Energy Vampires: Traumatic Consumption and Emotional Excess

The idea of energy vampires is relatively well established in the Western vampire tradition. And whilst Colin (Mark Proksch) from the popular series What We Do In the Shadows (Clement: 2019-Present) might be the most obvious recent example, the idea goes back at least to the 19th Century. Such vampiric entities can be seen to feed upon various kinds of human energies, from life energy to creative talent, with their dietary preferences very much lead by the spirit of the age they are in. More recently though their diet has taken a darker turn towards more extreme forms of human energies, that of emotional trauma. This article will look at the recent shift towards vampires feeding on human trauma and emotional pain, and will speculate upon what such feeding might say about contemporary culture.

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Bloody Economics: The Sookie Stackhouse Novels and the Cost of Being ‘Out of the Coffin’

This article explores the economics of blood in Charlaine Harris’s The Sookie Stackhouse Novels as a function of both the humans’ capitalist economy and a separate vampire hierarchy based on a feudal system. These economies are both based on blood but in very different ways. The existence of bottled blood and the purchase of it allows vampires to freely exist in the humans’ society. Yet the hidden vampire hierarchy binds them in ways that humans cannot understand. The resulting tension between these societies, demonstrated in the economics of blood, ultimately leads Harris to suggest that vampires cannot necessarily be reconciled into the humans’ world by merely solving the issue of a blood substitute.

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Devouring Books: Vampires as Literary Consumers

In this article I discuss the role of the vampire as literary—or ink-drinking—consumer and his/her/their fascination with libraries, bookstores, and the printed word. The French early reader series The Ink Drinker/Le Buveur d’Encre by Éric Sanvoisin provides a look at vampires who, having developed allergies to blood, drink ink from books for sustenance. While the Ink Drinker series is crafted for early readers, more mature readers are not bereft of vampires consuming words. Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian (2005) similarly emphasizes the role a paper trail can play in locating the elusive vampire. All this builds upon the structure of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), which consists of an assortment of texts such as journals, letters, and newspaper reports. The overall scope of the article is a closer look at the vampire’s need to read...and feed.

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(Re)Consuming Stoker: Neo-Gothic Biofictions of the Monster and his Maker

Dacre Stoker, the Canadian great grand-nephew of the author consumed with the family legacy, has continued the family legacy and written Dracula: The Un-Dead (with Ian Holt, 2009) and Dracul (with J. D. Barker, 2018). Asserting his authority with ‘Since I am a Stoker’ (2009: 399), Dacre Stoker clearly believes it is both his birthright to add to the narrative and a necessary act to reassert familial control over the novel. This article demonstrates how these two neo-Gothic biofictions exemplify consumption; first, they assert that Bram Stoker was fed truthful material which he dis/re-membered from real experiences wherein he knew the participants and second, that the recombining of genres—biography, fiction, and gothic—is a legitimate means of bringing a new generation to the older text and its author.

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Exotic Homogeneity: Culinary Othering in Dracula

In Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), a strong theme of xenophobia is at stake. This xenophobia not only applies generally as a fear of the foreign Other in relation to the vampire, but also specifically to a fear of the vampire as a culinary Other. Dracula survives solely upon the consumption of human blood, so his diet renders him a culinary Other by its contrast to an actual life-sustaining human diet, and also by its contrast to the variance and diversity of nutrients required for human survival. Exemplifying that contrast, Van Helsing and his somewhat multicultural/multigendered crew consume a variety of foods from a variety of international locations during their pursuit of Dracula, while also using innovative technologies. The crew is stronger in their diversity, the vampire weaker in homogeneity. This contrast parallels many of the realities of late-nineteenth century food consumption after the advent of food technologies like processed foods.

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The Vampire and the Prostitute: Sympathetic Monstrosity in Florence Marryat’s The Blood of the Vampire

This article explores Florence Marryat’s little-known 1897 novel The Blood of the Vampire within the context of Victorian sex work. While reading Harriet alternatively as racial Other or as New Woman have been fruitful analyses for previous scholars of Marryat’s text, analyzing Harriet as a potential sex worker helps to parse out some of the more contradictory aspects of Marryat’s rendering. Harriet’s overt and unrestrained sexuality is enough to categorize Harriet as a woman outside of Victorian social mores, and her contagion—coupled with the fact that it can be read as both sexual and genetic in nature—serves to strengthen this comparison. Both within the Victorian period and within Marryat’s novel, the politics of race and empire are inseparable from the national policies of sex work, which are in turn saturated with the same logic of sex and degeneracy.

