Vampires and Vampirism Essay

Vampires and Vampirism Essay

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Vampires and Vampirism
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The vampire of today is most commonly associated with the type that was created by Bram Stoker when Dracula was published in 1897 (Florescu and McNally 221). This popular cultural icon is described by Stoker in his novel: "The teeth were strong and white, and the canine teeth protruded over the lower lip when the mouth was closed. The [vampire's] hands were large and powerful, the nails black and pointed like a bird's talons" (qtd. in Florescu and McNally 227).

However popular, the vampire-as-monster theme has not always been the primary way of employing this motif. The vampire of the English Romantics served more as symbol or as a metaphor rather than an actual character that haunted the night, plunging his fangs into the neck of unsuspecting victims to drain them of their life's blood (South 251). Indeed, the use of vampirism symbolically could actually be considered a "stock literary motif" in the nineteenth century (Grudin 52). The themes of sex and violence that are the essence of the vampire serve to expose the sexual and psychological uneasiness that reside deep inside human beings through interaction with these creatures (South 251). This creature is used as an element in nineteenth-century literature as a combination of all of the classic elements that distinguish the vampire from other creatures and to examine human experience.

The vampire's English literary life began in 1819, when The Vampyre was published. The author of this novel was John Polidori, Lord Byron's doctor and companion, who finished the idea that Byron had started but never completed. The popularity of this novel resulted in what could be called a "vampire craze" in the 1820s in both English and F...


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...e alive by moonlight while others will perish from the light of the sun. Some central similarities that span cultures are the importance of blood, the sexual connotation associated with the relationship between vampire and victim, the rancid odor they emit, the fact that they eat little, if any, food, and perhaps the most disheartening to humans, their inability to die.

The central themes of vampire folklore seem to be violence and sexuality (South 246). It is not difficult to relate the penetration of the (usually male) vampire's long fangs into its (usually female) victim and the ensuing ecstasy that results from the consumption of blood with the act of penetration. The vampire/victim relationship may also be seen as one of domination/submission because vampires were seen as power-seeking beings who will seek relationships that satisfy this need (Auerbach 6).

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