Sunday, 31 May 2009
The Birth of the Vampire
Michael Pickering whom I mentioned here, presented a talk on the subject of The Birth of the Vampire in Vienna couple of days ago. According to this notice, 'By investigating reports of bodies believed to be those of vampires in eighteenth-century Serbia, I hope to enunciate some of the ways in which the vampire was constructed within, and ultimately became a product of, learned discourse in the so-called Age of Reason. My research takes me to the frontiers of the Hapsburg Monarchy in the winter of 1731-32, when Austrian military officials sanctioned the exhumation and destruction of bodies found to be in an uncorrupted state. The reports issued from the medical investigations of these cases quickly found their way into scholarly documents, initiating the so-called vampire debate of the 1730s. My general inquiry, I hope, serves to contextualize this temporally localized debate within a broader structural shift that sees the body change from a conduit of supernatural knowledge to a site of scientific knowledge. It is perhaps for this reason that long after the scholarly vampire debate subsided, and Serbia had been once more absorbed into the Ottoman Empire, that reports of the burning of dead bodies in Moravia ignited such a heated response on the part of the political establishment in 1750s Vienna.'