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Playing Vampire Games: Rules and Play in Varney the Vampire and Dracula

This article explores the evolution of Victorian vampires alongside the metaphorical notion of texts consuming their predecessors. Looking at James Malcolm Rymer’s Varney the Vampire and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it argues that later vampires were created through the consumption of earlier conventions, thus offering a unique contribution to scholarship by focusing on the rules of vampirism.

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‘And then we be cannibals … or vampires’: From Vampires to Vegetarianism in J.M. Rymer’s Penny Bloods

This essay examines the bestselling popular novelist James Malcolm Rymer’s engagement with the idea of vegetarianism, a dietary system that in the 1840s was garnering unprecedented interest as an ideology, a community-shaping practice, and an ethos. Firstly, Rymer was surely aware of the vegetarian movement. Secondly, Rymer’s two most famous and enduring penny fiction serials, Varney, the Vampyre (1845-6) and The String of Pearls (1846-7) demonstrate an interest in dietary preference as ethics by representing their monsters as vegetarian-like vampires. In Varney, the eponymous vampyre appears a model of dietary restraint and of toleration for the different dietary ethics of others, but he consumes human bodies in a different way: on the marriage market. In Rymer’s two masterworks of penny fiction, vegetarian ethics as filtered through the vampire tradition produces a social critique of Britain’s human economy.

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The Many Lives of Lord Ruthven: Somatic Adaptation, Reincarnation and (Mass) Consumption of Polidori’s The Vampyre

John Polidori’s Lord Ruthven was the most famous vampire of his age for contemporary readers. The Vampyre (1819) was written by Polidori almost a century before Dracula (1897) and was so well received by the public that more than a dozen nineteenth century authors across Europe adapted and reincarnated Polidori’s vampire antagonist to entertain readers and audiences for the rest of the century. This paper looks to Polidori’s original vampire character and reads it alongside some of its most salient rewritings to examine Lord Ruthven’s reincarnations and reinterpretations, from a physical perspective, as considered alongside the rise of the First Industrial Revolution. It gauges how nineteenth century notions of mass consumption are written upon the vampire body in terms of resurrection, rebirth as a reflection of technologies of mass reproduction, and the dying-and-rising cycle as exampled by Lord Ruthven’s literary returns and adaptations.

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Le Vampire (1831): a rediscovered journal of the July Monarchy

Le Vampire (March to April 1831), a short-lived journal dedicated to exposing the vices of gambling houses, the lottery and the stock market from the beginnings of the July Monarchy, uses the image of the vampire as financial predator and beguiling Proteus to personify the ills of all three financial activities as they were understood at this time. In this article the two authors contextualize the journal by attempting to ascertain the identity of its probable editor, Abbé Grégoire, the contemporary cultural and literary attitudes to gambling which the journal embodies, the different rhetorical strategies the journal uses in describing and addressing the personified vampire, and finally analyzing the ways in which the “vampire” symbolizes predatory financial activity. It is argued that the portrayal of the vampire is not in keeping with the vampire as capitalist as described by Marx, representing a distinct era of economic development.

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A Vampiric Revenant at the Cape (1834)

The novel Makanna, or the Land of the Savage (1834) is noteworthy as one of the first colonial novels written about Africa in English. An aspect of this novel that has eluded critical attention until now has been its Gothic content, in particular a vampiric revenant who appears in a dream of one of the heroes. This brief article describes this phantom as an early example of a non-aristocratic vampire. The article shows how the text calls for a psychological explanation of the vampire, and uses it to express certain white, middle class anxieties, chiefly related to sexual relationships. The text also stresses a link between vampirism and greed which became increasingly important in subsequent vampire literature.

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Interview with Thomas Olde Heuvelt

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Soms deed je het vanwege Beek: Surveillance, subversion and the presence of death in Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s HEX

The plot of the novel HEX by Dutch author Thomas Olde Heuvelt appears deceptively simple: the small town of Beek (or Black Spring in the English translation) is cursed, its villagers haunted by the spectre of Katharina van Wyler. Set in a rural location, the inhabitants of Beek are isolated, unable to escape Katharina, who appears to them as a constant supernatural presence rather than a direct threat. To manage Katharina’s existence, an intricate surveillance network has been installed, consisting of a large number of cameras and even a dedicated app. The novel explores a clash between medieval curses and modern technologies, where themes of surveillance, monitoring and documentation are central to negotiating Katharina’s dead body. The paper will draw on the Dutch version of the novel, using it as a lens to highlight national attitudes to death and dying as demonstrated in contemporary horror fiction and its attitude to technology.

