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Undead Memory

Vampires and Human Memory in Popular Culture

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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Simon Bacon and Katarzyna Bronk Introduction

Extract

Vampires and the undead have never been as popular in Western culture as they are now at the start of the twenty-first century. The Twilight Saga, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, in their many books, films and other media, have produced hundreds of thousands of loyal followers and fans as well as a myriad of copycats and spin-of f productions, novels as well as a substantial amount of academic study. Many of these are as ephemeral as the undead creatures they talk about, but some constitute a serious con- sideration of why the vampire remains so popular and what it might mean to contemporary Western society. Nina Auerbach’s inf luential book, Our Vampires, Ourselves (1996), posits that each generation produces the vam- pire that it needs, thus seeing the undead as an embodiment of the Geist of a particular age. Auerbach, like many authors of studies on vampires, such as Ken Gelder (2012) and Jef frey Weinstock (2012), see the undead creatures as enacting a certain intrusion of the past into the present, and even as their own ref lexive referencing of the past.1 None of the existing studies, however, specifically focus on one of the most fundamental aspects of the human/vampire, mortal/immortal relationship: namely, memory. The editors of and the authors in this volume aim to address this signifi- cant gap in research, engaging in a fascinating discussion on the undead and memory, and, consequently, on undead memory. While the simplest understanding of undead memory is the correla- tion...

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