Naomi Booth
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Vampiric swoons and other dark ecologies
in Swoon
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This chapter argues that the frequent swoons of vampire victims are blurred, altered states that are darkly and sensuously ecological: in vampire narratives, victims swoon into networks of predation, contagion, telepathy and environmental degradation, and the vampiric swoon displays a highly erotic and anxious imagining of interconnection and interference. The swoon iconises a pleasurable softening into receptivity that allows incursions of one body into another; and of different minds into one another. Some classic vampire texts are re-presented here (The Vampyre (1819), Carmilla (1872), Interview with a Vampire (1976)) focusing on the swoon as an initiation into a polymeric reimagining of mind and body – the vampiric swoon produces a mesmerised, ecological continuity between victim and vampire which is, at its most extreme, telepathic. The most famous vampire text, Dracula (1897), coincides with the early development of psychoanalysis and the swoon-states of the novel express deep anxieties about interference and thought transference, anxieties that were also important to the early development of psychoanalysis and to Freud’s treatment of swooning hysterics. The chapter presents a set of correspondences between the vampiric swoon-states of Dracula, the early hypnotic treatment of hysteria, and psychoanalysis’s anxious relation to telepathy and occult modes of thinking. Finally, it reads swoons in the context of pandemics: mass-unconsciousness events are considered in the relation to mass-extinction events and the zoonotic transmission of disease to think about violent, deadly, morbidly beautiful forms of interrelation.

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A poetics of passing out


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