Monday, December 20, 2010

Final Post

For me this class was enlightening in many ways.  First, I was a little apprehensive about blogging.  It is something that was completely new to me both in a personal and educational setting.  After experiencing what it is all about and the collaboration between all of us throughout the semester, I really enjoy it.  It was engaging to read other posts as well as what everyone thought about my ideas.  Blogging is definitely something that I will continue to do!
Second, I had not read any of the selections we were required to before this class.  Also the horror/vampire genre was something that was also foreign to me.  These novels have opened me up to a whole new category of books and is something that I will continue to look for when selecting a new novel to read.  I also enjoyed connecting the dots between the dawn of vampire novels to our latest book.  There are many overarching themes when it comes to vampires but the current social, economic, and cultural conditions of the times these books were written always seems to show itself.  After a while, I tried to focus my blogs on how these have changed because I found it so interesting.  Best of luck to everyone on their finals!  

Final Project

On the surface these characters do not share much in common; one is a vampire in a world of prey, while the other is the prey in a world of vampires.  One searches for a cure to the ailment that has crippled his society, while the other tries to fit into a society that does not think the same as him.  These characters are Louis from Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire, and Robert Neville from Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend.  Louis and Neville, although completely unrelated in so many ways, do share one very important commonality when analyzing their characterization in each novel; they are both unique members of the society in which they live.  Louis represents that only vampire who approaches his condition with a conscience making him extremely unique when compared to his contemporaries.  Neville is the sole human in a world consumed by vampire-like creatures.  Louis and Neville share the eerie title of one of a kind.  Through examination of passages from each novel and examples from the popular movie titles of these novels, it can be seen that, although different in almost every conceivable way, Louis and Robert Neville share the commonality of uniqueness to their society. 
            Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire presents the reader with a totally new form of this classic horror character.  Louis, the interviewee, is a man at the end of his rope.  After the death of his brother, Louis cannot bear to live longer, but cannot find the gusto to end his own life.  He encounters Lestat, a vampire, and is turned himself.  Louis begins a long journey of finding himself in this new role of no longer living, but not dead.  He is not like any other vampires we have encountered in literature prior to this in one distinct way; he cannot bring himself to feed on humans.  This begins a unique and telling evolution of the death of the man within the vampire.  By looking at a few keys passages from Rice’s novel, the evolution of Louis into full blown vampirism can be seen. 
            The first passage we will look from Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire comes from page 54 of the novel. 
I had to kill him.  He started to run.  He would have alarmed everyone.  Perhaps it might have been handled some other way, but I had no time.  So I went after him, overpowering him.  But then, finding myself in the act of doing what I had not done for four years, I stopped.  This was a man.  He had his bone-handled knife in his hand to defend himself.
Rice describes Louis first encounter with feeding on human blood.  Before this time, Louis relied on animal blood to sustain his vampirism.  Louis emphasizes the necessity of the act.  He seems as though he is a man with no other option.  Louis stresses that he “had” to chase after and kill this human.  Furthermore, Louis reminds the reader that he had “no time” to mull over the situation and think of a better course of action.  Finally, Louis stops this act of vampirism when he finally realizes what has happened.  It seems as though he feels a sense of remorse for his actions, commenting that this is “a man” who is trying to defend himself from an attacker.  In this passage the reader sees Louis in his infant stages of becoming a vampire.  He does kill for fun or sport like his maker Lestat, but rather looks at this act as a necessity to preserve his own well-being.  Louis rationalizes the act by saying the man would have told everyone about the vampires in New Orleans therefore putting his safety in serious jeopardy.  After this encounter, the reader understands a new form of the vampire.  Louis is compassionate and conscious of the effects vampires have on the world around them.   
            Our next passage furthers the evolution of Louis as a vampire.  Although the reader may feel some sympathy to the condition of the compassionate vampire, this does not last for long. 
I could feel the fever for the kill rising in me, a knot of hunger in my insides, a throbbing in the temples as if the veins were contracting and my body might become a map of tortured vessels (Rice 122).
Again the reader experiences the thirst of a vampire, but for the first time this is coming from Louis.  He describes the need for the kill in a very graphic way.  Furthermore, it is important to note than many of the terms Louis uses seem to echo that of the heart.  He focuses on words like throbbing, veins, contracting, and vessels.  This passage is a fantastic example of the syntax Rice uses throughout the novel to stress the need for blood that courses through a vampires psyche.  Louis is beginning to sound very similar to his other vampire companions.  The reader feels a sense of need for blood, more specifically human.  Louis no longer laments over the kill, or does it out of necessity.  He feels the “fever for the kill” mounting inside him.  Louis is no longer satisfied with animals and clearly needs something more.  In addition, the need for a kill gives Louis “a knot of hunger inside him.”  He is starving for the taste of blood.  This stands in stark contrast to the Louis the reader encounters with the old man running from him.  He is no longer looking to kill simply for necessity, but is searching for a victim to feed on. 
            Louis transformation is almost complete.  The last passage we will examine comes from page 254 of Rice’s novel. 
Not physical love, you must understand.  I don’t speak of that at all, though Armand was beautiful and simple, and no intimacy with him would ever have been repellent.  For vampires, physical love culminates and is satisfied in one thing, the kill.
