight novels. By considering the intersection between gender, the Gothic, and consumerism, an innovative reading of Meyer’s addition to the clan of literary bloodsuckers can be offered.

Where Polidori’s narrative is focalised through Aubrey’s increasingly disgusted and disturbed viewpoint, Meyer’s novels usurp the masculine voice, replacing it with the object of the vampire’s desire, Bella Cullen. Aubrey’s sister, like Ianthe, is presented as the passive victim of vampirism; her desire for Ruthven is never confirmed nor explored. In comparison, Bella’s desire for Edward is explicit: Ruthven’s ‘deadly hue’ is replaced by sparkling attraction. Romantic tropes such as the blazon are used against Edward and female desire is a central theme within the text. The relationship between vampire and victim is inverted, as Edward becomes the passive object of Bella’s vampiric gaze. Moreover, he is complicit in this objectification, apparently receiving masochistic pleasure from being the centre of the gaze and denying his own desire.

Two hundred years after its publication, Polidori’s narrative, and its critique of consumerism and social mores, is re-imagined for a twenty-first-century audience who are attracted rather than repulsed by the Other/‘other’. Like Ruthven, the Cullens are at once embedded within and yet permanently removed from their society. However, rather than being symbols of social degradation, they are held up as an aspirational, wholesome family. Thus Meyer’s vampires act as reflections of consumerist desire for a society shaped by social media and celebrity culture.

 

14 Dr Jillian Wingfield (University of Hertfordshire) Dr Jillian Wingfield is an early career researcher, specializing in twenty-first century American vampire fiction. Her recent PhD from the University of Hertfordshire is currently being prepared for publication, and she is also writing an article on the American vampire for a forthcoming Edinburgh University Press collection.

Vampenstein: Shori Matthews as conjunction of undead and reanimated in Octavia Butler’s Fledgling.

Two centuries after the romanticised, pale, and potently masculine Lord Ruthven was conjured into being by John Polidori in The Vampyre, Octavia Butler’s twenty-first-century vampire Shori Matthews (Fledgling, 2005) transposes Polidori’s nineteenth-century narrative assumptions of gendered power and cultural governance into a contemporary articulation of female-dominated, empathetic, and compassionate ‘Ina’ vampirism. If this revision of the Polidorian paradigm were not sufficient in itself, Matthews’s vampirism also assimilates African American DNA, raising issues that connect this modern vampire not merely to Ruthven but to the preoccupations embodied in another of the Diodati narratives, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

This paper will examine Butler’s expansion of the Gothic through its focus upon Matthews, Butler’s central (and apparently) young female protagonist, who is positioned beyond the white male dominant, and will consider further how bio-scientific considerations underpin Butler’s interpretation of vampirism. Butler’s embracing of modern biological jargon to retreat from supernatural authority to a scientifically realised vampirism collapses a traditionally understood Gothic opposition between the rational and irrational, in many respects extending the implicit consciousness of Shelley’s creature to his own mixed heritage and, in so doing, imbricates the concerns of two of the Diodati novelists.

The creation of a vampire-human hybrid character whose genetic appropriation of African American DNA invites a questioning of otherness and, specifically, racially motivated prejudice upends the white masculine generic dominance that ostensibly starts with Polidori’s Ruthven. Through the narrative devices of violence, rejection and amnesia, Matthews becomes agent for generic interrogation, questioning and comparing perceptions of human-vampire interaction, assumptions of monstrosity, and fear. Neither post-human nor post-vampire, through genetic assimilation, Matthews represents a new Eve for the vampire genre, demonstrating its mutability and reminding readers that it is forever greater than the sum of its parts.

 

15 Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes (MMU)

Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes is Senior Lecturer in English Literature and Film and a founder member of the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies. He is the author of Spanish Gothic (2017), Horror Film and Affect (2016) and Body Gothic (2014), and the editor of Twenty-First-Century Gothic: An Edinburgh Companion (with Maisha Wester, 2019) and Horror: A Literary History (2016). Xavier is chief editor of the Horror Studies book series published by the University of Wales Press.

Vampiros: On the Spanish vampire

The history of vampires in Spain is rather patchy, evidently the result of a cultural context deeply affected by a long history of socio-political repression of the supernatural and of horrific fiction, perceived as superstitious and, crucially, as a foreign – and therefore not a national – product. Vampires, like the Gothic, did exist in Spain, but their popularity would only take root in the popular imaginary once a recognisable and exportable blueprint had been established by external models. Conversely, it would only be then, when these models began to be replicated, that the country’s vampiric production would be recognised internationally. Although Bram Stoker, for reasons I explain, only become an important source of inspiration later in the twentieth century, after the character had been popularised by Universal’s film, European vampire fiction, including Polidori’s ‘The Vampyre’, would have a noticeable impact on the development of Gothic and vampire fiction in the late nineteenth century. This paper offers a brief survey of key vampiric representations in Spain, centring on the tensions between innovation and influence of external sources, tracing the arrival of Dracula and giving some space to Emilia Pardo Bazán and her short story ‘Vampiro’ (1901), which offers a feminist twist on Polidori’s Ruthven. The paper then turns to the many adaptations of Carmilla in the 1960s and 1970s. The main aim is thus to understand the ways in which the vampire has been adapted and appropriated in Spain, and, to this end, the paper considers its parallel appearance in national literary and cinematic texts.