Friday 27 February 2009

In short

I have seen a preliminary list of abstracts for the conference in Vienna this July. It looks very interesting. I suppose that I may mention that a certain blogger has submitted an abstract concerning a blog on the history of Central and Eastern European vampire cases of the 18th Century.

Monday 23 February 2009

Premature Burial in Brussels

I was in Brussels last year, but could not at the time think of any connection with my interest in magia posthuma. Later on I have realized that a couple of paintings that are reproduced in books on vampires are part of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in that very city. I am referring to a couple of paintings by Antoine Wiertz (1806-65):

L'inhumation précipitée, the premature burial, depicting a victim of cholera prematurely put away in a coffin. Premature burial being a favourite rationalist explanation of the belief in revenants, the subject matter is obviously relevant to books on vampires, and the.

La belle Rosine, a variation on the popular Death and the Maiden theme, is e.g. used on the cover of Ornella Volta's 1962 Le Vampire as shown below.

Finally, in books on the subject of witches you might find La jeune sorcière.

So, if you visit Brussels, you may want to go to The Wiertz Museum.

Sunday 22 February 2009

Van Swieten

Speaking of van Swieten, there's a copy of Willibald Müller's biography from 1883 for sale on ebay currently. You could also go for a handcoloured woodcut :-) Some of the literature on van Swieten is pretty old. In Danish I have a copy of a two part article from the weekly for physicians, Ugeskrift for Læger, from 1901 by Professor, Dr. Julius Petersen about van Swieten. Those who are able to read Danish may enjoy clicking on the image below to read the words on van Swieten bathing in the warmth of the Austrian court's sun.

Tight-rope walking

The Austrian publisher Böhlau mentioned in my last post published a volume on vampire matters in 1997: 100 Jahre Dracula compiled by Rainer M. Köppl, who later on hosted the Vampire Princess documentary. Commemorating the centenary of Bram Stoker's Dracula, the book mostly contains material related to Dracula and other fictional vampires. There is, however, a short article on vampirism from a medical point of view by Andreas Leithner and Christian Reiter (Reiter also was in the above mentioned documentary) which lists some of the diseases that people have tried to relate to the vampire cases, and of our main interest: An article by Köppl on Gerard van Swieten (Wissenschaft und Totenzauber) and a reprint of the German translation of van Swieten's remarks on vampirism! Köppl's article is quite enjoyable in its description of van Swieten's tight-rope walking between religion and materialism when denouncing the magia posthuma.

Saturday 21 February 2009

Valvasor biography

The vampire tales mentioned by Johann Weichardt von Valvasor are well known, and I have written a bit about them in these two posts: Magia posthuma and the shepherd from Blov and Exhibiting Valvasor.

For those interested in knowing more about Valvasor's life and work, a book on the subject was published by Böhlau in Vienna last year: Johann Weichard von Valvasor (1641-1693) Ein Protagonist der Wissenschaftsrevolution der Frühen Neuzeit Leben, Werk und Nachlass by Irmgard Palladino and Maria Bidovec (priced at € 35).

The publisher has this to say about the book:

'Naturforscher, Ethnologe, Zeichner, Kartograph und Verleger inkarniert Johann Weichard von Valvasor (1641–1693) den genuinen Homo universalis der Barockzeit. Seine kartographische Arbeit sowie die speläologischen und hydrologischen Entdeckungen, insbesondere seine ingeniöse Theorie der Karst-Phänomene des Zirknitzer Sees in Slowenien, brachten ihm 1687 die Aufnahme in die Royal Society in London ein. Von großer Bedeutung war seine Gründung einer Kupferdruckwerkstatt, der ersten im Herzogtum Krain. Mit dieser Einrichtung sollte sich sein Schloss Wagensperg binnen weniger Jahre zum wichtigsten Kunst- und Forschungszentrum eines Landes entwickeln, dessen kulturelle Entfaltung im Konfessionellen Zeitalter entschieden beeinträchtigt worden war. Unterstützt von einem Künstlerkreis veröffentlichte Valvasor sechs Topographien und drei Werke mit Kunstgraphik. Er war ein Mann der Übergangszeit. Während seine empirische Praxis ihn zu einem Pionier der Aufklärung in Zentraleuropa macht, erweist er sich doch auch als Kind einer Epoche, die von Bergmännlein und Vampiren fabelte und Blei in Gold umzuwandeln suchte. Die slowenische Geschichtsschreibung zählt ihn zu ihren Gründungsvätern, die deutsche Forschung muss ihn erst noch entdecken. Valvasors Bibliothek und druckgraphische Sammlung haben sich – ein Glücksfall für die Wissenschaftsgeschichte der Frühen Neuzeit – erhalten.

Das deutsch-slowenische Autorinnenteam bietet eine Einführung in Leben, Werk und Nachlass des Polyhistors, dessen erkenntnistheoretischer Ansatz anhand von Selbstzeugnissen aus seinem 1689 in Nürnberg erschienenen enzyklopädischen Hauptwerk Die Ehre Deß Herzogthums Crain sowie dem Briefwechsel mit der Royal Society referiert wird.'

Sunday 15 February 2009

A Winged Kiss

Everyone familiar with both non-fictional and fictional books on vampires will probably have seen a few of Max Ernst'st striking and surreal collages from Une Semaine de Bonté of persons with bat wings, in particular the one shown below.

Recently, an exhibition of Ernst's works opened at an art museum here in Denmark. I look forward to going there, and perhaps also seeing some of those famous collages exhibited, who knows. The exhibition earlier on was shown in Stockholm, Sweden. Those of us living in the area now have an opportunity to see a unique retrospective of the various phases of Ernst's work, Dream and Revolution.

