Monday 29 April 2013

Austrian Books Online

Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, the Austrian National Library, now cooperates with Google Books in a joint venture called Austrian Books Online aiming at making the library's collection available online in digital format. 600.000 books are planned to be included in the online collection, and so far 100.000 are online.

Among the books is the Kronyka Czeska by Waclaw Hajekz Libocan aka Hagecius, one of the sources for two well-known tales concerning revenants: the shepherd from Blov and the 'witch' from Levin. Both were originally published in the Kronika Neplachov, but Hajekz embellished them in his chronicle. For more information about those revenant or vampire 'cases', follow the above links.

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Kiss of the Butterfly in Print

'An exciting read ... A well-crafted mix of fact and fiction ... fascinating ... I can highly recommend Kiss of the Butterfly,' were parts of my review of James Lyon's novel. Now Kiss of the Butterfly is no longer only available as an e-book, but is now available as an illustrated paperback from e.g. Amazon.

Monday 22 April 2013

America Bewitched

Owen Davies, Professor of Social History at the University of Hertfordshire and author of a.o. The Haunted: A Social History of Ghosts, has written America Bewitched: Witchcraft after Salem that has just been published by Oxford University Press. According to the publisher, it 'explodes the myth that the story of witchcraft in America ended with the Salem witch trials', and 'reveals how the story of witchcraft continued to sour the American dream for many until well into the twentieth century':

'The infamous Salem witch trials of 1692 are etched into the consciousness of America. Nineteen people executed, one tortured to death, four others perished in jail--the tragic toll of Salem remains a powerful symbol of the dangers of intolerance and persecution. As time passed, the trials were seen as a milepost measuring the distance America had progressed from its benighted past. Yet the story of witchcraft did not end in Salem. As Owen Davies shows in America Bewitched, a new, long, and chilling chapter was about to begin.

Davies, an authority on witches and the supernatural, reveals how witchcraft in post-Salem America was not just a matter of scary fire-side tales, Halloween legends, and superstitions: it continued to be a matter of life and death. If anything, witchcraft disputes multiplied as hundreds of thousands of immigrants poured into North America, people for whom witchcraft was still a heinous crime. Davies tells the story of countless murders and many other personal tragedies that resulted from accusations of witchcraft among European Americans-as well as in Native American and African American communities. He describes, for instance, the impact of this belief on Native Americans, as colonists-from Anglo-American settlers to Spanish missionaries-saw Indian medicine men as the Devil's agents, potent workers of malign magic. But Davies also reveals that seventeenth-century Iroquois--faced with decimating, mysterious diseases--accused Jesuits of being plague-spreading witches. Indeed, the book shows how different American groups shaped each other's languages and beliefs, sharing not only our positive cultural traits, but our fears and weaknesses as well.

America Bewitched is the first book to open a window on this fascinating topic, conjuring up new insights into popular American beliefs, the immigrant experience, racial attitudes, and the development of modern society.'

Sunday 21 April 2013

Harenberg: Vampire icon

It is highly unlikely that Johann Christoph Harenberg imagined that, 280 years after he originally wrote it, the title page of one his books would be sold as a poster in Italy. That, however, is what happened at the Dracula e il mito dei vampiri exhibition in Milan, and the book was, of course, Harenberg's Vernünftige und Christliche Gedancken über die Vampirs oder Bluhtsaugende Todten, published in Wolffenbüttel in 1733.

Source: Europeana
Harenberg was born on April 28 1696 in the village Langenholzen close to Alfeld in present day Lower Saxony. His parents were farmers and traders of cloth. Having given birth to four daughters, his mother prayed to God that, if God would grant her a son, she would devote him to the service of God. Besides, the young Johann Christoph was a delicate child, so he was allowed to devote his energy on learning to read, write and calculate in German as well as in Latin. At eight years of age he was sent to school in Alfeld, and at thirteen he went to Hildesheim to continue his education in various subjects and languages.

