Interviewing can be a vampiric act especially when it involves leeching from its subject
the fluidic exchange which exists between life and art. The vampire novelist Anne Rice had
agreed to let me interview her at Waterstones Bookshop in Bristol, England, on 26 January
1993 about the fourth book in her Vampire Chronicles, The Tale of the Body
Thief (1992). In the interview she describes the novel as dealing with the
differences between art and life and mortality and immortality. Specifically, the story
examines the paradox of choosing to be Undead for the sake of life, and the way in which
art opens up a locus for a redemption that is outside of life. In my view, the text is as
much about the process of interviewing as about authorship. A more obvious example is
Rice‘s well-known novel Interview with the Vampire (1976) in which the
hapless interviewer eventually enters into the very narrative he is recording by becoming
another Ricean revenant.
The body is a potential marker of monstrosity, identifying those who do not fit into the body politic. Irregularity and the grotesque have been associated with Gothic architecture and are also indicative of wayward flesh and its deformities. Through an investigation of the body and its oppression by the church, the medical profession and the state, this book reveals the actual horrors lying beneath fictional horror in settings as diverse as the monastic community, slave plantation, operating theatre, Jewish ghetto and battlefield trench. Original readings of canonical Gothic literary and film texts include The Castle of Otranto, The Monk, Frankenstein, Dracula and Nosferatu. This collection of fictionalised dangerous bodies will be traced back to the effects of the English Reformation, Spanish Inquisition, French Revolution, Caribbean slavery, Victorian medical malpractice, European anti-Semitism and finally warfare, ranging from the Crimean up to the Vietnam War. Dangerous Bodies demonstrates how the Gothic corpus is haunted by a tangible sense of corporeality, often at its most visceral. Chapters set out to vocalise specific body parts such as skin, genitals, the nose and eyes, as well as blood. The endangered or dangerous body lies at the centre of the clash between victim and persecutor and has generated tales of terror and narratives of horror, which function to either salve, purge or dangerously perpetuate such oppositions. This ground-breaking book will be of interest to academics and students of Gothic studies, gender and film studies and especially to readers interested in the relationship between history and literature.
This book aims to give new insights into the multifarious worlds of Angela Carter
and to re-assess her impact and importance for the twenty-first century. It
brings together leading Carter scholars with some emerging academics, in a new
approach to her work, which focuses on the diversity of her interests and
versatility across different fields. Even where chapters are devoted
specifically to her fiction, they tend to concentrate on inter-disciplinary
crossings-over as in, for example, psychogeography or translational poetics.
This collection is a response to the momentum arising from commemorative events
to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary since her death, including the first art
exhibition inspired by her life and work. The arts of Angela Carter builds on
existing scholarship and makes new interventions in regard to her
inter-disciplinarity. The arrangement of the material, indicated by the chapter
headings, draws attention to a variety of areas not normally associated with
dominant perceptions of Angela Carter. These encompass fashion, art, poetry,
music, performance and translation, which will be discussed in a number of
historical, literary and cultural contexts. The book will also explore her
interests in anthropology and psycho-analysis and engage in current debates
relating to gender, feminism and postmodernism.