One of the most human acts discussed in the novel is physical love.  It is one of the few things that is common between us and vampires.  Although this is true, Louis equates this act to the kill.  He even goes as far to say that it “culminates and is satisfied” by a singular act of taking a victim.  In this, his transformation from fully human to completely vampire has occurred.  He no longer has the shreds of humanity that hold him back in the beginning of the novel.  His transformation is one of the more fascinating themes of the novel for two reasons.  First, Louis is the first character we have encountered that seems to hold onto his humanity even after he has become a vampire.  He does so with his compassion for victims, the recognition of his actions, and their effect on others.  Secondly, Louis shows compassion for his fellow vampires.  Not until his, and his companions, lives are threatened does Louis commit an act of vampirism on another human.  He is conscious of the peril his society lives in and does his part to protect it.  The idea of the unique case within a society can also be seen in Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend. 
            Although on the surface Matheson’s I Am Legend is a simple, last man on earth novel, it presents the reader with a deeper psychological question; What do you do when everything, everyone, and the structure of your society has been destroyed?  Robert Neville begins a search to not only understand the condition that has afflicted his society, but to also find a cure.  Neville does this by studying the creatures.  Through this investigation, the loneliness and psychological aspect of the novel becomes apparent.  Furthermore, the uniqueness of Neville’s situation is evident. 
            A passage that illustrates this point in Matheson’s novel comes from page 206 of I Am Legend. 
When you were lonely and wanted to talk and laugh and be alive?  And someone spoke to you finally and asked you to go out with them?
            This passage illustrates the unique condition and psychological problems that being the last man on earth presents.  The context of the passage is much less important than the syntax that Matheson chooses.   He uses words like talk, laugh, and most importantly, be alive.  To the reader this signals the intense loneliness that having nobody to speak with presents.  The society that Neville used to know relied on verbal communication to start and maintain relationships.  Without anyone else to further this, Neville is very much alone.  Furthermore, this passage implies that verbal communication is a sign of the living.  The creatures of the novel have lost almost all of these skills and thus can be considered not human. This is a very important distinction. 
            Another instance of Neville’s unique condition in this new society comes from page 21 of the novel.
He walked on rigid legs to the kitchen and flung the piece into the trash box.  Then he stood in the dark kitchen, eyes tightly shut, teeth clenched, hand clamped over his ears.  Leave me alone, leave me alone, leave me alone!  No use, you couldn’t beat them at night.  No use trying; it was their special time. 
Matheson attempts to show Neville inability to deal with his new condition early on in the novel.  It is important to note that humans of this time, the 1960’s, had mastered the night.  Using technology like street lights, head lights on cars, and the incandescent light bulb, night simply became an extension of the daylight.  Not in this new society.  Neville no longer has control of the night the way he was used too.  Furthermore, he becomes frustrated by his lack of control, which becomes a driving force for his search to fix things.  Neville is unique in that he has nobody to aid him in his search for a cure.  He does not have someone to bounce ideas off of, keep him motivated when all hope seems lost, or as a shoulder to lean on.  Here in lies the much understated psychological terror of the novel.  Louis and Neville conditions are also echoed in the contemporary forms of these novels; their movies. 
http://bayareabibliophile.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/interview-with-the-vampire.jpg            By examining a still from each film, Louis and Neville’s unique condition becomes apparent.  First, looking at one from Interview With a Vampire.  Here we see Louis, played by Brad Pitt on the left, and Lestat, played by Tom Cruise on the right.  Some things that indicate the conscience that Louis still possesses are evident in his characterization in the film.  First, Louis is not as pale as Lestat.  He still has some coloration that indicates he is still more human than vampire.  Also, he is standing with his arms crossed and mouth closed; a very closed off, private position.  This is not significant until compared to Lestat’s pose.  He has his mouth open and arms at his sides.  Lestat is more ready for whatever comes his way, thus more aggressive.  Furthermore, the fact that Lestat’s mouth is open while Louis is closed-lip indicates that Lestat is ready to feed.  All these factors from a still of the film support the idea that Louis still holds onto some aspect of his humanity.  These same comparisons can be made by examining a still from I Am Legend.  
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_7T9xWTmNPhI/SgY6ngti9vI/AAAAAAAABog/s8tBhUZ9Tnk/s320/vlcsnap-169563.png Robert Neville, played by Will Smith, is the only human left on earth.  The only other human figure that he encounters are manikins Neville has named.  They are manikins.  They are lifeless.  As a result, they present the viewer with a stark contrast to exhilaration and exuberance of Robert Neville.  He is not a manikin.  He is not lifeless.  None the less, he is alone.  This visually reinforces the viewer that Neville is completely alone.  He does not even relate to the only other human forms in the movie. 
            Although Louis of Interview with a Vampire and Robert Neville of I Am Legend do not seem to be related in any way, shape or form; they are.  Both characters give the reader a point of reference in a world not fully understood.  Louis can be characterized as a link between the world of the human and that of the vampire.  He is unique in this way.  Louis still has human characteristics but must feed on blood to maintain his life.  As a result he is not human, but unique in his ability to distinguish right from wrong.  Robert Neville is clearly unique in that he is the sole human left on earth.  The reader is presented with other living things, the creatures, but in no way have they retained their human qualities.  As a result, Robert Neville and Louis are one in the same; a link for the reader between the world of the know and the world of the unknown. 
Links to pictures:
http://bayareabibliophile.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/interview-with-the-vampire.jpg
http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:54r96ZNTnX8VTM:http://img120.imageshack.us/img120/4557/1198911084064ro4.jpg&t=1

Revised Lit. Crit.

