Undead aesthetics and mechanical reproduction – Dorian Gray, Dracula and David Reed’s ‘vampire painting’
This chapter focuses on Bram Stoker's handwritten notes for Dracula where the vampire's lack of a reflection or shadow is first located and where this conceit is extended to include its image in photography and painting. It discusses the contemporary artist David Reed, whose abstract painting is offered up as another version of non-reflection. Reed has responded directly to Stoker's Dracula notebooks in his own 'vampire painting', creating a compelling homage to the unmirrorable figure of the vampire. Walter Pater's description of the Mona Lisa as a vampire fired Oscar Wilde's imagination. Dorian Gray allows discussions of vampirism in the fin de siecle to map on to wider aesthetic debates and cultural fears around the relevance of painting in an age of mechanical reproduction. The theme of mirroring, of doubling, is extended to include uncanny or vampiric portraits in Dorian Gray.
The book explores crucial questions concerning human social existence and its animal substrate, and the intersection between the human and the wolfishly bestial. The collection connects together innovative research on the cultural significance of wolves, wild children and werewolves from a variety of perspectives. We begin with the wolf itself as it has been interpreted as a cultural symbol and how it figures in contemporary debates about human existence, wilderness and nature. Alongside this, we consider eighteenth-century debates about wild children – often thought to have been raised by wolves and other animals – and their role in key questions about the origins of language and society. The collection continues with analyses of the modern werewolf and its cultural connotations in texts from nineteenth-century Gothic through early cinema to present-day television and Young Adult fiction, concluding with the transitions between animal and human in contemporary art, poetry and fashion.
This chapter investigates the relationship, in reality, folktale, literature and popular culture, between wolves and untruth, in various forms. From the fables of Aesop to the cartoons of Disney, the use of the wolf as a metaphor for deception is long and appears deeply engrained in the human psyche. Basing an understanding of this metaphor on the fundamental nature of the animal appears at first sound, but starts to crumble when we appreciate that different cultures have not universally viewed the wolf in wholly negative terms of a ravenous, malevolent predator. Since the wolf appears frequently in hoax stories about feral children, the chapter goes on to study the very validity of the ‘wild child’ and concludes by discussing the obverse of the negative accounts of the wolf’s ‘wildness’. That this beast is free and natural thus appeals to some as a token for a missing link between ourselves and the natural world, which we have largely left behind us.
The Open Graves, Open Minds project discussed in this book relates the undead in literature, art and other media to questions concerning gender, technology, consumption and social change. The story of vampires, since their discovery in eighteenth-century Europe, is one of transformations and interbreedings of genre, which mediate shifts in ways of knowing and doubting. It is marked by metamorphoses of the vampire itself, from monstrous to sympathetic, but always fascinatingly Other. Certain tropes, such as optical figures, and particularly that of reflection, recur throughout, calling attention to the preoccupation with epistemology in vampire narratives. The book focuses on various aspects of these themes as the story unfolds to the present day. It shows how the persona of Lord Byron became an effective vehicle for the vampire of fiction as a transformed Gothic mode, and grapples with the figure of the non-reflecting vampire who casts no shadow, moving deftly between Dracula and Wilde's Dorian Gray and the 'vampire painting' and installations of the contemporary artist David Reed. The book gives a luminous account of early vampire cinema as a 'Kingdom of shadows', and explores the undead at the interface, where knowing becomes problematic: 'unsettlement'. The book also unearths the folklore roots of vampire fiction and offers a glimpse of how contemporary writers adapt the perennial figure.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book shows how the persona of Lord Byron became the effective vehicle for the vampire of fiction as a transformed Gothic mode. It analyses Le Fanu's 'Carmilla', with its seductive lesbian vampire, alongside his vampiric tale 'The Mysterious Lodger'. The book provides a luminous account of early vampire cinema as a 'Kingdom of Shadows', digging up lost cinematic texts which should be better known. It explores the Dracula's exclamation 'I, too, can love', and also examines the complex intertextuality involved with Dracula and Twilight, via Francis Ford Coppola and Anne Rice, drawing on adaptation studies. In addition, the book discusses the autonomy of the Undead, plotting an unusual argument drawing on theology and linking the monstrous with ideas of human agency and moral responsibility.