Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Historical and Autobiographical Approach to Carmilla

UPDATE: More material, academic papers, analysis & critique @ my current blog Elastic Collisions - 

Carmilla is narrated by a woman named Laura and encompasses an exciting tale of sexuality brought on by scenarios of forbidden love and influence. When reading Carmilla, it benefits the reader to consider the state of Ireland at the time. Wwritten in 1872, about twenty years after the great Irish famine, which killed off an estimated 20 to 25% of Irelands population, and right on the cusp of the Gaelic revivals, Ireland was having a national identity crisis, it’s culmination being the decline of the nations language.

When looking at Carmilla, she again is a forieng influence, brought on from abrupt, almost unknown, origins. She enters Lauras world and begins a path toward seduction of Laura, who is portrayed as more innocent. This gives Carmilla, the evil, lesbian vampire, a more evil nature associated with her sexuality.  She represents all the tantalizing elements that Laura does not want to partake in, but yet sorounds herself around.

Why the historical context and association of sexuality is important to know when looking at Carmilla, as when added to the knowledge of the authors background, one can see how Carmilla herself seems to be, in many ways, a representation of the authors wife. Sheriden Le Fanu was married to Susanna Bennet, who died under “unclear circumstances” (according to wikepedia article found at and also suffered mental illneses. She also was highly religious and suffered bouts with her own faith.

Carmilla challenges Laura’s faith the way Susanna had an internal one. These characters seem to be symbols for the author. Adding in the sexuality helps add a universal battle cry, a sort of inclusion, a recognition, of something his wife, or something they supported together.  

I also agree with student blog post (found at which wrote:

“Sheridan Le Fanu writes a story about a vampire that has sexual desires for her same sex, yet preys on her in the dark of the night. In my opinion it is clear that this book explores the subject of lesbian attraction in the form of Carmilla. From the beginning of the Camilla’s visit, Laura experiences a weird attraction to her new friend. But along with this attraction she also senses, though not sure why, that there is something about her that repulses her.”

This repulsion is interesting to keep in mind in conjunction with the image of Carmilla. She is a tormented dichotomy, both creating want and repulsion. The very nature of being a lesbian is something that would bother many in the mainstream, however, she is not always or completely denied. While this may seem like a lot to draw out of a character, consider the material; Carmilla is full of subplots. Overall, I found its writing interesting, and enjoy an author that touches on subject matter that probably ruffled some feathers.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Vampire Comparison: The Heights versus The Modern


Early on in the article Why Am I So Changed by Lakshma Krishman there is a point made by the author regarding the origin of Vampires: 

“In the tradition of gothic fiends, the vampire is one of the oldest; its legends flourished in Eastern Europe long before gothic writers appropriated the vampire for their tales.”

This is a interesting point to keep in mind, as this article will explore the difference between Wuthering Heights Byronic character of Heathcliff to modern vampire heroes too see if there is a cultural trend toward what vampires represent. Specifically, that in the beginning, vampires were fiends.

In the case of Heathcliff, he is considered a character that is a “Byronic Hero”; someone that is dangerous, arrogant but also able to adapt despite their own ability to self destruct. This is shown with Heathcliff especially during the climax of Wuthering Heights, near the end of the book, where he is still ‘followed’ by Cahtrines ghost, still aimlessly exploring catacombs. Whats interesting about Haethcliff is that his death becomes very obvious too the reader, that is, the fact that it is impending, but it is revealed very slowly as his own demise is quite slow. And in his death is what I find lies an example of the largest differences between modern and classic vampires. Most notable, from the start of the 1900’s with the introduction of film.

Much like the classic 1922 film Nosferatue, Heathcliff faces many moral questions and issues. Unlike Nosferatu however, Heathcliff does not give in to this. In a sense, he exhibits more of European upper class sensibilities of honor, despite being quite mad and narcissistic at times.

Heathcliff however dies by being passive. He accepts his fate, much as how all classes ‘should’, according to a monarchy, accept their fate.Nosferatue breaks this mold; he tries to have what he should not. And when he reaches for it, he is destroyed by his greed,

Other characters, such as Lestat in the film adaptation of Interview with a Vampire, gives in to his desires throughout the course of his whole existence, until the very end, and only seems more or less rewarded as he does not die but in fact ends up renewed.  This is also interesting as around this time Vampires are becoming more and more beautiful in appearance in their American iterations, culminating, of course, with the Twilight series, which has characters described as beautiful in both adaptations; film and novel.

