The Undead and Philosophy: Chicken Soup for the Soulless

By Richard Greene; K. Silem Mohammad | Go to book overview

6
Heidegger the Vampire
Slayer: The Undead and
Fundamental Ontology

Sympathy for the Vampire

Count Dracula has proven the most persistently adaptable and resilient of popular icons, retaining his power to intrigue and frighten audiences across generational and cultural divides. While Bram Stoker didn’t invent the vampire, his treatment of the monster in his 1897 novel, Dracula, was immediately more compelling than earlier English fictional attempts, like Varney the Vampire (1847). Stoker’s many original additions to vampire lore have now become inextricably bound up with our popular imagination of the creatures. Among these additions were the use of garlic as a protective charm, the location of the neck as the privileged site of blood-sucking, and the Count’s ability to shapeshift, particularly into bats.

Stoker’s greatest innovation, though, was his use of the vampire story to explore deeper metaphysical questions about the true nature of humanity. Far from representing the vampire as a coldly grotesque monster, Stoker explored the pathos and psychological terror of a human being, with a core of goodness, becoming trapped inside a godless and eternally Undead body. As the original working titles for the novel suggest, the terror of becoming Undead captured Stoker’s imagination far more than the personal figure of the Count himself. Stoker’s working title for Dracula was The Dead Undead and, only weeks before publication, the novel was to be called simply The Undead. The Count, in fact, only physically appears as a character in roughly forty of the book’s three hundred pages. The rest of the book is

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