Thursday 23 June 2011

Twilight fix

Twilight is not exactly the subject of this blog, but I was surprised to read about a thesis from my country, Denmark, on 'woman, class and love', that documents the obsession even women in their thirties can have for the novels created by Stephanie Meyers. The thesis by Paulina A. Frederiksen can be found online here, but is in Danish. It does, however, include this abstract in English:

'This thesis explores the connection between reading romantic literature and female identity, through a qualitative method study of both well-educated metropolitan women and uneducated women from the rural areas of Zealand, Denmark. More precisely it evolves around how the women receive, consume and apply the Twilight saga phenomenon to their lives and identity. It explores what the women’s worship of the saga might be a reflection of, in comparison to tendencies in society.

It takes its point of departure in Pierre Bourdieu’s social theory and work on masculine domination, distinction of taste and class, and John B. Thompson’s theory of the connection between media and identity. In addition to this, the notion of the parasocial relation from Donald Horton and R. Richard Wohl. Bourdieus theory is supplemented by Beverly Skegg’s notion of respectability and Sarah Holst Kjær’s notion of the heteronomy in society and media. Rosalind Gill’s notion of female gender articulation in postfeminist media culture, will in addition to tendencies in society, give a perspective on women’s construction of identity. Moreover, Gitte Balling’s strategy for the practical approach to the reading experience will help verbalize the difficulties in articulating the reading experiences.

The analysis shows that the women like to read about romance and love as a stimulus and compensation for a sometimes unsatisfactory daily life. Dissatisfaction with a current relationship, or with oneself for instance. Moreover, their pleasure in reading the saga is the result of society's glorification of the heterosexual relationship. They use the saga in cultivation of this prestige, both literally and figuratively as a practical manual for a relationship. The influence that the saga has on the women across class is similar, because the main love theme reflects a doxa about romance, relationships and the ideal man, which they are subordinated, in circumstances of symbolic dominance. However this does not mean that they apply the saga in quite the same way to their life and identity, because their social circumstances and habitus are different.

Because the romantic literature and hence the saga, is not considered decent reading of a respectable adult woman, they attempt to distance themselves from liking the genre and feel looked down upon by their peers. For the majority of the women, the parasocial relation to the saga or characters has become a part of their identity and everyday life, and the gratification they get from reading the saga, is expanded to other media like internet or soundtracks from the screen versions of the saga. Furthermore, the textual and visual shape of the saga is important in connection with the strong attachment to the story and the influence on the women.'

Sunday 19 June 2011


Alluding, of course, to Goya's Caprichos plate no. 43, the cover of Andrew Miller's new novel Pure easily attracts one's attention. And the age of Enlightenment is the scene of the novel as well, and should intrigue those of us who have read Philippe Aries's writings on e.g. French cemeteries:

'Deep in the heart of Paris, its oldest cemetery is, by 1785, overflowing, tainting the very breath of those who live nearby. Into their midst comes Jean-Baptiste Baratte, a young, provincial engineer charged by the king with demolishing it.

At first Baratte sees this as a chance to clear the burden of history, a fitting task for a modern man of reason. But before long, he begins to suspect that the destruction of the cemetery might be a prelude to his own.'

The reviewer in The Independent writes:

'Murder, rape, seduction and madness impel this elegant novel. Baratte undertakes his commission of removing the entire cemetery of Les Innocents, close to the markets at les Halles. Closed after human remains broke through a wall into the cellar of a neighbouring tenement, the cemetery and its ancient church is to be cleansed. Baratte is to oversee the excavation of the graves and charnel pits (some of which, at almost 20 metres deep, draw on the engineer's mining expertise) and the transport of bones to a defunct quarry outside the city.

Purifying centuries of decaying mortality and removing the miasma that permeates the dwellings, skin and even food of the area is neither simple nor necessarily popular. Miller threads into this fabric subtle ideas about modernity, glancing at Voltaire, public health and the seditious graffiti that anticipate the revolutionary fervour of 1789 - just four years away.