Interestingly enough, when comparing modern vampires to Wuthering Heights, one comes to a perfect comparison with Heathcliff and Edward, the most modern of popular vampires. Despite the character of Edward in the Twilight series being  declared as “overly Byronic” (Kirkus Reviews,, he ends up living a rather charmed life. He ends up out of harms way and with what he wants. He does not die a terrible death, in fact, he brings an air of romance. His desires are not only given to him, in a way, it becomes expected as one reads the series. There will be adversity, but it will be overcome by these beautiful, powerful creatures. In a way, this leads to entitlement, and of course, this upcoming generations sense of entitlement, especially among the privileged.

Heathcliff is not a Nosferatu or an Edward, but in the endgame of all these characters we see a trend with modern literature; making the vampire less of an outcast, less of high society, and more titillating. Where Heathcliff did not completely give in to his revenge and instead gave into his own insanity, Lestat feigns repentance. Where Heathcliff demonstrates abilities to rise and fall, Edward ends up taking honeymoons with his newborn child while reading the minds of people miles away. Beauty is retained for these new vampires of the masses, but for Heathcliff, in a way an example of high society values, in today's eyes, represents a Byronic hero type that I wish modern mediums would gravitate more toward; something that ends up as dust.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

When one Character is all the Atmosphere; Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights is a tale from one half of a pair of author sisters that moves slow and captures many elements of being incredibly enveloped in the industrial revolution. So many aspects of this time period come out in one character specificly, who almost cries back out at a certain class of people; his friends and family. The chief element moving these themes in this novel is the relationship between characters, and then the characters themselves. Emily Bronte creates detailed, deliberately paced atmosphere, with the characters again being a chief tool used to employ this. Many characters have contrasting views and they form cliques, while the reader witnesses their growth.

The foundation of the styles employed on Wuthering Heights is in its setting, use of nature, and of course, the very notable character of Heathcliff. The setup for it’s story and natures role is explained quite early with the character of Nelly Dean, the narrator of the story, who herself believes in apparitions. What’s interesting is that this superstition, which captures the characters in time, is what binds characters together.  The aspect of nature is what I found very profound as well, with bits pantheism. Indeed, the characters who are early on waiting out the storm are in a desolate place. There is a glorification about the weather, and at a time when people are finding divinity in the forces of nature (this is also a way to make the construct of nature more appealing; think less about the earthquakes, more about the rainbows) it forces an experience that is frightening. It is the message bearer, as opposed to the reflection of a god’s beauty. 

In support of this is the character Heathcliff.  He is an all encompassing example of the Byronic character. His behavior is destructive but he is also himself seductive. Of course this makes for an exciting read; by chapter 17, Heathcliff has turned into a character so hated that Isabella even prays for his death and questions his capability at holding onto his own humanity. He himself has strange aspects of humanity; sudden gained wealth, small bouts of anger but no actual hints toward what a feared character he is becoming. He strikes so much fear, some characters even enter seclusion because their fear of crossing paths with Heathcliff forces them into hiding. He himself is also supernatural and tied into nature; as well as not explaining forms of his wealth and intelligence, his past is mostly a secret, his upbringings unknown to the reader, large chunks of time missing. Heathcliff is turning more and more miserable, yet he is capable of enchanting many people. At this point however, he seems more content on being moody and less like what was described as someone so much like the women he loved they found themselves unworthy. Heathcliff, in chapter 9, starts to let his true intentions known, thus fulfilling even moreso, his role as a  Byronic heroe; “You are welcome to torture me to death for your amusement, only allow me to amuse myself a little in the same style…”

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

On Polidori's "The Vampyre"

UPDATE: More material, academic papers, analysis & critique @ my current blog Elastic Collisions -

Polidori  crafts an image that is very much made obvious to the reader, as if there are certain elements of imagery he wants there to be no question about. Seemingly, the author wants the reader to know that these men, the protagonist Lord Ruthven and his traveling coming of age cohort named Aubrey, are the very objects of nepotism, straight from a silver spoon. This starts immediately with the opening scene to the story, which is one of grandeur. A man enters a location that is beautiful and seemingly perfect, leading the very men he enters with, but feels he is unable to completely participate with the scene in front of him. Yet he attracts everyone around him; he is a beautiful contradiction. A charmer, someone with a "reputation of a winning tongue". However, this man turns into a stranger being, in fact, the character of Lord Ruthven even starts to take on elements that hint toward the tension of immigration at the time. Many stories, especially from the early 19th century, have hinted toward a fear of foreigners (Dracula himself is a foreigner from Transylvania).

