Vampires: Myths and Metaphors of Enduring Evil

By Peter Day | Go to book overview

“You're Whining Again Louis”:
Anne Rice's Vampires as Indices of the Depressive Self

Pete Remington


Introduction

The steady expansion in recent years of a corpus of popular accounts of depression, along with analyses and criticism of the various forms of medical intervention, attests to a developing awareness of the problem it poses for individuals and families. Such publications frequently bring forth alarming statistics concerning the incidence of depression, which may give rise to fears that we are in the midst of an epidemic.1

There is, however, another way of looking at these statistics. We should remember that the designation as a disease of certain forms of behaviour and experience is, along with the diagnostic criteria that form the boundary-markers of that disease, subject to the same social-historical processes as the behaviour itself.2 It is entirely possible that Western culture has been growing increasingly “depression conscious,” linking broad definitions of depressive behaviour to an ever wider range of phenomena. If this be the case, there would seem to have been a substantial increase in this tendency since the mid twentieth century. I'm further led to speculate that, just as depression itself is currently deemed to result from complex interaction between genetic factors and life events, so the cultural shift I am positing results from the mutual interactivity of historical incident and inherited cultural expectations, both within the confines of medicine and in the culture at large. Certain behaviour patterns and expectations have gained currency through the fact of being grouped together, regardless of whether the term depression has been applied or not, resulting in a continuing process of conceptual and interpretive shift.

If my contention is correct, it should follow that we may be able to detect a 'depressive matrix' in cultural processes having no immediate and obvious link with clinical psychiatry. Popular/mass cultural production, inasmuch as it is a process of signification involving large heterogeneous groups of people, forms a useful starting point for investigating whether the diffusion of such a matrix is indeed taking place. It is within this perspective that I intend to examine Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles.

A word of caution here, however, about the narrowness of my statistical base. My readings of Rice, and the motive force behind the project of which this paper forms the beginning, are conditioned by a desire to make sense of my own formation/designation as a diagnosed sufferer from depression. This may occasionally lead me towards continuities that are too directly individual for effective extrapolation into more general arguments. As William Styron reminds us: “Depression is

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