Martin Zeiller's original account of the revenant who left his shroud

Anyone interested in vampires and revenants will have noticed that certain tales or reports are repeated again and again in the literature, sometimes in a number of variations that may even be presented as occurring at different locations. One of these stories was mentioned in a post a couple of months on shrouds, but at the time I was unable to cite the original. I refer to the story of a revenant who left his shroud when leaving his grave, which was the inspiration for Goethe's Totentanz. It was, as far as I know, originally recounted in Martin Zeiller's comments to his German translation of Francois de Rosset's Les histoires tragiques de notre temps. I have recently had access to two editions of Zeiller's Theatrum tragicum, the earliest being the fourth edition published in Tübingen in 1634.

Commenting on the first story in Rosset's book, Zeiller adds a number of stories about the Devil's works, among them a few concerning spectres and apparitions of the dead. He notes that the learned have differing opinions on the nature of these apparitions, but that his concern is not to discuss whether they are indeed the deceased people or merely the Devil's deceit. His concern is but to a few of the stories of these apparitions. Among them are the omnipresent stories of the shepherd from Blov and the 'witch' from Levin as told by Wenzel Hajek in his Böhmische Chronica. Continuing from the last of these stories, Zeiller writes:

'Fast ein gleiche Geschicht has sich vor ettlichen Jaren zu Eywanschitz in Mähren (wie ish solche Anno 1617. und 18. zu unterschiedlichen malen von glaubwürdigen Burgern allda habe erzehlen hören / mir auch der Ort ist gewiesen) begeben / in deme / dem ansehen nach / ein ehrlicher Burger daselbst auff den Kirchhof in der Statt ist begraben worden / welcher stets bey der Nacht auffgestanden ist / und ettliche umbgebracht hat : seinen Sterbküttel liesse er allzeit bey dem Grab ligen / und wann er sich wider niderlegte / so zoge er den Sterbküttel wider an. Einsmals aber / da er also vom Grab hinweg gienge / und die Wächter auff dem Kirchenthurn solches ersahen / haben sie ihme den Sterbküttel unter dessen hinweg getragen : als er nun wider zum Grab kame / und seinen Küttel nicht fande / ruffte er den Wächtern / sie sollen ihme den Küttel geben / oder er wolle sie alle erwürgen : welches sie haben thun müssen : hernach aber wurde er vom Hängcker außgegraben / und zu Stucken zerhawen / da hörete das Ubel auff / und da er auß dem Grab genommen worden / sagte er : sie hätten es jetzt wol recht getroffen : sonsten / weil sein Weib auch gestorben / und zu ihme gelegt worden war / wolten sie beede die halbe Staat umbgebracht haben. Der Hängcker zoge ihm auß dem Maul einen langen grossen Schleyer / welchen er seinem Weib vom Kopff hinweg gessen hatte / den selben hat der Nachrichter dem beystehendem Volck gezeigt / und gesagt : schawet / wie der Schelm so geizig gewesen.'

So this is probably the oldest known version of this story which not only inspired Goethe, but also later on turned up in Le Fanu's Carmilla , as a story from Breslau and, probably, most notably in the 'vampire' story from Liebava in Moravia in Calmet's Traité. Zeiller's original does not differ much from the retelling in Der höllische Proteus which I quoted in my post on the subject, but portions of the story are left out or changed in various versions.

Zeiller travelled in various parts of the German territories. In 1650 he authored an interesting topographical work on Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia, Topographia Bohemiae, Moraviae et Silesiae, which also contains information on Eywanschitz (today called Ivančice or Eibenschütz) and other locations of interest. Under Lewin/Levin, Zeiller once again tells the tale of the witch. He is, however, not certain that Hajek actually refers to the same Lewin, as the passage below shows.

Monday 13 June 2011

Vampirglaube und magia posthuma

Forthcoming from LIT Verlag, Verlag für wissenschaftliche Literatur, and available for pre-order:

Christoph Augustynowicz, Ursula Reber (Hg.): Vampirglaube und magia posthuma im Diskurs der Habsburgermonarchie, Vol. 6 in the series Austria: Forschung und Wissenschaft - Geschichte. 264 pages, 19.90 €, ISBN 978-3-643-50320-6.