As he was walking from Alfeld to Langenholzen one Saturday in the Spring of 1708, he saw a well-dressed, old man nearby whom he recognized as a man he knew. Harenberg approached him, but he suddenly noticed that the man was transparent, and the closer he got to the man, the more transparent he became. Terrified, Harenberg retreated to his village, where he next day learned that the old man had died from consumption at about the time that he had seen the vision. This was only Harenberg's first of three encounters with apparitions in connection with the death of locals.

In 1715, at the age of nineteen he went to the University in Helmstedt to study the sciences as well as further languages. In 1719 he visited the universities in Jena and Halle, and the following year he was asked by the abbess and duchess of GandersheimElisabeth Ernestine Antonie von Sachsen-Meiningen, to become headmaster of school belonging to the diocese. Besides teaching, he researched not only the Holy Writ, but also the history of the diocese. Several of his theological articles were published in the so-called Bremische Sammlungen published by Theodor Hase.

Merian's view of Gandersheim from Wikimedia
1734 was marked by ups and downs for Harenberg. He finished his voluminous history of the Gandersheim diocese, but fell into disgrace with the abbess and, although he accepted to become a parson at Bornhausen, he was finally appointed chief caretaker of the schools in the duchy of Wolfenbüttel. While there, he was in 1738 appointed a member of the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin. Incidentally, in 1732 this academy had been asked to write a memorandum on the Serbian vampires.

In 1745 Harenberg became Honorary Professor at the newly established Carolina collegium in Braunschweig and dean of the St. Lorenz convent in Schöningen. He died in Braunschweig on November 12 1774.

Göttingische Anzeigen von gelehrten Sachen November 26 1774, p. 1224
(He must have been 78 years of age, not 74).
Harenberg's multiple writings were mostly concerned with historical and theological topics, and particularly include a two volume book on the history of the Jesuit Order published in 1760. He was, however, also interested in other matters, like the fossil encrinus that was relatively common in Lower Saxony and also became the subject of one his shorter writings. In fact, at his death he left behind a large collection of these fossils, cf. Journal für die Liebhaber des Steinreichs und Konchyliologie Vol. II, pp. 524-7 (Weimar, 1775).

It was while he was Headmaster in Gandersheim that he wrote his book on vampires on the request of a high-ranking individual, no doubt the abbess herself. It must have been aimed at a wider audience, as it was not written in Latin like most of his other writings at the time, but in German. Postponing the publication in the hope that more examples would be published, he finished it on September 24 1732, and was consequently able to comment on a number of books on the subject that were published in the first half of that year. He also drew on his own experiences, including the above mentioned vision from his youth.

In Harenberg's view, the Serbs who claimed to be victims of vampires, probably suffered from angina (pectoris) that was caused by a) eating contaminated animal flesh, b) visiting other ill persons, and c) coming into contact with contaminated corpses. The illness then caused the blood to thicken, and as the blood began to stand still in the small vessels in the head, depression set in and the imagination malfunctioned. As the beliefs in harmful revenants were so impressed upon their imagination, the ill and their relations explained the illness, the chest pains and suffocation in terms of such vampires.

Ranft on Harenberg
Harenberg not only commented on a variety of theories that had been proposed since the publication of the Visum et Repertum, but also on subjects like werewolves. His etymology of the word 'vampire' was ridiculed by Michael Ranft in the third edition of his dissertation on the mastication of the dead. Ranft in fact ridiculed Harenberg and his efforts in general, leading to some controversy, when a review of both Harenberg's and Ranft's books were published in the supplements to the Leipzig Nova acta eruditorum, an anonymous review that was actually written by Harenberg himself. Obviously, Ranft felt obliged to vindicate himself, as years later, in 1742, he published a comment on the whole episode.

An in-depth study of Harenberg's book can be found in Anja Lauper's paper published in Begemann, Herrmann and Neumeyer's Dracula unbound: Kulturwissenschaftliche Lektüren des Vampirs (2008) and her subsequent book Die "phantastische Seuche": Episoden des Vampirismus im 18. Jahrhundert (2011).