Chapter 1 revisits the orthodox position that the tradition of Gothic writing is anti-Catholic. Even though Horace Walpole, author of The Castle of Otranto, was a Member of Parliament, belonging to the Church of England, his attitudes towards Catholicism were ambiguous. This is significant for a neglected reading of his novel, relating to the Henrician Reformation, which brought about the secession of Britain from Rome. The Catholic Church, when it came to be regarded as the enemy, was perceived as an institutional dangerous body, in which the Other was subjected to intense and relentless persecution, involving torture and execution. The novel of Inquisition will be put to the question over whether its ostensible opposition to Catholicism masked different agendas much nearer home. The bleeding body, as a site of the sacred and profane, opens up a conduit for reassessing religious attitudes of various Protestant Gothic novelists. In Matthew Lewis’s The Monk, the character of the Bleeding Nun will be discussed as a parody of the mystical stigmatic within Catholic tradition. Her blood line of demonic stigmatics will be traced from Lewis and his imitators up to Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Chapter 2 investigates the corrupting and corrosive effects of slavery. An association already exists between slavery and the rise of Gothic fiction through the West Indian connections of the major Gothic writers, Horace Walpole, William Beckford and Matthew Lewis. Mary Shelley’s new creation myth in Frankenstein draws not just on Prometheus and Adam but also, it will be argued, on the topical issue of the enslaved and the reluctance of many abolitionists to support the cause of immediate emancipation. Within this reading of Frankenstein as an allegory of slavery, the monster is considered as a demonised version of miscegenation and the fate of his female companion related to fears generated by rebel female slaves. Her resurrection in Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein (1935) demonstrates how surgery can be used for sexual purposes in creating a female creature, as indicated by the film title.
Chapter 3 discusses how surgical treatment was used to ‘correct’ women who had strayed from their traditional gender role. This forms a subtext to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a novel reflecting the social and political instability of gender during the fin de siècle. Several members of Bram Stoker’s family were doctors and surgeons, from whom he acquired clinical and surgical details for the writing of Dracula. Cases from the history of sexual surgery, including those conducted by Stoker’s brother Thornley Stoker, parallel readings from the novel, where the destruction of the female vampire will be viewed as a deconstructed narrative of surgical horror and medical tyranny visited upon the female hysteric, along with other women deemed sexually perverse. As Andrew Smith expresses it, for the female hysteric, doctors were ‘Gothic figures, inflicting pain and distress either through neglect or through a misplaced sense of surgical bravado.’
In chapter 4, the vampire theme continues with a discussion of Dracula, Jewishness and blood. It will be argued that the early film version of Stoker’s novel, Nosferatu, encrypts the ostensibly dangerous vampire body as a metaphor for the crypto-Jew. This approach informs the interpretation of E. Elias Merhige’s Shadow of the Vampire (2000) on the making of Nosferatu, which vampirises the earlier film. Besides looking back to the anti-Semitic imagery of Nosferatu, the film projects forward to the Jewish genocide perpetrated by fascist Germany, signified in a scene by a single swastika. This is an illustration of Jacques Derrida’s hauntology, which paradoxically predicts the spectre, a thing of the past, returning in the future. Both films contribute to a consideration of whether Nazi anti-Jewish films vampirically fed off the Gothic cinema of Weimar Germany
The most threatening collective of dangerous bodies is undoubtedly that generated by war, the supreme Gothic horror. The final chapter will conduct a wide-ranging exploration of the imagery, discourse and symbolism of vampirism in the context of warfare. Even though war is the ultimate blood-sucker, it has rarely been analysed as such. The metaphor is capacious enough to go beyond war in the abstract to accommodate most of the players and action involved. The vampire functions as a floating signifier moving across battlefields, as well as along the home front. This analysis seeks to demonstrate that the rhetoric and imagery of vampirism has a natural kinship with wars, ranging from the Crimean up to the Vietnam War. In 1879, Marie Nizet’s Captain Vampire used the trope of the vampire to send out an anti-war message. I will argue that her fiction influenced the writing of Dracula, which will be read as another war novel, and revisit Jimmie E. Cain’s argument that Stoker’s narrative is a rewrite of the British defeat in the Crimea. The novel has also been linked to the Berlin Treaty and the Russo-Turkish war, in which Stoker’s brother took part. A more recent example of the correlation between vampirism and war is Kim Newman’s postmodernist intertextual pastiche, The Bloody Red Baron (1996), in which World War 1 is reconfigured as a fantastical conflict within which vampires and humans are in combat. Between them, they convey the suffering and horror of war. As Martin Tropp points out, ‘by the end of the First World War, history itself had become a tale of terror’.