The Symbolic Potential of the Hybrid: Anita Blake and Horror and Vampire Literature

by Virginia Fusco (Author)
©2021 Monographs 212 Pages


Human imagination is saturated with monsters. They represent, in a number of ways, those that have been historically perceived as strangers to the human community. It is a game of alterities wherein female monsters have occupied a particularly relevant position. Women have been historically represented as the Other in this human/nonhuman dyad. In the present study nineteenth- and twentieth-century vampires’ and zombies’ narratives have guided the analysis of a contemporary neo-gothic artefact: Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter by Laurell K.  Hamilton. This book argues at the intersection of feminist literary analysis and cultural studies methodology, and it also considers queer notions of fluidity and performativity. The author sets out that Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter represents a twenty-first-century series questioning social norms and envisioning worlds of freedom.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Acknowledgements
  • Abstract
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction and Methodology
  • Female Monstrosity
  • Self-Reflexivity
  • Paranoia
  • Outline of This Work
  • Methodology
  • Genealogy
  • Chapter One: Navigating Gothic Monstrosity
  • Reading Monsters though Foucault
  • Turner’s Contribution to the Debate
  • Not Here nor There: Vampires and Zombies as ‘Liminal’ Creatures
  • Provisional Conclusions on Monstrosity
  • Chapter Two: Genealogy of Desire
  • Dracula: Notes on the Imperial Construction of Otherness
  • Dracula’s Landscape: ‘Fossils’ and ‘Shadows’
  • Lucy Westenra or the Female Malady
  • Fin de Siècle Insanity: Some Impressionistic Sketches
  • Mina Harker or a ‘New Woman’
  • Dracula’s Professional Lady Love
  • Provisional Conclusions on Imperial Otherness
  • Chapter Three: Genealogy of Fear
  • Orientalism and Africanism in the Creation of Haitian Subjects
  • A Corpse with No Name: First Horror Stories
  • From ‘Anti-negro thought’ to Military Occupation
  • The Classics between Ethnography and Capital Critique: The Magic Island
  • Zombies Go to the Movies
  • White Zombie: Universal Studios, 1932
  • Background Curtain: Haiti
  • The Bokor, Voodoo and Haitian Alterity
  • Preliminary Conclusions on the Rotting Corpse
  • Cartography
  • Chapter Four: Playing in the Dark
  • First Landmark: Scary Sexual Creatures
  • Second Landmark: Coloured Metaphors
  • Female Vampires Play in the Dark
  • A New Vampire Self: Lesbianism as a Site of Resistance
  • On Vampirism: Reflections on Nurturing and Devouring
  • Re-signifying the Zombie: On Nationalism and Identity
  • From Black Shame to Black Pride: Provisional Conclusions on the Re-signified Undead
  • Crossroads
  • Chapter Five: On the Colour Line
  • Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter/Zombie Queen
  • Locating the Mestiza: A Cartography
  • Anita Blake between Anzaldua’s Mestiza and Africanism
  • Dominga Salvador versus Anita: Whiteness Saves You, Chica!
  • Provisional Conclusions on Whiteness and Otherness
  • Chapter Six: The Remake of the Beasty Boys
  • The Hard and the Soft Man: A Theoretical Approach
  • Richard Zeeman: Moving towards Hardness
  • Badinter, Feminist Fiction and Androgyny
  • Jean-Claude: The Androgynous Vampire
  • Provisional Conclusions on Desirable Masculinity(s)
  • Chapter Seven: Let’s Talk about Sex, Baby
  • Sex in the Eighties: Mapping the Radical Field of Battle
  • ‘Intercourse’ and Vampiric Rape
  • Pro-sex Perspective
  • ‘Excessive’ Sexuality: The Ardeur
  • Provisional Conclusions on ‘Play-Full’ Sexuality
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Series index

Introduction and Methodology

The seemingly banal pop cultural text, with its direct connection to mass culturally shaped assumptions, is […] far more likely to reveal the key terms and conditions of the dominant than an earnest and ‘knowing’ text.

Judith Halberstam

Anxiety assaults me every time I enter a bookshop looking at the number of shelves stuffed with neo-gothic novels and urban fantasy–paranormal fiction. Despite the initial paralysis and the sense of being lost, I had – over time – no difficulties in finding books that could satisfy my craving for adventure, drama or romance. From the Twilight Saga to Black Dagger Legacy through Sookie Stackhouse, the neo-gothic cultural industry offers the reader a great variety of stories; my personal collection constitutes a sample of how beings that have been traditionally at war with each other coexist in the contemporary imaginary landscape. These creatures cooperate, fall in love or sacrifice themselves for the good of others in the new heteromorphous setting provided by serial paranormal fiction in the neoliberal era.1 In other words, despite Callois’ scepticism, monsters from horror movies exist side by side those that have historically belonged to the realm of science fiction or fantasy tales.2

The same feeling will probably assault anybody who wished to follow the development of vampire and other monsters’ adventures on film: from the thirties on, the big screen has been invaded by all sorts of monstrous creatures: mummies, zombies, werewolves and the like.3 For this very reason, that is to say, the abundance of artefacts concerned with monstrous creatures, ←15 | 16→monstrosity has represented a major enterprise for contemporary critics, particularly those working in the field of Cultural Studies. From anthropological explorations of monsters in traditional societies4 to the study of contemporary fiction as an expression of the impact of neoliberal economies and ideologies on human communities,5 academic libraries provide the neophyte with a great number of theoretical texts to start exploring a variety of issues:

What does the monster do? What does it represent?

