Date of Award
Shari Hodges Holt
With its roots in Eastern Europe and rapidly spreading to Western society in the past few hundred years, the vampire has served as a double for humanity, with the division of self between monstrosity and the human ideal. Vampires in folklore and literature have been a means by which human cultures have identified concepts of human subjectivity (identity), particularly with regard to what various societies have defined as monstrous (being Othered) within human nature. This study examines how the vampire character evolves throughout the centuries, with a specific focus on the less monstrous contemporary vampires who form hybrid communities with human partners as reflecting a new, more inclusive definition of the human. The vampire, as shown in this paper, eventually becomes the ideal self that humans seek to become. Chapter 1 examines the evolution of the vampire in folklore, representing fear of those who refused to assimilate to cultural norms and symbolizing a host of societal anxieties about sexual, religious, and cultural nonconformity. Chapter 2 of this study examines Bram Stoker's Dracula as the quintessential example of the Gothic literary vampire. Dracula expresses the panic experienced in Western cultures during the nineteenth century due to changing definitions of human subjectivity, particularly with regard to class, race, and sexuality. Stoker's vampire embodies the anxieties of Victorian middle-class culture, including fears of humanity's animal nature, capitalist greed, homosexuality, and female sexuality. Chapter 3 discusses vampire literature of the twenty-first century in which the millennial vampire represents Otherness as a version of humanity's ideal self. In millennial vampire fiction, humans desire allowance into the immortal world, especially the female characters, who no longer fear the vampire's threat. Instead, modern women find their identity and empowerment through the relationships with their vampire partners, finally achieving sexual liberation and fulfillment. This study concludes that the vampire has continued to fascinate us as a symbol of both threatening and ideal concepts of human subjectivity because of its unique dual identity as a being that is undead yet alive.
Buckley, Kate, "The Evolution of the Vampire Other: Symbols of Difference from Folklore to Millennial Literature" (2016). Honors Theses. 504.