Actually, just last year another artist whose works sometimes is used to illustrate vampire and horror books was exhibited here in Denmark, Felicien Rops.

Saturday 14 February 2009


For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.

On this day of edible hearts made of chocolate, I think I will refer once again to the delightful book on 'heart-eaters' and related subjects by Christa Tuczay that I wrote a bit about here. The heart itself of course has its own history, see e.g. here, and in modern vampire fiction staking is no longer about fastening the corpse to the ground so that it cannot return, but rather about piercing the heart.

Monday 9 February 2009

Sixteenth Century Conference

The Sixteenth Century & Conference hosts a conference in Geneva on May 28-30 this year. Among the talks listed in the preliminary program is The Construction of the Vampire in Eighteenth-Century Europe by Michael Pickering from The University of Melbourne!

There is also a talk by a fellow Dane, Louise Nyholm Kallestrup, on Looking for the Devil: Lay and Inquisitorial Witchcraft Persecution in the Seventeenth Century.

Sunday 8 February 2009

Dracula Unbound Reviewed

'Der Vampir zeigt sich jedenfalls als eine der wenigen genuin mythischen, weil unablässig neue Deutungen anziehenden Figuren, die von der Moderne hervorgebracht worden sind.'

So says a reviewer of the recent anthology Dracula Unbound. I haven't spent 68 Euro on the book, and the review confirms my expectations that the volume is mainly of interest to those concerned with the modern fictional mythology of vampires:

'Der Sammelband zeigt das Auftauchen von Vampiren in der Literatur- und Wissenschaftsgeschichte und findet eine Vielzahl an Deutungen für die untote Nachtgestalt. Manchmal schießen die Autoren jedoch übers Ziel hinaus und neigen zu unbestimmter, verquaster Begriffsbildung.'

If anyone happens to know more about the book, feel free to comment.

The real "living dead"

Vampires crop up everywhere, e.g. here in For They Know Not What They Do: Enjoyment as a Political Factor (1991) by the philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek:

'Apropos of the "transcendental apperception", Kant points out the utter voidance of the "I" that thinks: "I" is the empty form of thoughts, we can never accomplish the step from it towards substance and attain the hypothetical X, "the Thing that thinks" - yet the apparitions in the Gothic novels are precisely this: Things that think. This Kantian background is most easily perceived in the vampire novels; when, in a typical scene, the hero endeavours to deliver the innocent girl who has become a vampire by finishing her off in the appropriate way (the wooden stake through the heart, and so on), the aim of this operation is to differentiate the Thing from the body, to drive out the Thing, this embodiment of perverse and traumatic enjoyment, from the body subordinated to the "normal" causal link. Let us just recall the scene from Bram Stoker's Dracula in which Arthur stakes Lucy, his ex fiancée:

The Thing in the coffin writhed; and a hideous, blood-curdling screech came from the opened red lips. The body shook and quivered and twisted in wild contortions, the sharp white teeth champed together till the lips were cut, and the mouth was smeared with a crimson foam.

- desperate resistance of the Thing, of enjoyment fighting not to be evacuated from the body. When, finally, the Thing is driven out, the expression on Lucy's face changes back to normal, assuming again the features of innocent beatitude - the Thing within the body is dead One of the usual phrases about the Thing in the Gothic novel is the horrified exclamation: "It's alive!" - that is to say, the substance of enjoyment is not yet mortified, quartered by the transcendental-symbolic network. The paradox of the vampires is that, precisely as "living dead", they are
far more alive than us, mortified by the symbolic network. The usual Marxist vampire metaphor is that of capital sucking the blood of the workforce, embodiment of the rule of the dead over the living; perhaps the time has come to reverse it: the real "living dead" are we, common mortals, condemned to vegetate in the Symbolic.' (p. 220-1)

Monday 2 February 2009

For the fictionally inclined

I thought I ought to mention the celebration of Stoker's Dracula that is organized by the Dublin City Library Service this April. The extensive program should contain something for any Dracula buff :-)

Speaking of vampire fiction, I will take the opportunity to mention this French blog that I was informed about recently. Not really up my alley, but perhaps some of you would like to see it.

youtube vampires...

A couple of curiosities recently added to youtube:

The first is probably of a Serbian water-mill associated with a vampire, possibly Sava Savanovíc mentioned in this old post.

The second one once again goes to show that the popular myth that the porphyria disease can explain the historical vampire cases is impossible to put to rest!

Sunday 1 February 2009

Translations of Calmet

Here you will find a short paper in Catalan by Jordi Ardanuy on various editions and translations of Calmet's Dissertation on revenants and vampires. Interestingly, the covers of the various translations accompany the text.

Kakanien conference and anthology

News from the Kakanien Revisited project on the conference on vampirism:

'The Thyssen-Foundation has agreed on funding the conference "Vampirism and magia posthuma in the Habsburg Discourse, 18th/19th Century" to be held in July 2009 in cooperation with the Institute for Eastern European History at the University of Vienna. Papers will be held by international experts on the subject. The conference topics will address the figure of the vampire in Religion / Anthropology, Medicine / Enlightement, Metaphors / Media, Phenomena of the Threshold / Discourses of Hybridity.

Accordingly, a new Digital Anthology on Vampirism has just been started. Articles by Clemens Ruthner, Peter Mario Kreuter, and Christoph Augustynowicz, which had already been published in the Case Studies' section of Kakanien revisited troughout the past years, are now to be found here. You can navigate these articles with their old, as well as with their new URLs.'

The digital anthology on vampirism can be found here.
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