Vampires in the New World

Vampires in the New World

Vampires in the New World

Vampires in the New World

Synopsis

This book provides an engaging historical survey of the vampire in American popular culture over 100 years, ranging from Bram Stoker's classic novel Dracula to HBO's television series True Blood.

Vampires in the New World surveys vampire films and literature from both national and historical perspectives since the publication of Bram Stoker's Dracula, providing an overview of the changing figure of the vampire in America. It focuses on such essential popular culture topics as pulp fiction, classic horror films, film noir, science fiction, horror fiction, blaxploitation, and the recent Twilight and True Blood series in order to demonstrate how cultural, scientific, and ideological trends are reflected and refracted through the figure of the vampire.

The book will fascinate anyone with an interest in vampires as they are found in literature, film, television, and popular culture, as well as readers who appreciate horror and supernatural fiction, crime fiction, science fiction, and the gothic. It will also appeal to those who are interested in the interplay between society and film, television, and popular culture, and to readers who want to understand why the figure of the vampire has remained compelling to us across different eras and generations.

Highlights

  • Focuses attention on the vampire as a figure and explores the ways in which they have been used by authors and readers to examine and illuminate changing cultural interests and anxieties
  • Utilizes the tools of literary history to look at cinematic, televised, and other deployments of the vampire figure as expressions of contemporary culture
  • Provides readers with the perspective to fit current vampire stories into a larger context, gaining an understanding of the unique history of the vampire in America
  • Identifies connections between current and past interests in the vampire, tracing the development of vampire stories, figures, and images in popular culture throughout the history of the United States

Excerpt

My first encounter with a vampire scarred me for many years, but I survived. When I was seven years old, I saw Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, a comedy from 1948, which marks, for many, the last gasp of Universal’s famous run of monster movies. In it, an aging Bela Lugosi appears as Dracula, who, along with the Frankenstein monster (Glenn Strange) and the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney, Jr.) chase Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, shrieking, around an island with a castle on it. Dracula turns into a bat by spreading his cape, initiating a brief cartoon animation as a transition, then flapping off as a very unconvincing rubber puppet bat. It doesn’t seem very scary now, but at the time I found it quite alarming. I saw it on a black-and-white TV, in the afternoon on a Saturday, at a relative’s house, and I was terrified. Of the various monsters in the film, Lugosi’s Dracula was the scariest. I decided that I didn’t like monster movies, and I pretty much avoided horror films for 30 years after that. I cannot account rationally for why such a silly film struck fear into my young heart, but my memory of it gives me an insight into the power of such images, even after they have been diluted by overexposure in a media-saturated culture.

All the messages I had received from that culture, it seems to me today, told me not to take vampires seriously, especially the grandfatherly Lugosi. Popular music, TV cartoons, dolls and plastic models, Halloween costumes, eventually even sugar-bomb breakfast cereals—all treated the vampire as harmless. When I was in primary school, we would chase each other around with makeshift capes, intoning, “I vant to suck your blaad!” in imitation of Lugosi’s thick Hungarian accent. It was all good fun, yet somehow seeing the film really scared me, causing me to be fearful for years. This isn’t a therapy session, so I will leave behind . . .

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