Nina Auerbach shows how every age embraces the vampire it needs, and gets the vampire it deserves. Working with a wide range of texts, as well as movies and television, Auerbach locates vampires at the heart of our national experience and uses them as a lens for viewing the last two hundred years of Anglo-American cultural history. "[Auerbach] has seen more Hammer movies than I (or the monsters) have had steaming hot diners, encountered more bloodsuckers than you could shake a stick at, even a pair of crossed sticks, such as might deter a very sophisticated ogre, a hick from the Moldavian boonies....Auerbach has dissected and deconstructed them with the tender ruthlessness of a hungry chef, with cogency and wit".--Eric Korn, "Times Literary Supplement" "This seductive work offers profound insights into many of the urgent concerns of our time and forces us to confront the serious meanings that we invest, and seek, in even the shadiest manifestations of the eroticism of death".--Wendy Doniger, "The Nation" "A vigorous, witty look at the undead as cultural icons".-- "Kirkus Review" "In case anyone should think this book is merely a boring lit-crit exposition...Auerbach sets matters straight in her very first paragraph. 'What vampires are in any given generation, ' she writes, 'is a part of what I am and what my times have become. This book is a history of Anglo-American culture through its mutating vampires.'...Her book really takes off".--Maureen Duffy, "New York Times Book Review"
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University of Chicago Press
Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
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US Kirkus Review »
A vigorous, witty look at the undead as cultural icons in 19th- and 20th-century England and America. Though vampires haven't lacked fans or literary chroniclers, they too often thirst for intelligent appreciators: Most foragers in the vampirical vein are mere sensationalists. Not so Auerbach (English/Univ. of Pennsylvania; Communities of Women, 1978, etc.). Here she offers a challenging and mercifully succinct survey of the roles vampires have assumed in English and American society by examining novels, plays, and films in which they've figured. "There is no such creature as 'The Vampire,'" the author argues, praising their "supreme adaptability" to an ever-changing body politic. Likewise, this historian of the bloodthirsty shows a remarkable dexterity herself in appraising the vampire in his/her full mutability - from Dracula's chosen style of "lonely rigidity," which in Auerbach's view "repudiates the homoerotic intimacy with which earlier vampires had insinuated themselves into mortality," to the lesbian "guardian angel" school of vampirism alive in Jewelle Gomez's The Gilda Stories, where bloodsucking and the black arts are "purged of aggression" and instead celebrate "empathy" among women. The book is highly brow'sable: Oscar Wilde fanciers will gravitate to Auerbach's fascinating equation of Draculaism with the lot of "the fallen Wilde, a monster of silence and exile"; movie buffs will head for her extended discussion of John Badham's Dracula (1979); and feminists should pay particular attention to the scholar's reclamation of this traditionally male "horror" genre territory - a reclamation made with brio yet due caution. One could wish for a more thoroughgoing reckoning of the impact and implications of the TV soap opera Dark Shadows. And the introduction leans in a personal direction that could (but does not) fruitfully inform the more straightforwardly lit-critical writing that follows. There's little reason to quibble, however, over this smart and snappy scholarly adventure story. (Kirkus Reviews)
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