Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Not the ultimate vampire book

"At the outset it appeared helpful to begin any analysis of the vampire not with its earliest appearances in (pre-)Romantic literature, but rather to go back into the folkloristic sources of vampire lore. Some obvious questions to pursue, then, were: Why and where did the idea of modern vampirism (as opposed to the belief in the lamiae and succubi of classical antiquity) spring up? And why has it had such a grip on the public consciousness since the fifteenth century? The outcome of my research yielded the following results: outbreaks of the plague, cannibalism, ancestor worship and human/blood sacrifice, necrophilia, catalepsy, premature burials, body snatching, and the discovery of vampire bats in South and Central America - all these occurrences in one way or another contributed to the belief in and to manefestations of vampirism.

However, I did not see myself in a position to write the ultimate, all-inclusive vampire encyclopedia, and thus I was forced to restrict myself to a more narrowly defined enterprise."

These are parts of the first chapter in a book called Blood Obsession: Vampires, Serial Murder, and the Popular Imagination by Jörg Waltje who is Assistant Professor of Modern Languages and Director of the Language Resource Center at Ohio University. The book was published by Peter Lang Publishing in 2005.

And this certainly is a more narrowly defined enterprise: 157 pages attempting to answer the question: What is it about vampires that fascinates the human imagination?. Well, the author has obviously studied both Freud and Todorov, and he mainly focuses on the fictional vampire, so this is not a book of particular interest for those who are interested in folklore and the history of Magia Posthuma.

"The most important findings of" his inquiry is summarised this way (p. 142):

"1. the vampire functions as a perfect model for generic fiction in general;
2. generic fiction is successful since it caters to the underlying mechanisms of our psyche; and
3. if we can trust Freud at all, human behavior in general is compulsive."

So if this is your thing, and you are intrigued to understand these findings, get the book. Otherwise you will be better off buying another book.

In the meantime we are still looking forward to the ultimate, all-inclusive vampire encyclopedia ...

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