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Auerbach's expertise in the realm of fictional vampires is well articulated in this very readable and thoroughly enjoyable study. Although the text is primarily academic (offering predominately psychoanalytic and feminist readings) the average reader of vampire literature will find much to enjoy in Auerbach's incisive and often witty exploration of the fictional vampire within a range of texts from early poetry, stories and novels to modern day movies. From Coleridge's poetic 'Christabel' to the short stories of Byron, Polidori and Sheridan Le Fanu's classic 'Carmilla' we move onto Stoker's seminal text Dracula and finally onto contemporary culture with fascinating discussions of tales from Rice and King and films such as The Lost Boys and Bram Stoker's Dracula. Relating the vampire figures back to the society which created them, Auerbach intuitively shows us that there is a little bit of vampire in all of us. A thoroughly recommended, extensive piece of work that has to be regarded as a seminal work in its own right, standing alongside Christopher Frayling and Ken Gelder in their expert analyses of the vampire figure.
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on 5 July 2001
In Our Vampires, Ourselves, Nina Auerbach's project is to explain how the legendary vampire has changed according to the cultural, political and sexual currents since the vampire's initiation near the end of the 18th century. As the title suggests, the claim is that we get the vampires we deserve, we create the vampires we need at any given time to fill a vacuum in our society. The book starts with Byron and Polidori, examines Dracula closely and ends with the vampires of the early 90s. Political upheaval, like the Vietnam war, Watergate, etc. serve to explain how the vampire changes - from a filthy monster in Stoker's Dracula, through a civilized gentleman with good manners in the 1960's Hammer movies, and to an AIDS-haunted, excluded creature in the 1980s. The role of the family is also central, as well as feminist aspects and gay theories on the subject. Auerbach has, in short, written a seminal work on the history of vampires, from Byron, Coleridge and Polidori, to Rice, King and Dan Simmons at the end of the 20th century. Films, such as the numerous adaptions of Dracula, are also covered, giving an exhaustive survey of this literary and cultural phenomenon. We may think Dracula is the only 'real' vampire, but Auerbach shows us that there is no 'The Vampire', only 'vampires', as they change with time, embodying its own society's fears and dreams. This is, of course, an academic work, but the insightful readings, interesting examples and Auerbach's witty, entertaining style should apply to all lovers of vampires, be they literary or cinematic.
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