In Anne Rice and the Queering of Culture, George Haggerty analyzes the homoerotic nature of Rice’s vampire novels.  Haggerty makes the assertion that these characters, although they reflect the homoerotic nature of Stoker and Le Fanu’s creations, are much more interesting and endearing to the reader.  He basis this assertion on two reasons.  “I think Rice's vampires  express our culture's secret desire  for and  secret fear of the gay man; the need  to fly with  him beyond the  confines  of heterosexual  convention  and bourgeois  family life  to an exploration of unauthorized desires, and at the same time to taste his body and his blood; to see him bleed and watch him succumb to death-in-life” (Haggerty 6). Haggerty believes that these vampires both express our cultures need and fear of the homosexual lifestyle.  This is as a result of their place in society.  Gay culture, for many people, represents a counter-culture to their own.  Haggerty also touches on this in the quote above.  He says that the homosexual lifestyle “flys beyond the confines of heterosexual convention and bourgeois family life.” By analyzing this aspect of Haggerty argument his foundation can be seen.  Homosexual lifestyle goes beyond the social confines that the conventional lifestyle cannot.  Furthermore, the family structures of these people are much different than that of the rest of the dominant culture.  Both of these aspects of Haggerty’s argument are present in Rice’s novel.  The vampire lifestyle can be analogous to that of the homosexual.  They are not confined by the conventional needs of humans.  They do not die, do not need to grow or maintain food, or sustain health with anything more than blood.  Furthermore, the structure of the relationship of Lestat, Louis, and Claudia is much different than that of the bourgeois family.  In essence, Claudia has two fathers making this family unlike anything else in society.   Haggerty continues this comparison later in his article. 
            Robert Haggerty furthers his argument, the vampire is analogous to homosexuals, with the assertion that their techniques are the same.  “In The Vampire Chronicles, Rice is aware of the vampire as the surplus of the real in western culture. The vampire moves with the suave invisibility of the prototypical gay man: offering companionship, friendship, even love, before revealing his  true and deadly  nature; appearing silently and taking his pleasure ruthlessly; and suffering for his sexual transgression by being shut out from the light and condemned  to  an eternity of darkness” (Haggerty 9).  Again, Haggerty’s argument is supported by the structure of relationships in Rice’s novel.  “The suave invisibility of the prototypical gay man” is an interesting way to equate these lifestyles, but effective.  Louis, Lestat, and Claudia rely on the night, companionship, and others to feed.  They exploit their talents at making meaningful relationships before revealing their true nature.  According to Haggerty, the prototypical gay man does the same when looking for a partner.  Many homosexuals hide their sexuality, revealing it only to their closest friends, relatives, and partners.  This is very much the same way vampires operate in Rice’s novel.  Haggerty wraps up his argument by commenting on the conventional family structure. 

“The ‘Love of Men and Women for one another and for their Children’ is the measure against which all the transgressive desire of these works must finally be measured” (Haggerty 17).  Haggerty measures his against the reader’s conventional thoughts of the western family structure.  This is not to say that readers of these novels conform to that, but it is an overarching idea.  Vampires, especially those that appear in Rice’s novel, can be used to compare culture and counterculture.  They are different from humans in every conceivable way; their lifestyle, sustenance and ability to cheat death.  It is an interesting comparison and his qualification is necessary.  Haggerty’s argument fits perfectly into the structure of Rice’s novels that, can be said to, queer culture.  

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Evolution of the Child

I would like to expand on something from Colleen's blog.  Throughout the semester we have encountered a few child vampire characters, all giving us points of reference to see how this type of character has changed through the evolution of the vampire novel.  Our first child character came from Carmilla.  She was almost the embodiment of the Victorian ideal of womanhood except for the fact that she was a vampire.  Next we have Claudia from Interview with a vampire.  Again she seems innocent, like Carmilla, but has a dark and ruthless nature.  Finally Eli from Let the Right One In.  These three characters, although very different in their mannerism and era, do share a common thread.  
First, all three girls are searching for some sort of companionship.  This is obvious with Carmilla and Claudia, but slightly more dynamic with Eli.  Not only does she have Oskar, but also Hakan.  I would argue that Eli simply keeps Hakan around as a source of companionship.  She does not hesitate to kill him in order to save herself, and, most importantly, run away with Oskar.  The desire for companionship is the strongest of all three in Eli.  Secondly, all three characters are products of their time.  Carmilla is the essence of a Victorian woman (minus the vampirism of course), Claudia is the orphan child that "finds a home" with her fellow vampires, and Eli can be characterized as the needy type, searching for someone to literally "sink her fangs into" and latch onto.  All three of them are extremely fascinating when compared to each other.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Let the Right One In

