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2.3 - The Mutation of the Vampire in Nineteenth-Century Gothic

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 July 2020

Catherine Spooner
Affiliation:
Lancaster University
Dale Townshend
Affiliation:
Manchester Metropolitan University
Angela Wright
Affiliation:
University of Sheffield
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Summary

Legends about the vampire and the development of Gothic fiction took separate tracks throughout the eighteenth century in England and the rest of Europe. But they united decisively in S. T. Coleridge’s ‘Christabel’ (composed 1799–1800; published 1816), which then inspired the more symbolic uses of the vampire-figure in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and John Polidori’s The Vampyre (1819). These works showed that the vampire could be a symbolic site for ‘abjecting’ (in Julia Kristeva’s sense of ‘throwing-off’) the most feared inconsistencies and conflicts at the heart of individuals and their whole culture. From there, this mating of fictive schemes, empowered by the Janus-faced nature of Gothic symbol-making, proliferated across the nineteenth century in plays, penny dreadfuls and fully-fledged novels. As these versions of the Gothic vampire progressed, so the range of deep conflicts that this figure could abject, individual and social, grew exponentially, as we can still see in texts ranging from Sir Walter Scott’s novels and Charles Nodier’s French plays in the 1810s and 1820s to Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Florence Marryat’s The Blood of the Vampire in the 1890s.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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