Although it is, of course, his book and its subject that could be considered a 'vampire icon', one might still imagine a film inspired by Harenberg: His visions of the recently deceased and his considerations on the vampires could be intertwined and combined with machinations at the various courts and universities, perhaps even including some creative use of the controversy with Ranft, so that Hollywood could come up with stories of his own feverish experiences with bloodsuckers...

Geschichte Jetztlebender Gelehrten Vol. V (Zelle, 1732), pp. 94-144

Sunday 7 April 2013

Die Gräfin der Wölfe

A debut novel by German author Isabella Falk, Die Gräfin der Wölfe concerns the princess Amalia von Falkenstein, a character inspired by the life of the so-called 'vampire princess', Eleonore von Schwarzenberg, who was the subject of a documentary a few years ago. Born in 1682, Amalia von Falkenstein lives in a time of belief in witches and vampires. Although the daughter of a prince, the fates are against her, and in her quest to become more fertile, she begins to drink the milk of wolves. Local superstition, fear and hatred, however, all lead to her being accused of and finally diagnosed as suffering from vampirism.

Die Gräfin der Wölfe is published by Bookshouse as paperback, e-book and app:

'Die lebenslustige und intelligente Prinzessin Amalia von Falkenstein, geboren 1682, lebt in einer Zeit, die geprägt ist von Hexenglauben und aufkommender Vampirhysterie. Die Tochter des Fürsten von Torgelow ist mit einem unglückseligen Makel geschlagen, doch obwohl sie deshalb unter ihrem Stand heiraten muss, ist sie glücklich über ihre Vermählung mit dem Grafen von Falkenstein. Voller Vorfreude auf ihr neues Leben zieht sie mit ihm auf seine Burg. Der Einzug durch das Dorf wirft dunkle Schatten auf ihre junge Liebe. Ein missgestaltetes Kind wird geboren, kaum dass der Graf und Amalia die kleine Gemeinde passiert haben. Die abergläubigen Dörfler geben der neuen Gräfin die Schuld. Amalias Stand wird immer schwerer, und als sie beginnt, die Milch von Wölfen zu trinken, um ihre Fruchtbarkeit zu steigern, ist es um die Loyalität der Dorfbewohner vollends geschehen. Aberglaube, Gehässigkeit, Furcht und mangelndes Mitgefühl reißen Amalia in tiefe Verzweiflung. Schließlich diagnostiziert der langjährige Hofarzt ihres Gemahls auch noch die teuflische Krankheit: Vampirismus!'

Saturday 6 April 2013

The Horrid Looking Glass

Peter Mario Kreuter and Paul L. Yoder edited The Horrid Looking Glass: Reflections on Monstrosity (Inter-Disciplinary Press, £19.99) back in 2011. It compiles a number of papers on monsters and monstrosity. Among the papers are The Eternal Changeling: Dracula’s Transformations through the 1970s by Sorcha Ní Fhlainn, and The Nymph and the Witch: Female Magical Figures in the Works of Paracelsus by Kreuter.

'From the fictional world of vampires, zombies, and invaders from other worlds, to the very real world of revolutionary France and in between, the nature of the monster encompasses the very quality that makes them so believable – that which we perceive as ‘other’. While there is a commonality in this otherness, the monster lurking in the shadows, concealed in darkness or conjured with a few lines from a horror novel suggests the monster as one onto which we are free to project the most distorted and un-human features. In each chapter of this volume, you will discover that the way in which we project what is monstrous is not a singular other but is in fact a part of our own self-identity. The greatest horror of the monster is not that it stands apart, but that once we pull it from the shadow of our own projected imagination; we discover that that the monster we fear is also bound to our own mirror image. To look at the monster, to name that which must never be named, is to look upon a reflection and embrace a part of our nature we do not wish to see.