Vampyres according to an English Gentleman and a German Director

One of the most frequently quoted descriptions of vampires in English is referred to as a translation from a dissertation on vampires published in Duisburg in 1733, the only German book on vampires written and published in this part of German territory. The original translation of the description is found in an anonymous manuscript, The Travels of three Gentlemen, from Venice to Hamburgh, being the grand Tour of Germany, in the Year 1734, first published in volume IV of The Harleian Miscellany: A Collection of Scarce, Curious, and Entertaining Pamphlets and Tracts, as well in Manuscript as in Print in 1745, and continued in the subsequent volume.

When in Lubljana in Slovenia, the author mentions Valvasor: 'All persons of taste and learning in Carniola have in high esteem the piece of Baron Valvasor, intitled 'Gloria Ducatus Carniolæ,' which, they say, is wrote with the utmost truth, accuracy, and exactness.'

The landlord of the three gentlemen, 'a cheerful agreeable person, and a man of very good sense and understanding,' 'seemed to pay some regard to what Baron Valvasor has related of the Vampyres, said to infest some parts of this country'. In this connection, the author mentions a dissertation upon vampires written by the director of the gymnasium in Essen in Germany, M. Jo. Henr. Zopfius, 'from whence we shall beg leave to transcribe the following paragraph'.

This paragraph is quoted in various books and on many web sites, but it may be worthwhile to quote it in toto:

'The Vampyres, which come out of the graves in the night-time, rush upon people sleeping in their beds, suck out all their blood, and destroy them. They attack men, women, and children; sparing neither age nor sex. The people, attacked by them, complain of suffocation, and a great interception of spirits; after which, they soon expire. Some of them, being asked, at the point of death, what is the matter with them? say they suffer in the manner just related from people lately dead, or rather the spectres of those people; upon which, their bodies (from the description given of them, by the sick person,) being dug out of the graves, appear in all parts, as the nostrils, cheeks, breast, mouth, &c. turgid and full of blood. Their countenances are fresh and ruddy; and their nails, as well as hair, very much grown. And, though they have been much longer dead than many other bodies, which are perfectly putrified, notthe least mark of corruption is visible upon them. Those who are destroyed by them, after their death, become Vampyres; so that, to prevent so spreading an evil, it is found requisite to drive a stake through the dead body, from whence, on this occasion, the blood flows as if the person was alive. Sometimes the body is dug out of the grave, and burnt to ashes; upon which, all disturbances cease. The Hungarians call these spectre Pamgri, and the Servians, Vampyres; but the etymon or reason of these names is not known.'

Montague Summers quotes the passage in his 1929 The Vampire in Europe, but one year earlier, on the first page of the first chapter of The Vampire: His Kith and Kin, this is how he quotes Zopf(ius):

'Vampires issue forth from their graves in the night, attack people sleeping quitely in their beds, suck out all their blood from their bodies and destroy them. They beset men, women and children alike, sparing neither age nor sex. Those who are under the fatal malignity of their influence, complain of suffocation and a total deficiency of spirits, after which they soon expire. Some who, when at the point of death, have been asked if they can tell what is causing their decease, reply that such and such persons, lately dead, have arisen from the tomb to torment and torture them.'

Not being satisfied with just quoting either of these English translations (or transcriptions?), I have looked up what the director of the gymnasium in Essen actually wrote. Zopf's Dissertatio de Vampyris Serviensibus consists of 27 pages written in Latin, and when you start looking for a text like the ones in English, you find that it is actually adapted from two bits of text on pp. 6-7.

On page 6, the dissertation is introduced with some comments on the word 'vampire', which includes this passage:

Apud Hungaros etiam PAMGRI audiunt, cuius de vocabuli notione atque etymo non magis constat, quam de obscuro Vampyrorum nomine. Germanico idiomate dici solent Todten-Freßer/Blut-Sauger/vulgoque habentur pro hominum defunctorum spectris, quæ nocte intempesta de sepulcris prodeant, in dormientes insiliant, & sanguine exhaustos, leto tradant.'

It is the last sentence that refers to the spectres of dead people, who come forth from their graves at the dead of night, throw themselves upon sleeping people, and leave them to die, drained of blood.