The reaction to Ruthven as a character in “The Vampyre” is strong. Aubrey believes Ruthven to be a "hero of romance" but shortly after he is now assuming "the appearance of something supernatural". Ruthven is a character that does not belong in the society around him; he feels as if he is emulating it and this becomes obvious as his charm is revealed to be a protective layer. After Aubrey has a conversation with Ianthe, who is “unconscious of his love”, his suspicion grows.

It seems that noted literary critic Auerbach believes that Ruthven is only "half-encumbered" by his body and "immune to the rules of physical existence..." (Giving up the Ghost p21). This allows for gender play, sexual exploration and, most notably it seems for the 19th century, what would normally be 'taboo' storytelling in a way that is perhaps more publishable. What I find interesting, or rather, what I find interesting and would like to know, is what critics thought of this material in the time period. It is all very exciting so therefore it strikes me as pop material; something to titillate, to bring fear. This material is usually what the masses will gravitate toward, understandably and especially in this time (with the industrial revolution happening, there were few landscapes worth looking at to the eyes of many people). Were these books and articles respected by the high society? If they were not, it strikes me as humorous; the characters use the rich as a smoke screen to attack them.  Not only does Ruthven, the foreign, beautiful and titillating man use this smoke screen, he takes from them their most promising young and ruins it for personal gain.

With Polidori’s “The Vampyre” I see a commentary on foreign influence by moving into territories and I also gather a hint of a message leaning toward taking advantage from those that have it. Given that writers are artists, and all artists usually create art to entertain the bourgeois (while, much of the time, also making fun of them) I find this most legitimate.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Well, if your reading this, odds are you are in a class about vampire novels. Since we do not have any actual material to go over (at least, I hope that's right or I have been reading the syllabus wrong), I figure I would introduce myself. *Edit - Upon reading the blog posts, I see there are criteria, which is now updated.

My name is Adam and I am a returning junior. Originally I went to UW-Whitewater, however, I decided I needed a semester break and that turned into a five year break. I'm hoping to finish up my degree in English, go on to graduate school, become a professor and eventually a principle or super superintendent, if I am able to stumble through life efficiently enough that is. I enjoy writing and critiquing things and hope too do this for a living. My general philosophy/belief in life is that human production is good, but I don't know about much else. I absolutely love art, so food, music, writing, anything that involves the senses and enjoyment or appreciation, is a large aspect of my paradigm and day to day experiences.

Some random things about me:

Favorite authors and poets include William Burrough, Charles Bukowski, Charles Bordeleux, Marquez, Andre Breton, Baudelaire and I also like some Hess, although I make no claims that Siddartha changed my life. Currently I am exploring books about corporate America and personalities, such as, is it always good to dangle the carrot and train your employees based on risk versus reward? How do you unmake the company man? Most of these explorations have turned into a quick gaze and then throw on the shelf so I can resume The Republic of Plato.

I enjoy cerebral movies and documentaries from any time period. Personal favorites wartime propaganda cartoons (so of course Tex Avery), anything by John Waters, Some like it Hot, Peeping Tom, Modus Operandi, David Lynch (Dumbland!)... Long list, movies are great; I love combined art mediums.

As for music, everything from Klezmer to Gucci to Wolf Parade to Pavement to Chopan to Gershwin...

3 Random Facts

* I love peppers; sweet, read, yellow, hot.... you name it. Going to farmers market on Sunday is perhaps one of the best sensory experiences.

* I have always wanted to travel the world, but have only been to Canada.

Quebec City

* I have a large family that is spread out; a brother in Singapore, another brother in Tokyo, a sister in Dallas, another sister in the Twin Cities and my mom lives in La Crosse.

Here is a link to a website I frequent, as I find it has very well written articles by people I like to follow, primarily regarding the economy and politics.

Cain and Abel

Finally, my favorite vampire is the biblical Cain from Cain and Abel. This may need a brief explanation; there is an old storyline for a board game a friend told me about, and the origin of the vampires for this setting is explained to be Cain. After he kills Abel, an angel comes down offering redemption for Cain. He will not follow the Angel and tells her to leave. Before she does, she curses him, stating that he will not be able to walk in the sun or be burned. This scene continues on and on until Cain is finally cursed with the thirst for human blood for survival. At this point, the angel no longer visits Cain and he is damned, Earth of course, being what he is damned too.

With that being said, I look forward to getting to know everyone from class!