Let the Right One In reminded me a lot of Carmilla.  It seemed to deal with the same issues and characters but with an updated feel.  Oskar, the main character of the novel, is very similar to Laura in that they are both young kids searching for companion.  Furthermore, like many of the Victorian vampires we have read about, Eli fills that void and befriends Oskar.  Although this is true, Let the Right One In seems to take on a different tone than these novels. Oskar is obsessed with forensic/murder cases.  This seems to be a weird obsession for a young child, and more of a modern idea.  Furthermore, Hakan, Eli's caretaker, is a convicted pedophile.  Here in lies another very modern idea in literature.
I also want to discuss a bit about the main relationships that are presented in the novel; Hakan and Eli and Oskar and Eli.  The relationship between Hakan and Eli is very interesting.  Hakan is basically a blood scout for Eli but desires to be much more.  He is paid for his services, but would gladly do it for free if Eli would allow him to be intimate with her.  This is gross.  Even though Eli is over 200 years old, she is still a young girl.  Their relationship can be characterized as very one-sided.  Eli does not necessarily need Hakan but he very much needs her.  This is evident at the end of the novel when Eli feeds on Hakan, who later jumps froma window to avoid becoming a vampire.
The relationship between Eli and Oskar is completely different.  Unlike her and Hakan, Eli and Oskar seem to need each other.  Oskar is searching for a companion/way out of a bad home and Eli looks to free herself from Hakan.  This is also evident at the end of the novel when Eli flees with Oskar presumably to like "happily ever after.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Final Project Proposal

For my final project I would like to continue to explore the idea of the evolution of the vampire.  I think in most of the novels we have read involve some sort of evolution/change experienced by the main characters.  I enjoyed picking apart the passages of Interview very much.  Once you look between the lines of Rice's novel, a lot can be discovered about the character progression.  I would like to compare Louis with Neville from I am Legend.  Although Neville is not a vampire, he shares the same transformation/uniqueness in the society which he lives.  Neville is the sole human left in a world of vampires, and Louis is the only vampire who still holds onto his humanity.  Like Louis, Neville eventually looses his fight to grip his reality and shape it into a more desirable one. This is a powerful and interesting comparison.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Evolution of Louise the Vampire: Literary Criticism

Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire presents the reader with a totally new form of this classic horror character.  Louis, the interviewee, is a man at the end of his rope.  After the death of his brother, Louis cannot bear to live longer, but cannot find the gusto to end his own life.  He encounters Lestat, a vampire, and is turned himself.  Louis begins a long journey of finding himself in this new role of no longer living, but not dead.  He is not like any other vampires we have encountered in literature prior to this in one distinct way; he cannot bring himself to feed on humans.  This begins an interesting and telling evolution of the death of the man within the vampire.  By looking at a few keys passages from Rice’s novel, the evolution of Louis into full blown vampirism can be seen. 
            The first passage we will look from Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire comes from page 54 of the novel. 
I had to kill him.  He started to run.  He would have alarmed everyone.  Perhaps it might have been handled some other way, but I had no time.  So I went after him, overpowering him.  But then, finding myself in the act of doing what I had not done for four years, I stopped.  This was a man.  He had his bone-handled knife in his hand to defend himself.
Rice describes Louis first encounter with feeding on human blood.  Before this time, Louis relied on animal blood to sustain his vampirism.  Louis emphasizes the necessity of the act.  He seems as though he is a man with no other option.  Louis stresses that he “had” to chase after and kill this human.  Furthermore, Louis reminds the reader that he had “no time” to mull over the situation and think of a better course of action.  Finally, Louis stops this act of vampirism when he finally realizes what has happened.  It seems as though he feels a sense of remorse for his actions, commenting that this is “a man” who is trying to defend himself from an attacker.  In this passage the reader sees Louis in his infant stages of becoming a vampire.  He does kill for fun or sport like his maker Lestat, but rather looks at this act as a necessity to preserve his own well-being.  Louis rationalizes the act by saying the man would have told everyone about the vampires in New Orleans therefore putting his safety in serious jeopardy.  After this encounter, the reader understands a new form of the vampire.  Louis is compassionate and conscious of the effects vampires have on the world around them.    
            Our next passage furthers the evolution of Louis as a vampire.  Although the reader may feel some sympathy to the condition of the compassionate vampire, this does not last for long. 
I could feel the fever for the kill rising in me, a knot of hunger in my insides, a throbbing in the temples as if the veins were contracting and my body might become a map of tortured vessels (Rice 122).
Again the reader experiences the thirst of a vampire, but for the first time this is coming from Louis.  He describes the need for the kill in a very graphic way.  Furthermore, it is important to note than many of the terms Louis uses seem to echo that of the heart.  He focuses on words like throbbing, veins, contracting, and vessels.  This passage is a fantastic example of the syntax Rice uses throughout the novel to stress the need for blood that courses through a vampires psyche.  Louis is beginning to sound very similar to his other vampire companions.  The reader feels a sense of need for blood, more specifically human.  Louis no longer laments over the kill, or does it out of necessity.  He feels the “fever for the kill” mounting inside him.  Louis is no longer satisfied with animals and clearly needs something more.  In addition, the need for a kill gives Louis “a knot of hunger inside him.”  He is starving for the taste of blood.  This stands in stark contrast to the Louis the reader encounters with the old man running from him.  He is no longer looking to kill simply for necessity, but is searching for a victim to feed on. 
            Louis transformation is almost complete.  The last passage we will examine comes from page 254 of Rice’s novel. 
Not physical love, you must understand.  I don’t speak of that at all, though Armand was beautiful and simple, and no intimacy with him would ever have been repellent.  For vampires, physical love culminates and is satisfied in one thing, the kill.
One of the most human acts that is discussed in the novel is physical love.  It is one of the few things that is common between us and vampires.  Although this is true, Louis equates this act to the kill.  He even goes as far to say that it “culminates and is satisfied” by a singular act of taking a victim.  In this, his transformation from fully human to completely vampire has occurred.  He no longer has the shreds of humanity that hold him back in the beginning of the novel.  His transformation is one of the more fascinating themes of the novel for two reasons.  First, Louis is the first character we have encountered that seems to hold onto his humanity even after he has become a vampire.  He does so with his compassion for victims, the recognition of his actions, and their effect on others.  Secondly, Louis shows compassion for his fellow vampires.  Not until his, and his companions, lives are threatened does Louis commit an act of vampirism on another human.  He is conscious of the peril his society lives in and does his part to protect it.  In this, an analysis of Louis as a character in Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire is one of the most intriguing and fruitful in the vampire literature we have read this semester.  

