Tuesday, July 22, 2014
First published: 2011
The Blurb: Vampires first entered the pop culture arena with Bram Stoker's 1897 novel, Dracula. Today, vampires are everywhere. From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to the Twilight Saga to HBO's True Blood series, pop culture can't get enough of the vampire phenomenon.
Bringing her literary expertise to this timely subject, Susannah Clements reveals the roots of the vampire myth and shows how it was originally immersed in Christian values and symbolism. Over time, however, vampires have been "defanged" as their spiritual significance has waned, and what was once the embodiment of evil has turned into a teen idol and the ultimate romantic hero. Clements offers a close reading of selected vampire texts, explaining how this transformation occurred and helping readers discern between the variety of vampire stories presented in movies, TV shows, and novels. Her probing engagement of the vampire metaphor enables readers to make Christian sense of this popular obsession.
The review: I came across this through a Facebook Group and an article by Anthony Hogg. Now I am not a Christian (by a long shot) but the concept of the book seemed intriguing to me and I am always open to hearing a different viewpoint. Of course the joy of the vampire genre is that it is open to multiple interpretations and, as an archetype, the vampire is a malleable beast.
Clements covers the four vampire shows/novels mentioned above and the works of Anne Rice and attempts to show that the vampire has gone from the embodiment of evil to a romantic hero – as the subtitle relates – and of course this is true, except where the vampire is the embodiment of evil still, such as in such up to date series like 30 Days of Night. But she is not wrong that there is a definitive romantic movement in the genre. Interestingly she plots a secular course, where the tamer the vampire becomes the more secular the tale.
This was an interesting suggestion, though I’d suggest that the secularisation of the vampire is more to do with the general secularisation of society than it is the move to the romantic vampire, for instance in (and citing again) 30 Days of Night we have a rather secular take on the myth without the romance and with plenty of evil brutality.
Clements does, in my opinion, miss some directions she might have taken. She correctly argues that Dracula is a Christian novel. However her concentration is on the hunters and the apotropaic icons used in the novel. I think there was as much argument to be found in the fact that Stoker thought Dracula meant Devil, that he gave the Count the pseudonym Count De Ville and suggested he was schooled by the Devil in the Scholomance - indeed over time Hammer make the character, quite literally, the Antichrist.
Clements argues that Twilight is the most secular of the main series she looks at and her arguments are sound. Whilst Edward worries for Bella’s soul it is almost a throwaway comment and barely explored. However I think that the attitudes shown in the novel might reflect on the author’s social outlook and, being from quite an active religion, that may also reflect on her faith but this is not explored in here.
I think it would have been interesting to have explored I Am Legend as the movie took a totally secular novel, ignored or twisted the point of the climax of the book and created a very pro-Christian narrative. However that is just a wish list moment.
The book was well written and well argued, it was interesting to look at these things from another direction. It contains indexing and a bibliography - always a plus point. A worthy volume. 8 out of 10.