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Adapting representations of death from page to screen in Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black (1983)

Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black (1983; 1998) has been praised as a novella demonstrating a “gradual development of exquisite suspense” and distinguishing, in its subtlety, “the true ghost story” (Bann cited in Scullion, 2003: 296). This article examines James Watkins’ 2012 film adaptation with particular focus on representations of the complex relationship between death and screen, which will be addressed through a close reading of the novella alongside its filmic adaptation. Both Hill’s (1983) novella and Watkins’ (2012) adaptation are littered with representations of trauma, death, and the experience of dying, predominantly by women and children, who functioned on the outskirts of Victorian society and whose existence remained largely confined to the margins. As such, this article serves to establish how the film adaptation upholds the Gothic through the representations of trauma, death, and dying in relation to Hill’s (1983) novella with particular focus on the supernatural spectral haunting of Jennet Humfrye and the death that surrounds her at every turn. In terms of Watkins’ (2012) film adaptation, my discussion will focus on those previously oversimplified representations of gender to demonstrate Watkins’ critical commentary on the marginality of female trauma.

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Justice Online: TikTok, Platform Properties and the Fight for Familial Conviction

This article explores video sharing application TikTok and its use in the quest for judicature concerning missing person Alissa Turney as conducted by sister Sarah Turney. The article explores the platform’s impact upon the structure, delivery, and content of non-fictional crime-centred social network media, as creators reframe appeals for action into short-form entertainment. This shift towards self-produced social media-based content is seen as both freeing and limiting in how it allows messages to be structured and narrativized, as Turney must work within the conventions, trends, and affordances of the medium to allow her content to garner maximum viewer retention and engagement. Turney utilises an unconventional approach towards death and grieving to adapt justice efforts towards an individualised and communal endeavour, implementing online calls to action aimed at viewers, inviting and rewarding them for promoting and engaging with her content. While much of death studies focuses on the grieving process made possible through the affordances offered by social media, this article will show how Turney uses new media to create videos and interact with viewers in order to bring attention to and affect real change for Alissa’s case.

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Ghosts in the Living Room: The Televisual Gothic on Britain’s Screens

Since the invention of the magic lantern, a ‘small Optical Maceehn that shews by a gloomy Light upon a white Wall, Spectres and Monsters so hideous, that he who knows not the Secret, believes it to be perform’d by a Magick Art’, ghosts and the screen have shared a long and intimate history (Owens 2019: 132). This article builds on Helen Wheatley’s work on Gothic Television, which she defines as ‘a domestic form of a domestic genre which is dleeply concerned with the domestic, writing stories of unspeakable family secrets and homely trauma large across the television screen’, to propose a Televisual Gothic, comprising texts in which broadcasting is central to both narrative and form (Wheatley 2014: 1). In Nigel Kneale’s The Stone Tape (1972), a team of engineers attempt to harness hauntings to develop ‘a completely new recording medium’ to disastrous ends. Twenty years later, Kneale’s pioneering drama inspired Stephen Volk’s Ghostwatch (1992), which purported to be ‘a live investigation of the supernatural’ that culminated in the entrapment and probable death of beloved children’s presenter Sarah Greene, the possession of television bulwark Michael Parkinson, and the transformation of the BBC studio into a ‘massive séance’ that threatened the entire nation. In the twenty-first century, Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton and Mark Gatiss, three quarters of the erstwhile League of Gentlemen, took up the baton. Two episodes of Shearsmith and Pemberton’s horror-comedy anthology series Inside No 9, ‘Séance Time’ (2015) and ‘Dead Line’ (2018), delve once more into the horror that lurks behind television cameras. Aired just two months after the latter, Mark Gatiss’s ‘The Dead Room’ (2018), an original offering for the BBC’s A Ghost Story for Christmas seasonal strand, explores a haunted radio studio, but nonetheless engages with televisuality. Ultimately, this article seeks to provide an overview of Britain’s Gothic preoccupations with the spirit box in our living rooms and its interventions in discourses of authority, nationality and morality. As increasing mistrust in the BBC and a proliferation of suicides associated with ITV reality programming make British television an increasingly horrific space, there is no better time to tune in and reckon with our spectres.