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Queering of Culture

As we have discussed before, there is a strong relationship between light/dark and the human/undead world.  George Haggerty, in his article "Anne Rice and the Queering of Culture" discusses this in the context of vampirism as a homo erotic act.  In previous blogs I have discussed how light and dark play into the vampire persona.  Vampires stratle the worlds of the living and the dead.  Many of the ones we have come across feel the need to made relationships with their victims, a throwback to their human nature.  Furthermore, like Louise, they show compassion for the victims and do not simply kill for sport.  Although this is true, Haggerty chooses to examine the vampire from a different perspective; that of the homosexual nature.  "The vampire moves with the suave invisibility of the prototypical gay man: offering companionship, friendship, even love, before revealing his true and deadly nature; appearing silently and taking his pleasure ruthlessly; and suffering for his sexual transgression by being shut out from the light and condemned to an eternity of darkness" (Haggerty 7).  Haggerty seems to imply that their prison of darkness is some sort of punishment, not for their vampirism, but for their homosexual nature.  His thirst not only for blood but sexual conquest of all types is so great that darkness is the only thing that can contain it to some extent.  Haggerty further expands on this idea later in his essay.


The author looks at a passage where Lestat encounters a heap of rotting bodies that have similar builds, features, and attributes as himself.  This is very evident because at the end of the passage Lestat comments that these dead, rotting corpses could even pass for his brothers.  Haggerty's handling of the meaning of this passage is interesting.  From his discussion I gathered that he sees this heap of bodies analogous to Lestat. "The putrefying heap also represents culture's deepest fear of the male relations that structure it" (Haggerty 10).  The heap can be seen as a representation of how this counter-culture could effect the status quo of a society; turn these attractive and fit men into rotting and decaying corpses.  I do not necessarily agree with Haggerty's assessment of this passage.  Rice could be forcing Lestat to confront his transgressions in this passage.  He throws up at the sight of it, implying that Lestat feels some sort of guilt/disgust at what the heap might represent.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Concept of the Monster

When comparing the vampires in Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire with those we have encountered before, the concept of the monster becomes somewhat clouded.  Most the vampires we have encountered, Dracula, those in I Am Legend, and Ruthven, we see a group with a savage nature.  They are content with the cycle of vampirism (find a human, befriend them, and feed on them).  Furthermore, their feeding is seen as a necessity of vampirism.  Lestat of Interview with the Vampire seems to follow this archetype.  He is completely alright with feeding on the slaves of Louis' plantation.  "They were the suspicious ones; and, as I've indicated, Lestat killed anyone and everyone he chose" (49).  Although this is true, Louis is much less comfortable to feed on the species he once was; human.
Here is where the concept of the monster becomes a bit clouded.  Louis, unlike any other vampire we have encountered, seems to have a conscious in terms of his feeding habits.  He is unable to bring himself to feed on humans at first.  As a result, Louis instead chooses to sustain his vampirism with animal blood.  "Lestat for slaves and chicken thieves and me for animals" (42).  Even when Louis is pressed to kill Lestat's father, something that he must do for his new friend, Louis laments the task. "No I said.  You forgive him or you kill your own father" (56).  Louis seems to hold on to the characteristics that are completely human much more than any other vampire we have encountered.  He has compassion, a conscious, and the ability to separate right from wrong.  As a result, he is a new breed of vampire, unlike the others we have read about.  I am curious to see if Louis' character becomes like the others or retains this element of humanity.      

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Patterson Essay

Much of my online artifact focuses on this very topic.  Matheson's  I Am Legend was written in a very volatile time in American history.  It was the start of the modern civil rights movement and the dawn of the Cold War.  There was much uncertainty about the future of the world and America's place in it.  In many ways Matheson's novel is a commentary on this simple fact.  

As the civil rights movement gained steam, many Americans in the majority felt that they should be contained, i.e. separate but equal.  Race was seen as a consequence of humanity much like vampirism is in the novel.  "In this novel, vampirism is not a supernatural curse but a consequence of biological warfare."  Matheson's commentary on this fact is clear when analyzing the character of Robert Neville.  

Neville focuses on an understanding of the creatures that torment him throughout his nights of solitude.  He is not a scientist, like in the movie, but performs tests of all kinds on the creatures blood and other samples to gain an understanding.  Through his tests he discovers that these creatures are more human than he once thought.  This same philosophy can be applied to the social climate of the times.  

Matheson is clearly suggesting that, although civil right movement members represent a minority aspect of the population, they are people and deserve to be treated as such.  Furthermore, if we seek to understand those who are different than us a common ground will almost always be found. Matheson challenges the reader to approach the current social climate through a scientific/observational perspective.  Simply siding with the majority, who usually holds incorrect assumptions, leads to dangerous consequences.  "His character parallels, in many ways, the “self-conscious but highly problematic construction of the American as a new white man.”

