Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Lure of the Vampire – review

Author: Milly Williamson

First published: 2005

Subtitled “Gender, fiction and fandom from Bram Stoker to Buffy” this book is, as pointed out by the author, a book of two parts.

The first part of the book looks at the lure of the vampire as a cultural figure. Williamson begins by looking at Dracula and the impact that the novel had and the ways in which it can be read. This to me was one of the most fascinating parts of the book as Williamson, successfully in my opinion, argues that the Victorian readership were not bound by a fixed, and repressed, sexual outlook but, in actuality, the decade in which Dracula was written was one of sexual anarchy. Williamson tries to assess the impact the novel would have had on the female readership.

She then takes us forward with the vampire becoming less the figure of evil and more the sympathetic outsider and indicates that this change was not necessarily a modern one and had its basis in such works as Carmilla and Polidori’s “The Vampyre”. The discourse takes us through the Ricean vampire up to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The second half of the book more concerns itself with fandom and the way in which fans see themselves, interact and form hierarchies within fan groups. She also examines the source and impact of fan fiction and slash fiction.

The work is an academic piece and the second part of the book is, perhaps a little more than the first part, academically heavy. For those wishing to investigate the phenomena of vampires and their enduring popularity it might seem that a discourse on, and exploration of, the theories of fandom is unnecessary but it is much easier to understand the genre if one understands why people are drawn to both the genre specifically and fandom generally.

The book very much looks at this through the eyes of the female fan and contains quotes of interviews with female fans both in the UK and the US. One feeling I came away with was that there can be no absolute, for example Williamson postulates that the female vampire fan is more drawn to the sympathetic vampire than the malevolent figure of Dracula and, whilst I do not disagree with her analysis, I know many female vampire fans that draw great pleasure from Stoker’s novel and characters. Having read this book I am sure that this is a position (of there being no absolutes) that Williamson would not disagree with.

As I have said a very academic book, but an excellently written and well argued thesis that was well worth examining and offers much food for thought. 9 out of 10.

No comments: