Sunday 18 November 2007

Baron Vordenburg's library

At the end of Sheridan Le Fanu's famous story Carmilla a few works from the library of the vampire hunter Baron Vordenburg are mentioned, among them Magia Posthuma:

Let me add a word or two about that quaint Baron Vordenburg, to whose curious lore we were indebted for the discovery of the Countess Mircalla’s grave.
He had taken up his abode in Gratz, where, living upon a mere pittance, which was all that remained to him of the once princely estates of his family, in Upper Styria, he devoted himself to the minute and laborious investigation of the marvellously authenticated tradition of Vampirism. He had at his fingers’ ends all the great and little works upon the subject. “Magia Posthuma,” “Phlegon de Mirabilibus,” “Augustinus de cura pro Mortuis,” “Philosophicae et Christianae Cogitationes de Vampiris,” by John Christofer Herenberg; and a thousand others, among which I remember only a few of those which he lent to my father. He had a voluminous digest of all the judicial cases, from which he had extracted a system of principles that appear to govern—some always, and others occasionally only— the condition of the vampire. I may mention, in passing, that the deadly pallor attributed to that sort of revenants, is a mere melodramatic fiction. They present, in the grave, and when they show themselves in human society, the appearance of healthy life. When disclosed to light in their coffins, they exhibit all the symptoms that are enumeranted as those which proved the vampire-life of the long-dead Countess Karnstein.

How they escape from their graves and return to them for certain hours every day, without displacing the clay or leaving any trace of disturbance in the state of the coffin or the cerements, has always been admitted to be utterly inexplicable. The amphibious existence of the vampire is sustained by daily renewed slumber in the grave. Its horrible lust for living blood supplies the vigour of its waking existence. The vampire is prone to be fascinated with an engrossing vehemence, resembling the passion of love, by particular persons. In pursuit of these it will exercise inexhaustible patience and stratagem, for access to a particular object may be obstructed in a hundred ways. It will never desist until it has satiated its passion, and drained the very life of its coveted victim. But it will, in these cases, husband and protract its murderous enjoyment with the refinement of an epicure, and heighten it by the gradual approaches of an artful courtship. In these cases it seems to yearn for something like sympathy and consent. In ordinary ones it goes direct to its object, overpowers with violence, and strangles and exhausts often at a single feast.

Harenberg's 1733 book was published in German (see the accompanying illustration), but somehow got a Latin title in Calmet's book, and this must be the reason why Le Fanu uses a Latin title and spells Harenberg's name 'Herenberg' like Calmet did. Phlegon's De Mirabilius will be well-known to readers of books on vampires, and Augustin's De cura pro mortuis gerenda is a key Catholic text on the care for the dead.

Regular visitors of this blog probably would like to have at their fingers' ends all these and other books on the subject.

Thursday 15 November 2007

The Rhetoric of Exorcism

Although peripheral to the traditional field of vampirology, it should be apparent from this blog that historically vampires and magia posthuma can not be disconnected from other beliefs and practices, including demonology, so some might find this extract from a paper entitled The Rhetoric of Exorcism by Hilaire Kallendorf interesting or even fascinating:

'No one has ever tried to write a rhetoric of exorcism. In fact scholars of previous generations have posted caveat emptor signs along the pathway we are about to take. One encounters warnings such as, "The actual scripts or texts of exorcisms are difficult to characterize... [M]any exorcisms are hybrid compositions." While it is certainly true that these texts are a synthesis compiled from Biblical, liturgical, and other sources, they also bear distinctive features that can and should be analyzed by rhetoricians. It is also true that exorcism manuals are not redacted carefully (for example, they are rife with errors of Latin grammar). After all, exorcism manuals are pragmatic collections of utilitarian documents (scholars speak of the "applied" nature of demonology). Their pages are meant to be aspersed with holy water, singed by the fire of the baptismal candle, clouded with the smoke of incense, and spat upon by seething demoniacs. But it is the case that most exorcism rituals are performed by reading aloud these texts of highly codified, formulaic discourse - many of which resemble each other or quote from each other extensively. So in theory it should be possible to analyze the language of these texts in a way that is general or all-encompassing enough to formulate some tentative conclusions about how exorcism "works" as a rhetorical phenomenon in the early modern period. Scholars in the field of demonology who are the most familiar with these texts make these generalizations routinely; rhetoricians may be permitted the same latitude. Establishing the classical foundation of Catholic exoristic rhetoric will then be seen to supply an important brush stroke for our emerging scholarly portrait of Christian humanism in the early modern period.'

The paper can be found in Rhetorica, Vol. XXIII, 3, pp. 209-237 (2005). Kallendorf is also the author of a book on the subject, Exorcism and Its Texts: Subjectivity in Early Modern Literature of England and Spain (Univ. of Toronto Press, 2003).

Magia Posthuma revisited

It seems that now and then more information on von Schertz's Magia Posthuma is added by visitors of this blog. Unfortunately, some of these visitors remain anonymous, but their input is fascinating and most welcome. So, what can I say: Keep coming back to this blog, you never know what turns up.

I would also like to take the opportunity to thank those who send me an e-mail. It is very nice and inspiring to hear from people who share an interest in vampires and magia posthuma!

Sunday 11 November 2007

Peter Mario Kreuter talks about vampires

Peter Mario Kreuter, author of Der Vampirglaube in Südosteuropa (Weidler Buchverlag, 2001), can be seen lecturing about vampires (in German, of course) here. You can e.g. hear how he got into researching vampires and he also discusses the question of blood drinking/blood sucking. So if you understand German, this is an interesting opportunity to experience Kreuter "live".

The video is from 2004, so this is "old news", but still interesting.

Vampirism from a colonial pespective

According to the web site of the Ludwig-Maximilians Universität in Munich, Prof. Dr. Thomas Bohn is currently teaching a seminar on the cultural history of the vampire. The seminar started on October 17th and continues to February 5th 2008. The description of the seminar e.g. says that vampires

"were stylized as an expression of a barbarous world from which civilised Europe could be demarcated. At the same time the phrase 'vampirism' worked as an imperial category. It was primarily aimed at the border areas of the empires that stood up against each other in Central Europe. While the witch hunts of the 16th and 17th centuries proceeded from the West to the East of the continent, the posthumous staking and burning of vampires on the contrary spread from the East to the West. From a colonial perspective vampirism could be interpreted as an invasion of primitive forces and connected with slavophobic thoughts. On this background the home of the vampire displaced itself from Serbia and Hungary over Moravia and Silesia to Poland and Lithuania."

I find it a bit difficult to understand the localities mentioned in this displacement, because quite a number of Moravian and Silesian cases of Magia Posthuma antedate the Serbian vampire cases of the 18th Century. However, here is the original description of the seminar:

"Prof. Dr. Thomas Bohn

Kulturgeschichte der Vampire 3-stündig, Di 15-18 Uhr, Amalienstr. 52, R. 507 5.OG

Der Glaube an den „lebenden Leichnam“ ist ein universales Phänomen. Während in der mitteleuropäischen Variante sogenannte Nachzehrer ihre Angehörigen durch Sympathie ins Grab locken, werden in der südosteuropäischen Version Verwandte vermeintlicher Blutsauger der ewigen Verdammnis ausgesetzt. Die Vampire verdanken ihre Popularität der Aufklärung. Sie wurden zum Ausdruck einer barbarischen Welt stilisiert, von der sich das zivilisierte Europa abgrenzen konnte. Gleichzeitig fungierte das Schlagwort „Vampirismus“ als imperiale Kategorie. Es wurde bevorzugt auf die Grenzgebiete der Vielvölkerreiche bezogen, die sich in der Mitte Europas gegenüberstanden. Hatte sich die Hexenverfolgung im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert allmählich vom Westen in den Osten des Kontinents ausgedehnt, so schien sich im Gegenzug die posthume Pfählung und Verbrennung von Vampiren im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert von Osten nach Westen zu verbreiten. Aus kolonialer Perspektive ließ sich der Vampirismus daher als Invasion primitiver Kräfte deuten und mit slavophoben Sentenzen verbinden. Vor diesem Hintergrund verschob sich die Heimat der Vampire in westlichen Diskursen allmählich von Serbien und Ungarn über Mähren und Schlesien nach Polen und Litauen.