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Online Artifact

I Am Legend
For my online artifact I choose to explore a social networking/blog site about vampirism; in particular Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend.  The website is called geeks of doom, and, according to the founding members, was constructed to bring geeky entertainment news and features to the masses.  After searching through some of the blogs, one of them caught my eye.  The author, Movies at Midnight, discusses I Am Legend in an extremely critical and intriguing way.  Much of his argument centers around the “darker side of human emotion – loneliness and confusion especially – and the will to survive…” (Movies at Midnight). 
“While this is certainly a horror novel by any means, the horror comes not from the external attacks of the vampires, but from the internal tribulations of Neville, and the nightly menaces seem trivial compared to Neville’s mental demons” (Movies at Midnight).   The author comments on a central theme of not only I Am Legend, but vampire novels as a whole.  Like many other characters, Neville destroys himself because of a lack of knowledge.  He is paralyzed by the fact that he cannot understand the disease that has left him lost, alone, and tormented by the vampires.  Neville is much like Van Helsing in this way.  His central mission is to cure the world of this destructive force known as vampirism.    
Movies at Midnight also touches on some of the social connotations that are embedded in I Am Legend and it is truly fascinating.   Matheson wrote this novel in 1954.  During that time many things were occurring in America and around the world that have influenced our lives today.  First, World War II had just ended.  Germany was segregated into east and west, setting the stage for the Cold War between America and Russia; a time when nuclear annihilation was a real fear.  At home in America, the civil rights movement was gaining steam.  The Supreme Court had just ruled on Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, declaring that the practice of spate but equal schools was unconstitutional.  One might think, what does a vampire novel have to do with this?  I had the same reaction, but Movies at Midnight comments on this very question.  “Matheson isn’t just content with his dissection of the vampire mythos, but also dives head first into an exploration of what legends mean and the associated perception of truth, fear, and understanding based on a majority population thinking a certain way” (Movies at Midnight).  Neville simply does not declare that vampires must be destroyed, but rather becomes a self-taught scientist in order to strive to understand their nuances.  He discovers that they are remarkably human on a scientific level.  According to the author, Matheson is commenting on stereotypes and legends as a whole.  “Matheson here takes legends and transforms them into a tool to expose the irrational line of thinking of what is not understood and in a minority must be contained and destroyed”  (Movies at Midnight).  Matheson is commenting on the current social climate of America and the world with his analysis of the legend.  Simply containing them or destroying them is not the answer and, in many ways, is insane.  Rather, striving to understand them and determine the best course of action, just like Neville, is always preferred.  Matheson’s multi-level writing is fascinating in that it can be applied to the social and political contexts of the time. 
Authors commenting on the social climate of the times in nothing new though in the science fiction/ horror genre.  We see this in Stoker’s Dracula and Le Fanu’s Carmilla.  This is something I have also touched on in my blogs.  Both novels comment on the socially accepted belief in the Victorian female.  They are pure in mind, body and spirit.  This is not the case for the vampires in these novels.  Carmilla, Dracula, and the Brides of Dracula are sexual deviants who defy death and prey on the Victorian feminine ideal.             
Many of the blogs also discuss the novel in comparison to the movie.  Unlike the novel, the movie version featuring Will Smith as Neville replaces vampires with a zombie-like creature.  Furthermore, Neville is a government funded, professional scientist.  I have seen the movie, but some of the blogs mention an alternate ending.  Because of this, I watched it on youtube  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZTySHgSpBw).  This ending to the movie portrays the zombie-like creatures much closer to those in the novel.  They are intelligent, human-like creatures who do not simply attack humans for the sport of it.  Like their torment of Neville at night, their actions are premeditated and calculated.  I thought this was an interesting comparison to the vampires of the novel. 
The link to Movies at Midnights blog is as follows: (http://geeksofdoom.com/2007/12/10/book-review-i-am-legend/).  I really encourage everyone to read it.  His blog sheds new light on a novel that is extremely complex under the horror surface.  Like the vampire novels before it, Matheson’s comments on the current social climate as well as terrorizes its readers on a psychological level.  

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Count Dracula the Gentleman

The character of Dracula is a juxtaposition of two opposing forces that were gripping the Victorian world at the time Stoker's novel was written.  A historical context is important to understand the character of Dracula in these terms.  England was in the midst of another industrial revolution where those who opposed it were seen as savage and brutal, while those who accepted it represented the "Victorian Gentleman" to  a tee.  "For the fact is, by Hacker's own criteria, Dracula is the most "Western" character in the novel.  No one is more rational, more ntelligent, more organized or even more punctual than the Count (637)."  Arata is sure to note Haker's obsession with timeliness.  He writes in his diary that he would have been early if his train wasn't late.  Timeliness was a consequence of this industrial revolution occurring in England and was see by Victorian peoples as a mark of a gentleman.  As a result, because of the count's ability to be punctual, he represents a gentleman in the eyes of Hacker.  There is another side of Dracula that Arata comments on.

Dracula is also the savage that an opposition to the changes in English life symbolizes.  "He is both the warrior nobleman, whose prowess dwarfs that of the novel's enfeebled English aristocrat, Lord Godalming, and is the primative savage, whose beastiality, fecundity, and vigot alternately repel and attract (634)."  Dracula's savage nature obviously manifests itself in his vampirism as Arata notes, but at the same time he is a dynamic nobleman who accepts the changing times.  I believe this is the newest evolution of the vampire.  Dracula is not the first aristocratic vampire, but he is the one who plays the role the best.  He has the ability to charm his victims in a way we have not seen in this class yet.  When Hacker arrives, Dracula is reading Bradshaw's Guide.  This was literature put out by Charles Bradshaw as a guide to the new railway system proliferating across England.  Again, the reference to Dracula's punctuality and the connection with the industrial revolution in England is present.

