Vampires and Borders


I’m sure I read somewhere that vampires hold a certain appeal in their disregard for traditional borders… makes a lot of sense, but I wonder if this is partly behind the current craze?

In his slightly odd account of vampiric lore, Donald Morse comments on the turbulence of the era in which Bram Stoker wrote Dracula.  He links that climate of social turbulence in 1897 with the turbulence of the 1990s and its associated vampiric craze. “It has been said,” he writes, “that ‘stressful situations are favorable to the emergence and acceptance of superstitious beliefs.’ Turbulence existed in 1897 when Bram Stoker wrote Dracula. The 1990s are also a stressful period with the break-up of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, the on-going Mid-East and African conflicts, the AIDS epidemic, pollution, continued fear of nuclear weapons, and the prolonged recession. Hence, it is not unusual that vampirism, in all its guises, is having a resurgence. Although vampirism began as a myth, in addition to the millions of people who use vampire books, movies, music, and art as a stress release, there are an unknown number of individuals who believe in the concepts of vampirism and practice its rituals.” (p182)

I couldn’t help thinking, as I read this, of the social interest in accommodating such shifting borders as he describes in the national imaginary… questions like ‘who is the Other?‘ quite naturally arise; figures who disdain our ideas of territorial security become interesting… the whole idea that ‘you have to invite the vampire in’ takes on interesting metaphoric ramifications… does the resurgence of Eastern European importance in the ‘West’ (in terms of political and economic relationships) coincide happily with a growing interest in myths that proliferated in this area?…

Of course, there are also all the social boundaries vampires cross – and their readers with them…. in what ways do vampires transgress social boundaries? Do they really transgress them? There’s a lot of romance/erotica writing about vampires… what role do vampires play?

Anyway, it is an idea I returned to when Morse explains that, while there is no typical vampire, concensus describes the vampire as “‘undead.’ He (a vampire is usually a male) can appear similar to a ghost or a phantom, but unlike those entities, a vampire has a body…. He is neither dead nor alive, having a body but no soul… The vampire is trapped between two worlds.” (185) and again when he noted that “He’s not alive; he’s not dead. He’s a paradox.” (185)  There is a lack of clarity, a lack of border control, around the figure of the vampire.  It’s a transgressive figure, it would seem.

The importance of the body here does also put me in mind of Julia Kristeva… What about the abject?

Carrying on, though; even the folkloric belief that vampires cannot cope with crossroads or water seems to fit this border-minded approach to vampiric importance (again, this folkore is touched on very briefly by Morse (pp187-188)).

Note: Morse makes academic leaps throughout the article, but does present ideas that could be pursued.  Ref: Donald Morse (1993) ”The stressful kiss: a biopsychosocial evaluation of the origins, evolution, and societal significance of vampirism’ Stress Medicine 9; 181-199


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