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Undead Memory

Vampires and Human Memory in Popular Culture

Edited By Simon Bacon and Katarzyna Bronk

Vampires have never been as popular in Western culture as they are now: Twilight, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries and their fans have secured the vampire’s place in contemporary culture. Yet the role vampires play in how we remember our pasts and configure our futures has yet to be explored. The present volume fills this gap, addressing the many ways in which vampire narratives have been used to describe the tensions between memory and identity in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
The first part of the volume considers the use of the vampire to deal with rapid cultural change, both to remember the past and to imagine possible futures. The second part examines vampire narratives as external cultural archives, a memory library allowing us to reference the past and understand how this underpins our present. Finally, the collection explores how the undead comes to embody memorial practice itself: an autonomous entity that gives form to traumatic, feminist, postcolonial and oral traditions and reveals the resilience of minority memory.
Ranging from actual reports of vampire activity to literary and cinematic interpretations of the blood-drinking revenant, this timely study investigates the ways in which the «undead memory» of the vampire throughout Western culture has helped us to remember more clearly who we were, who we are, and who we will/may become.

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Sir Christopher Frayling Foreword

Extract

Vampires are everywhere. Every modern medium of communication has been invaded by them, like a virus in the cultural bloodstream. They used to be goblins damned, and now they are spirits of health, the last romantics. They used to be impelled, beast-like, by a blood lust, and now they have an inner life, a psychology, and tend to be treated as addicts. At a time when the politics of identity have moved centre-stage – gender, sexuality, race, post-colonialism, Irish studies (where Bram Stoker is concerned), the abject, the return of the repressed – vampires have become particularly active in the groves of academe. Philosophers write of haun- tology (a Gothic version of ontology) and a special issue of “Philosophy Today” has been devoted to zombies, ethics and thought-experiments: vampires, meanwhile, stalk academic courses on the Gothic, some fifty- three at the last count at forty-four universities around the globe, and in contemporary literature have begun to revel in their own clichés, to be aware of themselves as metaphors. Socrates famously said that “the unexamined life is not worth living”; by a strange postmodern reversal, the examined undead have taken on a new lease of life … The folkloric vampire of the eighteenth century, at the outer reaches of Europe, was an agricultural figure, a ruddy-faced labourer with a breath problem and a three-day growth of beard who after death was just as likely to bite sheep and cows as his (usually his) close relatives. The upward social mobility of the vampire began,...

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