These are indeed two of the key questions that pervade most analyses of the monster’s phenomenon and, throughout my work, I will strive to answer them, considering Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter as a case study that will help me shed some light on how monsters operate. In this contemporary neo-gothic narrative – I understand the Gothic as an encompassing term that does not fit into the traditional organisation of genres and that opposes the dominant mode of realism6 – two monstrous figurations, the vampire and the zombie, coexist alongside a number of other less common preternatural creatures (lamias, wererats, weretigers and wereleopards) that take an active part in this heroine’s adventures. I provide a brief, general summary of the novels in order to orient the reader through my work. Nevertheless, I will not summarise nor consider Hamilton’s body of work in full in the book. In fact, I will explore two aspects that have agglutinate vampire narratives since the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: sexuality and race. To do that, I will select a variety of scenes from Hamilton’s work that deal especially with these two issues.

The Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series takes place in a parallel world –a near future America – populated by humans who coexist alongside a variety of preternatural creatures such as vampires and werewolves. Anita Blake, the main character that gives the series its name, is a young, mestiza girl of German-Mexican origins who dedicates herself to resurrecting the dead. She is in fact an Animator, a person who has been legally trained to work alongside the police ←16 | 17→and the preternatural squad to facilitate court trials involving people who have been either long dead or have died in obscure, unusual circumstances. She is not a policewoman herself, but she enjoys some of the privileges of the profession. She is called to murder scenes, asked to attend court trials and cooperate with the judges because of her training in preternatural biology/science and her innate abilities concerning the dead. While other animators must train to develop the skills required, Anita is a ‘natural’. In fact her Mexican origins, in particular, her connection to her voodoo ancestry, have allowed her to control the dead since she was a child; at the age of twenty-eight she learnt how to control her talents and developed them into a profitable business. Anita is a very mature person and, having experienced discrimination because of her Mexican heritage as much as for her voodoo gifts, she appears as an extremely direct and strong-willed woman who is capable of facing what most people would consider horrifying. She is a heroine who has been trained in several forms of combat and has been handling guns for most of her adult life. I would even say that she loves her guns more than she loves her multiple lovers. She is inclined to use violence to protect herself as much as to protect others despite her Christian background that somehow seems to orient her actions and shield her from bad vamps she is assigned to kill.

During the saga, she turns from a vampire hunter to a vampire lover and finally into a vampire servant, losing part of her autonomy to the Master of the City but acquiring, in the process, a number of abilities that help her in her work. She is in fact stronger, quicker and can sense emotions better than any other human she meets. On the other hand, her powers attract preternatural creatures: vampires, werewolves, wereleopards, werehyenas and wererats feel drawn to her and seem unable to resist her supernatural charm. So much so that during the first four books she is infected with four or five strains of the lycanthropy virus and is constantly in danger of turning into a wereanimal herself in moments of rage or intense sexual drive. For this very reason, her home rapidly becomes a community for all wereanimals that have decided to live in peace and try to overcome the power struggles that normally mark the lives of preternatural creatures. Nevertheless, being originally a form of detective novel, the element of tension or threat is forever present in the development of the events. Bad guys always appear on the horizon. When a murder happens, Anita, using her bond to the preternatural community as much as her own superpowers, is able to solve the mystery. The early novels focus predominantly on crime solving and action; from novel number ten the plot lines shift and Hamilton engages much more with private events, which Anita has to deal with in her personal life in this vast community of werecreatures. Irony, cynicism and a great deal ←17 | 18→of humour accompany the reader through this long series of novels. The books are all narrated in the first person by Anita herself and, as readers, we are taking part in long dramatic monologues in which the main character reflects upon a number of issues, such as the moral implications of the use of violence and the significance of interpersonal bonding in violent contexts.

The great amount of violence and sex present in the narratives suggest that they have been conceived for an adult audience, even if contemporary preternatural novels nowadays tend to target ‘young adults’. As one of her commentators remarked, Hamilton created a new genre – the urban fantasy adventure in the nineties with a strong female leader and built an audience for it exploiting the fact that there was not enough commercial fiction that appealed to women.7 In other words, readers, mainly women, were looking for a female lead, a strong character who could be as ‘badass’ as any male protagonist of traditional monster stories.8


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (October)
Cartography Genealogy of Desire Genealogy of Fear Let’s talk about sex, baby! Navigating Gothic Monstrosity On the Colour Line Playing in the Dark The Remake of the Beasty Boys
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2021. 212 pp.

Biographical notes

Virginia Fusco (Author)

Virginia Fusco is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Gender Studies at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Her research focuses primarily on coloniality / postcoloniality / decoloniality, representation of otherness in contemporary North American literature and the possible relationship between psychoanalysis and political theory.


Title: The Symbolic Potential of the Hybrid: Anita Blake and Horror and Vampire Literature
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214 pages