I think it is also important to note that the Victorian vampire has the ability to mold seamlessly with the expectations of the current society.  In many ways, Carmilla was timeless.  She could adapt her behaviors to suite the needs of her victims much like Dracula does.  As the reader, it can be assumed that they have done this for thousands of years.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Women of Dracula

As we have discussed before, the Victorian ideal of femininity centers around the idea that women should be pure emotionally and physically.  Bram Stocker's "Dracula" presents this ideal and the antithesis of this ideal.  Johnathan's encounter with the "brides of Dracula" represent the Victorian idea of how women should not act.  The brides of Dracula are lustful and sexually expressive, things that were looked down up through the lens of Victorian femininity.  When the brides visit Johnathan in an attempt to feed on him, they are driven away by Dracula, but their lust for him is apparent.  "Your's is the right to begin."  The view Johnathan as a piece of meat to be chased after and fed upon.  From this, the reader can conclude that, like in "Carmilla," vampirism was used in the Victorian age to express the suppressed female sexuality.

Lucy and Mina, on the other hand, represent the feminine ideal to the fullest.  They are pure of the evil's of the world, devoted to Van Helsing and Jonathan, and, most importantly, they are virgins.  When these characters are  compared to each other, the theme of vampirism and a lack of femininity is easily seen.  They stand in stark contrast to each other.  Furthermore, in an earlier blog cataloging the works and influences of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, I commented that "Carmilla" is often thought of as a large influence on Bram Stocker.  I think that the appearance of an identical theme with almost identical players affirms that point.  Carmilla can be equated to the Brides of Dracula, while Laura seems very similar to Mina and Lucy.  Men of this time seem fascinated with not only women's sexuality, but with contradictions to the socially accepted norm.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Female Hysteria and the Vampire in Victorian Lit.

Tamar Heller's essay "The Vampire in the House" explores the idea of connecting female hysteria in the Victorian era with vampirism. After reading the essay I came away with two essential points to Heller's argument. First, female hysteria and vampirism symbolize an underlying tone of desire in Victorian literature. Female hysteria is the embodiment of this desire, according to Heller. "Moreover, as all this male nervousness about voracious women suggests, both the female hysteric and the female vampire embody a relation to desire…” It is evident that desire plays a key role in Carmilla as well. Laura desires a companion to engage with that is her own age and shares the same pitfalls. Carmilla desires blood, plain and simple.

Another main point that I took from Heller's essay was the connection that hysteria and sexuality had in Victorian times. Women's hysteria was also linked to sexual arousal in that the womb was thought to be "untamed and nervous" before childbirth. “Moreover, a tradition of ascribing hysteria to sexual frustration persisted into the nineteenth century and underlies the theory of Freud”.

These points were interesting, but they simply set up the framework for what I found most profound, and applicable to "Carmilla" in Heller's essay. He comments that "daughters physically, emotionally, and intellectually embody the nineteenth century ideal of femininity." This is especially interesting when examining Carmilla from this perspective. Carmilla, as is later revealed in the novel, is Countess of Karnstein. She can be thought of as the complete opposite of the nineteenth century ideal of femininity because she is not young. Laura, on the other hand, is. I believe this is important when thinking of Carmilla as a lesbian vampire. She prayes on those who embodies everything a women should be in that era. Furthermore, her desires to feed on this archetype make her a women of hysteria, according to Heller.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Who is Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Le Fanu was an influential figure in the Victorian horror genre so much so that he may have influenced Bram Stocker's Dracula.  As a result, I wanted to find out a little more about him and, maybe, shed some light as to why his writings were so influential.

First a little background on Le Fanu.  He was a college educated lawyer, but never practiced law.  Le Fanu instead pursued a career in journalism after college, remaining in this career until his death in 1878.  He also served as the editor of the Dublin University Magazine; the primary place where his short stories were published.  Many of these short stories became the basis of his later, novel works.
    
"In the year 1858 Le Fanu's wife Susanna died and he became a recluse, setting to work in his most            productive and successful years as a writer. With two candles for light while nocturnally writing, he was to become a major figure of 19thC supernaturalism. His work turned Gothic's focus on external sources of horror to the inward psychological potential to strike fear in the hearts of men" http://www.online-literature.com/lefanu/

After the death of his wife, Le Fanu focused on the horror genre, but more importantly, internal horrors that are shared by everyone.  This is, in part, why he is referred to as the father of Victorian horror.  Le Fanu was able to pray on the fears of almost everyone by focusing on psychological horror; something that subsequent horror writers would continue.  Furthermore, I think it's important to note that much of his writing took place at night.  From our discussion of Polidori's vampyre prototype, night is often characterized as nonhuman.  This  is also the origin of Le Fanu's nickname, the invisible prince.  Because he mainly wrote at night, Le Fanu was rarely seen during the day.  (http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/lefanu.htm).