Literatur: Hamberger, Klaus (Hrsg.): Mortuus non mordet. Dokumente zum Vampirismus, 1689-1791. Wien 1992; Sturm, Dieter/Klaus Völker (Hrsg.): Von denen Vampiren und Menschensaugern. Dichtungen und Dokumente. 4. Aufl. Frankfurt am Main 2003; Thomas Schürmann: Nachzehrerglauben in Mitteleuropa. Marburg 1990; Peter Mario Kreuter: Der Vampirglaube in Südosteuropa. Studien zur Genese, Bedeutung und Funktion. Rumänien und der Balkanraum. Berlin 2001.

Bohn recently talked about "Der Dracula-Mythos" - Osteuropäischer Volksglaube und westeuropäische Klischees ("The Dracula Myth" - East European Folklore and West European Clichés) as an introduction to the movie Bram Stoker's Dracula that was shown as part of a series of symposia, workshops and conferences on Romania called donumenta in Regensburg

Bohn has also taught on the subject of Dracula - Mythos oder Wirklichkeit? (Dracula - Myth or Reality?) at the Friedrich Schiller Universität in Jena, and in 2008 he will be in charge of a seminar on Vlad Tepes „Dracula“ - Tyrann oder Volkstribun? (Vlad Tepes "Dracula" - Tyrant or tribune of the people?)

Sunday 4 November 2007

Femme fantôme

Dr. Katrin Schumacher from the Gießener Graduiertenzentrum Kulturwissenschaften has written a thesis that was published by Francke earlier this year as Femme fantôme: Poetologien und Szenen der Wiedergängerin um 1800/1900. As far as I can gather this is a study of female fictional revenants, but may be of interest to some visitors of this blog:

"Die Rückkehr der an den Tod verlorenen Geliebten: Die Studie betrachtet erstmals das Phänomen der femme fantôme als eine kulturgeschichtliche und literarische Abbildung dieses Phantasmas der Wiedergängerin. Ausgehend von der Beobachtung, dass die Jahrhundertschwellen um 1800 und um 1900 signifikante Denkfiguren der Endlichkeit und der Wiederholung produzieren, setzt die Arbeit an jenen Umbruchzeiten des Wissens an. In den diskursanalytischen Fokus geraten zunächst die Labore der Lebenswissenschaften um 1800, deren spektakuläre Daten zu Tod und Leben, Scheintod und Geistererscheinungen in der Literatur wiederum zu Experimenten mit Signalen und Zeichen aus dem Jenseits führen. Bei Goethe, Novalis, Schelling und in Bonaventuras Nachtwachen wird die Wiedergängerin als eine solche Phantastik des Wissens literarisiert. Im Fin de siècle, bei Poe, Rodenbach, den englischen Präraffaeliten, schließlich bei Schnitzler, H. Mann und Autoren der österreichischen Phantastik erscheint die femme fantôme als theatrales Wesen, das einem irritierten Raum-Zeit-Gefüge erwächst.
Die Geschichte der femme fantôme ist eine Spurensuche in den Dispositionen des Wissens und den Figuren der Wiederholung. Der Kanon philosophischer Fragen nach dem Jenseits wird letztlich auf eine Kultur- und Wissensgeschichte des Todes beziehbar."

Francke in 2005 published a very interesting anthology on vampires: Poetische Wiedergänger edited by Julia Bertschik and Christa Tuczay.

Apropos Ranft online

A few other relevant books are also available on the internet, and I have for a long time have intended to write more extensively about these resources, but I simply haven't got round to do so. Particularly, I have wanted to comment on the modern versions of some texts that have surfaced during the later years, i.e. the Ubooks edition of Ranft's Traktat, and the Hexenmond-Verlag edition of two 1732 books, but this will have to await some other occasion.

Ranft's Traktat online!

I have an old photocopy of Michael Ranft's 1734 Traktat von dem Kauen und Schmatzen der Todten in Gräbern which I have studied over the years. Before Calmet's Dissertations this was the only book that attempted to collect more or less all available knowledge on vampires and comment on the authors who had themselves commented on Ranft's Latin first edition.

I also have a modernized edition that was published in 2006 by Ubooks in Germany.

Now, however, the original has been scanned and made available to the public on the internet by Klassik Stiftung Weimar here, so everyone interested in our subject of magia posthuma and vampires can get to read - or at least take a look at - this important book!

Friday 2 November 2007

Calmet's Dissertations on ebay

A fine first edition of Calmet's Dissertations sur les apparitions is currently on auction on ebay. Seller estimates the book to be worth at least 1700 euro, so if you do not have that kind of money, you will probably have to be content with studying the nice photos of the book.
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