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The Sin-Eater: Ritual and Representation in a Hypermodern World

This article sheds light on the sin-eater – a shadowy character occasionally glimpsed by, yet tantalisingly elusive to historians of popular funeral customs. Any historical survey of this subject begs as many questions as it yields answers, but here I adopt an alternative approach. Slipping between historical fact and present-day fiction, I contend that the sin-eater and his (or occasionally her) ritual has latterly come alive again through the media of film, television and literature as a means of expressing and exploring some of the existential contradictions and anxieties engendered by present times. In thus collapsing boundaries between the historical personage and their present-day fictional representations, the sin-eater is revealed as much more than mere antiquarian curiosity; instead, they become a timeless Everyperson.

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It’s a Question of Degrees: Morality, Justice, and Revenge in Telefantasy

The moral quandary of killing ‘monsters’ is not new and the horror genre has made a point of walking a line between perceptions of good and evil. As the taste for violence and gore increased these discussions lessened and the ‘monster’ became fodder for the visceral brutality and righteous salvation of humanity. Using selected supernatural and fantasy texts this article explores the morality of killing everything that is not human. Additionally, though death marks a beginning for many of the protagonists in the shows cited, the article examines the impact of a final death for show characters. In a world where death is not necessarily the end for some, how is it navigated when it does eventually come for others? This article explores the development of the sympathetic other in telefantasy texts Buffy the Vampire Slayer, (1997-2003), Supernatural (2005-2020), iZombie (2015-2019), Z Nation (2014-2018), In the Flesh (ITF) (2013-2014), and Lucifer (2016-present).

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Netflix Dramedy After Life and the Uncanny Nature of Grief

The concept of das unheimlich (Jentsch 1902), or the uncanny, is applied to the phenomenology of grief and the manner loss transforms a person’s familiar life-world into an uncertain and unfamiliar space. Discussion of the collision of the foreign (emptiness and absence) with the familiar (conjugal material objects and spaces) as a dimension of grief has been infrequent and unsystematic. This article argues that this understanding of the uncanny is commendably conveyed by the Netflix grief-comedy or dramedy After Life, written by, and starring Ricky Gervais. The UK series focuses on the anguished existence of a widower as he endures the perpetuation of his life without his wife. Characterisation of bereavement, as the experience of having someone “suddenly ripped from one’s life-world” (Dubose 1997: 368), is obscured in After Life by the continued presence (and digital afterlife) of his wife via ‘home videos’ and the video diaries she secretly recorded whilst dying. The dead’s continued presence throughout After Life reflects wider trends for the dying turning to digital services such as Safe Beyond to leave ‘date messages’ (birthdays, or anniversaries) or ‘event messages’ (weddings, graduations) that will continue to insert the physically departed into the lives of loved ones at key intervals of life. This paper explores the manner in which After Life serves to reflect on both the transformed experience of spaces in mourning and how screens contribute to the uncanny nature of grief.

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Saving Arthur Morgan: Red Dead Redemption 2 as a site of bereavement and grief-work

The relationship between death and digital games is strangely paradoxical. While death is considered to be a ubiquitous and pervasive feature of videogames, it rarely carries the same finality that exists in the offline world. However, this has also allowed digital games to become an interesting site for the discussion and exploration of death and mortality. The genre of Roguelikes, for instance, distinguishes itself by incorporating the permanence of death (i.e. perma-death) as an integral gameplay feature. In other cases, games such as A Mortician’s Tale and That Dragon Cancer center on death as a central theme in the game’s narrative. This article seeks to contribute to current knowledge by exploring player experiences of death in games through the case of Red Dead Redemption 2 by Rockstar Games, and the death of the game’s protagonist Arthur Morgan. Concretely, this article explores how the game’s epilogue emulates grief-work and bereavement by intermittently engaging players in both loss- and restoration-oriented activities. Aside from providing a discussion of how the game’s epilogue emulates grief-work, the article draws upon Alexander Galloway’s model of gamic action to discuss the various ways in which digital games strive to enforce death, and the strategies that players employ to resist it. However, concluding the article, I note how despite a range of creative strategies to resist death, players are caught up in a paratextual web of playthroughs, highlighting how there is no escaping the death of Red Dead Redemption 2’s protagonist, Arthur Morgan. Please note this article has images of diagrams that you can access via the PDF.

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