As the fourth gathering of scholars to bring light to this darkened world of Monsters and the Monstrous, the goal is not to turn away in fear, but to confront, explore, and ask questions of them. Within the pages of this volume are the results of the conversations that took place among them.'

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Dracula era in Triennale

To many, Francis Ford Coppola’s film Bram Stoker’s Dracula has become quite the epitome of the story of the vampiric Count Dracula. The soundtrack music by Polish composer Wojciech Kilar is ubiquitous, and the film’s blend of history and fiction, of romance and horror, as well as its creative play with cinema itself, seem to suit a vision that many people have of Dracula and vampires, or at least one that appeals to them – that is, of course, prior to the boom of adolescent vampire fiction like Twilight. Perhaps, as it is more than twenty years since Coppola’s film received its premiere, many people have simply grown up with this film and consequently now identify Dracula with Coppola’s Count.

So it is little wonder that the first thing behind the dark curtain leading into the Dracula e il mito dei vampiri exhibition at the Triennale design museum in Milan was a screen showing excerpts from Coppola’s film. In fact, the fusion of historical fact and vampire fiction, of artistic creativity and design, and of Bram Stoker’s novel with its interpretation by artists and cinematographers, permeated the exhibition as a whole.

Not so much an extension or reworking of the Dracula Woiwode und Vampir exhibitions at Innsbruck and Bucharest, Dracula e il mito dei vampiri rather integrated items from that exhibition into something new, not only bringing the fictional vampire into focus, but also, as one would expect af a design museum, stressing Italian art and design.

Having watched Coppola’s vision of the Wallachian warlord turned vampire, the visitor was greeted by the famous portrait of Vlad Tepes from the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Fortunately, one was not met by Vlad’s gaze, as he rather looks at something or someone to your left, so one can study his features without fear of having aroused his, er, attention. Similarly, the full-length portrait of Dracula Waida Princeps from Forchtenstein Castle appears to look to one side, but strangely, his eyes have an uncanny look as if a film is layered on top of them, or maybe someone attempted to blur them?

Only a very small selection of items from the earlier Dracula exhibitions were displayed here to provide some context for the life and cruelty of Vlad Tepes: A 17th century map of Transylvania from the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the coloured print of the city of Papa from 1617 showing impalements, a copy of Sebastian Münster’s 1598 Cosmographey with its depiction of impalements, and various clothes and weapons used by the Ottomans.

The vampire cases and the ensuing debate of the 18th century were illustrated via a handful of books, including Johann Christoph Harenberg’s 1733 Vernünftige und Christliche Gedancken über die Vampirs oder bluhtsaugende Todten, Nicolas Lenglet du Fresnoy’s 1751 Traité historique et dogmatique sur les apparitions, les visions & les revelations particulières, and the German translation of van Swieten’s commentaries published in 1768. However, there were no documents, no Calmet, Ranft or Tallar, no bust of van Swieten or portrait of Maria Theresa as in the exhibitions at Innsbruck and Bucharest.

Instead, the exhibition of vampire fiction was enhanced by some remarkable items courtesy of the Bram Stoker Estate and John Moore Collection: Bram Stoker’s so-called lost journal that was published for the first time last year, and Stoker’s autograph copy of the first edition of Dracula ‘to my dear mother’, both definitely some of the chief attractions of the exhibition.

A couple of Goya’s Caprichos, a first edition copy of Polidori’s The Vampyre as well as posters for performances of Marschner’s opera Der Vampyr and a programme for a 1927 performance of Deane and Balderston’s stage adaptation all led the way into a room where quotes from Stoker’s novel were displayed in Italian on a wall. Here you could also enter the house of a vampire as envisioned by Milanese architect and designer Italo Rota. A rather creepy tableau of a ‘living room’ with earth strayed across the table and a selection of ritual tools, remedies, books and art, all of which, according to Rota, should reflect the mentality and everyday ‘life’ of a vampire. Suffice it to say, that I would not spend my time in that place…

Entering the world of vampire cinema, one could peep through holes like a voyeur to observe a variety of ‘vampire kisses’ from a number of vampire films, while more analytically, over the door to the next room, a brief genealogy and philosophy of cinematic vampirism was outlined. Nosferatu from 1922 accordingly reflected the psychoanalysis of Freud and Jung, whereas Dracula from 1931 showed the vampire in the modern major city, and might be interpreted in terms of Georg Simmel or Walter Benjamin.

