Real vampires don’t sparkle

Posted by Marie Mulvey-Roberts on April 18, 2011 in Dr. Marie Mulvey-Roberts, Guest Blog tagged with , , ,

I have been in email correspondence with an author, who wants to know if I think vampires are real. There is never an easy answer.  What does surprise me though is the number of people who ask me that question.  It is probably more to do with me than them. Last year, while I was preparing to give a paper at the annual Gothic conference in Mexico City, my massage therapist warned me about a vampire she had encountered there.  She was quite sure that he would make a bee-line for me but he must have assiduously avoided me. I was not disappointed.

The nearest one should be able to get to “real vampires” must be Transylvania and where better than at The First World Dracula Congress?  Recently,  a photograph of some of the delegates appeared on Facebook posted by Dennis Miller, the son of Professor Elizabeth Miller, who wanders cyber-space as the Bloofer Lady.

Clearly, I was the only one there with the presence of mind to wear a crucifix. Others present were vampire academic author Professor Carol M. Davison, Daniel Richler with visible Gothic credentials and Ian Holt, who was destined to co-author  Dracula: The Undead with Dacre Stoker, a descendent, and finally some local Transylvanians.  It is hard to spot who the real vampire might be  in that bunch. But nowadays, neo-vampires are more recognisable by their great beauty (sorry folks!) and skin that shimmers in sunlight. Since the Twilight Series, rather than hoping that vampires keep to themselves, people are now actively hunting out Edward and co. But not me.

In fact, I have never been that much interested in vampires, real or otherwise, but rather in what they represent – and so far that has been legion: sexuality, the femme fatale, homosexuality, sexually transmitted disease, most commonly syphilis and AIDS, unsatiable desire, perverted Catholics and Jews, the foreign other, desecration in all its forms, licentiousness, oral erotica, drug addiction and so the list goes on.  But much of that is now passé and the challenge for scholars on the look-out for fresh blood is to locate vampirism in new areas.

But I keep getting drawn back to religion and Catholicism in particular with which Dracula is saturated. Its setting seems more inspired by Stoker’s native Ireland than Transylvania, which he never visited.  As a boy, Stoker went to see the mummified bodies of a Crusader, who is over 800 years old and the somewhat younger nun lying by his side in the crypt of St Michan’s Church in Dublin.

They are still there today and you can kiss the crusader’s hand for luck.  Maybe the young Stoker discovered in this Catholic Church, harbingers for the preserved body of the vampire?  But now vampires have gone not just golden, but Mormon. This patriarchal society with its strict codes of conduct has found in the Twilight world of the vampire, a beguiling surrogate.

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