The main description of vampires and their characteristics than be found as § III on page 7:

'Ex iis relationibus, quae de Vampyris Seruiensibus adhuc emanarunt in vulgus, haec potissimum phaenomena nobis innotuerunt: tradunt nimirum (1) apparere in Seruia, praesertim in pago Medvedia, non procul Beraxino, spectra personarum, quae paucis ante diebus, septimanis, mensibus, e vita discesserint; (2) spectra isthaec adoriri homines vtriusque sexus, neque etiam infantibus parcere; (3) personas ab eiusmodi incubis infestatas, de suffocatione & spiritus interceptione grauiter conqueri, ac breui post exspirare; (4) rogatos a suis moribundos, ecquid malae rei ipsis acciderit, a spectro hominis nuper defuncti sibi illatum, profiteri; (5) quo facto cadauer personae a moribundo designatae e sepulcro effodi, in quo crudus adhuc vigor, capilli vnguesque recens prognati, nares, bucca, pectus, ventriculus, & reliqua corporis vasa, recenti sanguine turgida deprehendantur, cumque alii post eos extincti iam putrescant, in his ne minimam corruptionis notam conspici; (6) eos, qui ab eiusmodi Vampyris necentur, eandem post fata naturam induere, atque alios pari leto adficere; (7) quod ne latius malum serpat, hominis enecti praecordia palo transfigi praeacuto, vnde cruor largus, quasi ab homine viuo, profluat; (8) saepe cadauer e sepulcro erui, rogoque impositum in cineres redigi, quo ipso malum sopiatur.'

In short, the English translations are close to the original text, but not literal. Also, if you take a look at the beginning of the previous paragraph, you can see that both the anonymous gentleman and Summers chose to omit the reference to Medvedja ('Medvedia') in Serbia.

Michael Ranft was not happy with Zopf's dissertation and his idea of a 'contagium quoddam magicum', a kind of magical contagious disease. As translated into German in Klaus Hamberger's Mortuus non mordet:

'Es scheint uns nicht völlig unwahrscheinlich, daß die ganze Vampyrpest bei Serben und anderen in einere magischen Ansteckung (contagium magicum) besteht, die nach dem gerechten Ratschluß Gottes die Bewohner jener Gegend heimsucht. Wir sagen Ansteckung, weil sie sich gleich einer Seuche weiter ausbreitet und mit ihrem Anhauch nicht nur einzelne Mesnchen, sondern ganze Familien infiziert und ausrottet; und wir nennen sie magisch, weil der Teufel sein Wirken unter die Kräfte der Natur mischt, und so einige widernatürliche Effekte erzielt.' (p. 204)

As for the three gentlemen, I have referred to the author of the manuscript as the anonymous gentleman. Aribert Schroeder in his Vampirismus: Seine Entwicklung vom Thema zum Motiv from 1973 discusses the identity of the anonymous gentleman at length and identifies three persons as possible matches: The astronomer James Bradley, the botanist Johann-Jakob Dillenius, and the physician Frank Nicholls. However, a paper from 1999 by T. Shaw, John Swinton, F.R.S., identified as the author of a 1734 travel journal, identifies the author as John Swinton, whose entry in the wikipedia succinctly says:

John Swinton (1703–1777) was a British writer, academic, Fellow of the Royal Society, Church of England clergyman and orientalist. In 1731 he was a fellow of Wadham College, Oxford, but migrated to Christ Church in 1745. He contributed to George Sale's Universal History. Swinton also contributed articles on the transcription of the 'Ruins of Palmyra'. Beginning in 1749, Swinton donated a number of Roman coins to the collection at Christ Church. From 1767 until the year of his death he was Keeper of the Archives at Oxford University.

As Schroeder remarks, the English gentleman (the Rev. John Swinton, apparently) probably could not read most of the books on vampires, because they were written in German. For that reason he referred to Zopf's dissertation in Latin, and his transcription and the later adaption by Montague Summers made Zopf a household name of vampire books and web sites in English.

Johann Heinrich Zopf himself was born in 1691 and died in 1774, and you can easily find biographical info like this, as well as a number of books by him on the internet.

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