Metamorphoses of the Vampire in Literature and Film

Metamorphoses of the Vampire in Literature and Film

Cultural Transformations in Europe, 1732-1933

Erik Butler

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The first study to propose a unifying logic underlying the many and varied representations of the vampire in literature and culture.
For the last three hundred years, fictions of the vampire have fed off anxieties about cultural continuity. Though commonly represented as a parasitic aggressor from without, the vampire is in fact a native of Europe, and its "metamorphoses," to quote Baudelaire, a distorted image of social transformation. Because the vampire grows strong whenever and wherever traditions weaken, its representations have multiplied with every political, economic, and technological revolution from the eighteenth century on. Today, in the age of globalization, vampire fictions are more virulent than ever, and the monster enjoys hunting grounds as vast as the international market.
Metamorphoses of the Vampire explains why representations of vampirism began in the eighteenth century, flourished in the nineteenth, and came to eclipse nearly all other forms of monstrosity in the early twentieth century. Many of the works by French and German authors discussed here have never been presented to students and scholars in the English-speaking world. While there are many excellent studies that examine Victorian vampires, the undead in cinema, contemporary vampire fictions, and the vampire in folklore, until now no work has attempted to account for the unifying logic that underlies the vampire's many and often apparently contradictory forms.

Erik Butler holds a PhD from Yale University and has taught at Emory University and Swarthmore College. His publications include The Bellum Gramaticale and the Rise of European Literature (2010) and a translation with commentary of Regrowth (Vidervuks) by the Soviet Jewish author Der Nister (2011).

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Cultural Teratology
Vampire Country: Borders of Culture and Power in Central Europe
Vampires and Satire in the Enlightenment and Romanticism
The Bourgeois Vampire and Nineteenth-Century Identity Theft
Dracula: Vampiric Contagion in the Late Nineteenth Century
Vampirism, the Writing Cure, and Realpolitik: Daniel Paul Schreber's Memoirs of My Nervous Illness
Vampires in Weimar: Shades of History
Conclusion: The Vampire in the Americas and Beyond
Works Cited


[S]hows the author's ability to synthesize a great number of primary and secondary (critical and theoretical) works relevant to the vampire and horror literature and offers an informative, theoretical analysis of the cultural transformations of the vampire figure in literature and film. It will serve as a great auxiliary read for courses in folklore, English, or comparative literature dealing with this enigmatic figment of the human imagination. H-NET REVIEWS

[S]ucceeds in bringing a wealth of new voices from French and German scholarship to a field mostly dominated by English-language research. . . . [B]rings together a wealth of exciting literary, biographical, and filmic material . . . . [S]cholars and students interested in the monster will no doubt enjoy reading this book, and its individual chapters on the likes of Dracula and Nosferatu are a highly recommended read for courses on the subject. MODERN LANGUAGE REVIEW

[C]overs a lot of ground. . . . [E]specially informative for classroom use. MONATSHEFTE

Butler brings to the feast . . . a rare cross-cultural perspective. . . . He also, and very convincingly, calls attention to the instability of genre that haunts vampire narratives . . . . Not merely a contribution to the cultural explication of the vampire, [this book] also touches on . . . broader . . . social transformations of both eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe . . . with elegance and intelligence. VICTORIAN STUDIES

Butler's analyses of the development of vampire literature in the European tradition - most notably in France and Germany - are the most distinctive. . . A valuable contribution. CHOICE

Butler's study shows conclusively that the term "vampire" represents a construct that has been exposed over the centuries to semantic and medial processes of change while mirroring and intensifying them in a cultural sense. . . . [T]he work [also] shows that vampires as a popular export of the Hollywood film industry are returning above all to the place from which they emerged in the eighteenth century to conquer the world: to Europe. LITERATURKRITIK.DE

Provides interesting analyses of the . . . discourses shaping the vampire, and uncovers fascinating cross currents. GERMAN QUARTERLY

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