Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Vampirism: A Secular, Visceral Religion of Paradoxical Aesthetics

Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Vampirism: A Secular, Visceral Religion of Paradoxical Aesthetics

Article excerpt

1.Vampire Religion: A Brief Introduction to the Transformation of Popular Vampirism

Vampire stories and folklores emanate from discursive areas; however, it is rather certain that the repulsive but attractive vampiric monster images in the present popular culture are primarily derived from Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire. Nearly at the end of the Eightieth century, vampires invaded the popular literary world. Since John Polidori's successful The Vampyre in 1819, literary vampires grow more powerful and perpetual than any other monstrous predecessors (Punter and Byron 2004, 268).

Although their power and sophistication has generally grown along with their popularity, in early Gothic texts, vampires are depicted as primitive, beastly, and savage rather than as superior to or even comparable to humans, as creatures whose ancient shadowy residences and reclusive comportments distance themselves from humanity's sphere. The primary aesthetic difference emerges in a comparison between Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897) and Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire (1976), in which the aesthetic transformation of vampire characters from the mostly disgusting to the delightfully repulsive appears (Dyer 2005, 83). In Dracula, the vampire trait of predatory barbarism induces emotions "both thrilling and repulsive" (Stoker 2007, 40). For instance, one of the female vampires "actually licked her lips like an animal ... lapp[ing] the white sharp teeth" and making a "churning sound of her tongue" (Stoker 2007,40). After feeding, Dracula is described as a sluggish and sickening bloodsucking parasite with "swollen flesh," and "it seemed as if the whole awful creature [the Count] were simply gorged with blood. He lay like a filthy leech, exhausted with his repletion. I shuddered as I bent over to touch him, and every sense in me revolted at the contact" (Stoker 2007, 52).

Before making further observations regarding the changes defining the evolution of vampire imagery in modern vampire literature, I would like to point out that this article examines, in particular, how the paradoxical interplay between aversion and attraction plays its role in the visceral religion of the vampire-immersed world, using Interview with the Vampire as an example due to its clearly substantial influence on current vampire imagery. Such an inspection of the interplay and dynamics between aversion and attraction can help us glimpse the functions of the repulsive aesthetics of monstrosity in the context of such a peculiar religion, a religion that "consists of people who have committed themselves to an ideology" and "participate in rituals" in such a way that their belief system may present "as an aesthetic choice" (Laderman and León 2003, 279, 280). Moreover, such "aesthetics holds a significant, often magical place of significance" (Perlmutter 1999, 7) for these adherents, with Anne Rice's vampire novels having "an undeniable influence on the culture and aesthetics of the vampire community" (Possamai 2012, 156). This "aesthetics" does not focus merely on physical appearance and strength. In addition, similar to other religions, the followers of vampirism may interpret or comprehend the belief system in various ways, with some focusing more on superficial aspects and others engaging with it in more complex ways. Vampirism, in a manner akin to other religions, promises the possibility of rising above mortality, attracting people with visions of a destiny that is beyond time and death, one that is unbounded by secular rules and superior to that experienced by mere humans. Nonetheless, depending on individuals' spectra of comprehension, this destiny, that is, the achieving of immortality in vampirism, does not necessarily constitute the end of one's search for a raison d'etre. Rather, Anne Rice's seminal works and the relevant vampire phenomena imply an everlasting struggle, a struggle that goes beyond mere physical façades and is related to the metaphysical aspects of aesthetics. …

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