Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Critical Geosophies: A Pyschotopological Reading of Rice's Vampires and Romero's Zombies

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Critical Geosophies: A Pyschotopological Reading of Rice's Vampires and Romero's Zombies

Article excerpt


Anne Rice and George Romero are two of the foremost transformative authors of vampire and zombie fiction in the United States. This reading of their work applies a psychotopological lens to the first two novels of Rice's Vampire Chronicles and the first three films of Romero's Living Dead series. It differs from numerous preceding analyses of monster fiction mostly in the theoretical apparatus it articulates to link the psychic fear vampires and zombies evoke with the topologies of space and power they evince. This intervention invokes a negative understanding of dialectical materialism to analyze human-monster thresholds as political sites. It builds this theorization primarily from the works of Slavoj Zizek, Sara Ahmed, Julia Kristeva, Kojin Karatani, and to a lesser extent Joan Copjec. The result is a psychotopological analysis that challenges understandings of the monster as either timeless allegories for the systemic order or as endlessly interpretive contingencies. It also reads the topological forms of Rice's vampires and Romero's zombies in relation to each other. Understanding psychic space and topologies of power as integral to each other helps read the vampire and the zombie as myths which endure because of the fears of class exploitation and social collectivism they stoke.


Topology, pyschoanalysis, psychotopology, vampires, zombies


It is well known that the vampire was Marx's preferred metaphor for the exploitation intrinsic to the capitalist order. That is not to say, of course, that vampire fiction necessarily seeks to illustrate Marxist theory, as the vampire as a literary figure pre-dates capitalism, let alone Marx. But the ease with which the vampire as popularly understood finds congruity with Marxist critique has rendered anxieties about economic life as one of the foremost theories of not just the vampire, but the monster in general. As the theory goes, the vampire sucking the blood from its victim to assure its immortality parallels the extraction of value from living labor (the worker) by dead labor (capital) to be dialectically reified in built structure (Latham, 2002; McNally, 2011). I think there is a great deal of merit in this interpretation, but even so, it involves a fair amount of conceptual slippage. For example, within this broad interpretation McNally (2011) also posits the ideological function of monster fiction as normalizing capitalism by rendering the crises its creates as anomalous. In his analysis the vampire slips from being a fact of everyday material reality to signifying the exception to that reality, a contradiction which, in my opinion, results from the fact that he conflates vampires with all forms of monster. McNally attempts to resolve this problem by arguing that vampiric capitalism, by re-invigorating dead labor, dialectically produces that which is symbolized by the zombie: a social order guided by a logic alien to its own interests. (1) Newitz (2006, 3) likewise argues that the fundamental message of monster fiction is that "capitalism creates monsters that want to kill you." No matter the monster nor the context, then, they are capitalism one way or another.

The above theories assume that all viewers are invested in improving their own material lot above all else, as if they are sub-consciously anti-capitalist and fear no "Other" save the social difference capitalism articulates (e.g. "false consciousness"). So if monsters are not allegories for the systemic order, what are they? Can they, as some argue, stand in for any particular Other, anywhere and anytime? Auerbach (1995: 3) argues that vampires "are too mutable to be allegories," meaning that they take shape within their political contexts and cannot be reduced to any one critique. From a Freudian perspective, Wood (1986: 70) offers a "general theory of the horror film" wherein zombies (and other monsters) can be explained as expressions of whatever is psychically repressed in a given society; in other words, that monster narratives exist has a structural explanation for Wood, but their form needs to be situated historically. …

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