Postgraduate Profile: Aspasia Stephanou

Posted by on October 29, 2007 in Blog tagged with

Name: Aspasia Stephanou

Institution: University of Stirling

Supervisor: Prof Glennis Byron

What is your research about?

My research will focus on the figure of the vampire and the search for identity in vampire literature and vampire subculture. The vampire in postmodern fiction and culture has become a central focus for explorations for identity, subjectivity, sexuality and gender. Vampire subculture has been influenced by portrayals of vampires in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, Poppy Z. Brite’s New Orleans’s gothic vampires and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s aristocratic vampire St. Germain. (To give just one example, very often reluctant vampires of the subculture are said to have the “Louis de Pointe du Lac syndrome”). I will be contrasting and comparing vampire literature, vampire subcultures, body culture (blood artists, Viennese Actionists, Fetish scene, modern primitives) and the human flesh & blood body invaded by technology (cyborgs). Partly influenced by such avant-garde experiments as Sonia Delaunay’s famous pictorial edition of Blaise Cendrar’s poem Prose of the Trans-Siberian, and of Little Jehanne of France, I want to explore the intersection between the visual and the textual aesthetic with specific reference to the vampire and questions of identity.

What initially interested you in your area of research?

I was firstly fascinated by the vampire in folklore and the “reality” behind vampire mythology. I was also impressed by the vampire and gothic art of Joseph Vargo and Luis Royo, and by H.R. Giger’s biomechanical creatures.

And I was interested in the ways performance artists appropriated and reworked vampire conventions in order to reclaim their identity and a lost state of consciousness. In Hermann Nitsch’s performances “Orgies-Mysteries-Theater”, the spectator is aggressively taken back to a primitive space where the sacrificial and the aesthetic challenge western ideas about morality and art. The ritualistic element of these acts and the use of blood lead to purification and a heighten understanding of self. Another performance artist, Ron Athey, who is HIV positive, uses bloodletting, piercing and sadomasochistic practices in his performances in order to achieve redemption. Like a modern Prometheus, he tries through self-mutilation to give back to people a lost identity and self awareness. But he can also be seen as a vampire that threatens the spectators with his contaminated blood. He violently performs his identity and shows that there is beauty in what is usually thought to be monstrous. His performances reveal society’s hidden fears and guilt.

Of course, my journey into the dark realm of vampires was accompanied by readings of Stoker’s Dracula, Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, Yarbro’s The Palace, Tanith Lee’s vampire tale Bite-Me-Not or, Fleur De Feu, etc.

What are some of the primary texts that you are looking at?

Apart from the books I have already mentioned, I will be looking at: Hotel Transylvania: A Novel of Forbidden Love by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, The Hunger by Whitley Strieber, Vampire Junction by S.P. Somtow, The Dracula Tape by Fred Saberhagen, The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice, Dark Dance by Tanith Lee, Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin, The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez, etc. I will also be looking at art performances of various artists such as Ron Athey, Marina Abramovi_, Orlan, etc.

Contact details: aspasia.stephanou@stir.ac.uk 

If you have any questions or suggestions for Aspasia, you can leave a comment below.

If you are postgraduate student currently conducting research into some aspect of the gothic, and you are interested in participating in the postgraduate profile, please get in touch with Amy and Marilyn.  If you are currently supervising a research student who you think would be interested, could you please let them know about this opportunity.

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