Then, for some reason the vampires of Hammer and many other filmmakers from the 1950’s to 1980’s were not included in the genealogy, so we jumped right to the era of post-structuralism (Jacques Lacan) and postmodernism (Guy Debord and Gilles Deleuze) with Bram Stoker’s Dracula from 1992 and Interview with the Vampire from 1994, respectively. Finally, in a 'liquid' society where 'solid' concepts like work and marriage are, in the words of Zygmunt Bauman, 'like zombies, such concepts are today simultaneously dead and alive',  Edward Cullen and the other vampires of Twilight could be perceived as 'post-vampires', indistinguishable from mortal humans.

Clips from a variety of vampire films, including Mario Bava’s Italian La maschera del demonio from 1960, were shown on three transparent screens in a separate room, their soundtrack having been replaced by popular pieces like Orff’s O Fortuna and Delibes’s Flower Duet, all played at high volume.

Among the clips were, of course, Coppola’s Dracula film, and not only its screenplay and parts of its storyboards were exhibited, Dracula e il mito dei vampiri also paid homage to the film's costume designer, Ishioka Eiko, by displaying the blood red armour she created for Dracula, and showing a documentary about her work on the film. The  tribute to Eiko was followed up by a a tableau of impressive female stage costumes from various operas and ballets like Aida, Die Zauberflöte, and Turandot. Very fitting for an exhibition in the hometown of Italian fashion and the famous opera house, La Scala. A wall of photos from catwalks rounded this section off with fashion for men designed by Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada and others, all illustrating the crossover of the vampire from fiction to fashion, no doubt with a good deal of help from Goth subculture.

Finally, a room not intended for children, exhibited pages from Guido Crepax’ comic book adaptation of Dracula as well as a hitherto unknown sequence in which his heroine Valentina meets Count Dracula.

Personally, I must say that the exhibition whet my appetite for more, as it is fairly easy to imagine how an exhibition like Dracula e il mito dei vampiri could be expanded in order to go into more detail with Vlad Tepes, with the struggle between the Ottoman Empire and Christian Europe, with vampires and revenant beliefs, and with the rise of the fictional vampire, Count Dracula and the vampire of modern popular culture. I am, however, well aware of the painstaking work that is no doubt required to assemble the number of paintings, books, documents and artefacts that would fit in with the themes, and at the same time I am not sure how much the average visitor is in fact able to digest. With regards to Vlad Tepes and vampires, the exhibitions in Innsbruck and Bucharest are so far the most comprehensive exhibitions I am aware of, and it will probably be hard to surpass hem. But hopefully there is more to come in the future.

In connection with the exhibition, Skira has published a 131 page catalogue, which includes a number of articles and a selection of the items exhibited. Margot Rauch has contributed the historical part of the catalogue, Dracula: voivoda e vampire, which is in fact a translation of what she wrote for the Innsbruck and Bucharest exhibition catalogues, as well as an inventory of some of the books and artefacts exhibited. The article on the costumes of female vampires (and vamps) include a number of photos of stars like Dietrich, Garbo, Bernhardt, Swanson and Bara that were not on display, while Italo Rota’s vampiric living room is only documented on a youtube video that can be accessed with a QR code.

Source: Alef
Whether Dracula e il mito dei vampiri will be exhibited elsewhere in the future – in the same or some other form – I do not know, but the photo to right was posted on facebook by the company that organized the exhibition,with the accompanying message:

‘Dracula ha fatoo le valigie ed è pronto a ripartire alle conquista di nuove città!’:

Dracula has packed and is ready to conquer new cities!

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