One more thing that was interesting from my research was that many of his stories seem to focus on a haunting past.  This stems from past actions, or non-actions, that haunt the main characters throughout the rest of the book.  I am curious to see if these past transgressions lead to redemption for Laura at the end of this novel.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Forbidden Love...An Afterthought

I wanted to follow up on my original post for this weeks readings.  My first post centered around the attitudes and feelings of Catherine during the first half of Wuthering Heights.  She is a stagnant character in this part of the book when compared to the later chapters.  Young Catherine and Edgar's love is much different than Catherine and Heathcliff.  Catherine and Heathcliff's love is rooted not in a deep connection, but a childhood dream.  As a result, there is not much room to grow out of this dream and evolve into a relationship.  On the other hand, Catherine and Edgar's love seems to manifest itself as an acceptance of Catherine's role in this era; wife.  Furthermore, Catherine and Edgar are more different, personality and social status speaking, than her and Heathcliff.  Edgar's character represents the antithesis of Heathcliff.  He has wealth, status, and a more grown-up persona.  As a result, this gives Catherine room to grow into unfamiliar territory that this relationship represents; something that was not possible with Heathcliff because they were so similar in many ways.

I think it is essentail to also note the concept of status in the story of Catherine and Edgar.  She chooses to marry him in order to be "the greatest women in the neighborhood."  This struck me as an odd reason tto marry someone until i began to examine Catherine's growth with Edgar when compared to Heathcliff.  For those of you who choose too, maybe you can debate whether it was possible for Catherine to achieve this status with Heathcliff as well?  I do not.  For many of the reasons above, most importantly the lack of growth Catherine showed with Heathcliff, this would not have been possible.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Forbidden Love?

Much of the first 16 chapters of Wuthering Heights centers around a description of the love between Catherine and Heathcliff.  Nelly, the principle narrator of the novel, seems to condemn them for the passion between them. Their love is sometimes portrayed as immoral and brutal according to Nelly.  Their love seems to mirror another theme in the story; moors.  After looking up the definition to this word that appears so often in the story, I came to this conclusion.  Moors are basically tangled grassland, usually very hilly.  They are much like a marsh or swamp area.  Many times they are characterized as dark, wet, gloomy, tangled areas that do not sustain much life.  This comes to characterize Heathcliff and Catherine's love.  It is complicated, tangled, and stagnant.  I think that this is why Nelly condemns their relationship for much of the first 16 chapters.  She, like the reader, realizes that it will never work although they do share an obvious love for each other.  

It was also interesting that moors come into play when the author discusses Catherine's grave.  Catherine is buried "in a corner of the kirkyard, where the wall is so low that heath and bilberry plants have climbed over it from the moor."  She, in death, like in life is characterized by the tangled, dark and gloomy moor.  This is apparent by the placement of her grave and somewhat scorned love with Heathcliff.  

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lord Byron, the Prototype for a vampire

Lord Byron, as many of you know, was John Polidori's inspiration for The Vampyre.  Polidori adapted a short story written by Byron in 1816 into his vampire novel.  As a result, Byron himself became the prototype for the traditional vampire character.  There are a couple of aspects to Byron's real life that are integral to the early vampire character.  The first of these aspects is the charismatic, aristocrat.  Byron himself was of noble descent.  He possessed many friends and was an influencer of people; an author.  This prototype is also followed in the early, popular vampire tale of Lord Dracula, and is mimicked by the character Lord Ruthven.  In addition to this, Byron was described by his ex-wife as someone with great charm, but possessing a dark side.  This again fits into the vampire character created by Polidori.

High society in this story is not any different than high society of today in my opinion.  These people posses enough money, power, and influence to do and go where ever they please.  Lord Ruthven is no different.  He and his travelling partner Aubrey journeys take them to Rome, Greece, and England.  I believe that the vampire character is a response to this culture in that it is a flaw in an otherwise flawless figure; the noble.  Polidori, probably like many of his other non-noble constituents, must have believed that people with this sort of power and wealth must have some skeletons in the closet (no pun intended).  Furthermore, this theory seems to fit into the idea of paranoid Gothic, whose central theme is an oath between two men.  This oath could be between aristocrats to keep these secretive, vampire transgressions between them.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Giving Up the Ghost

Eve Sedgwick paranoid Gothic is described as homosexual anxiety which infuses power through a fear of being discovered.  This is a central theme in Polidori's The Vampyre.  Polidori's novel revolves around the travels and interactions between two men.  Furthermore, they share an oath; an aspect that is apparent in Sedgwick's paranoid Gothic.  "This oath - to preserve Ruthven's honor by concealing his predatory life and apparent death - has absolute binding power..."  This oath has power because it is a concealing factor for not only Ruthven's life and death, but his homosexual transgressions as well.  It is a shared promise between two men to keep their bond secretive.  It is also interesting to note that these factors of paranoid Gothic are mimicked in Palidori's real life.  He, like Ruthven, has a male travelling partner with a shared oath to uphold their, although rocky, friendship.

I also found the notion of the moon interesting.  This was not a crucial aspect to Palidori's vampyre.  He even goes as far as to disregard the commonality that vampires cannot be exposed to the sun.  This evolution to the vampire character can be attributed to Planche.  Night is often thought of as a nonhuman realm.  It is fitting that a not fully human entity, a vampire, would fit best in a nonhuman realm.

Monday, September 6, 2010

About Me

Three interesting facts about myself
  1) I am a secondary education major with a focus in mathematics
  2) I love sports; playing and watching.  I play baseball for the Supreme Builders of the Milwaukee Baseball League and on a semi-pro team called Langsdorf.
  3)  I work for the School District of Brown Deer as a maintenance person.

I signed up for this course as a means to expand my literature experience.  I am not very familiar with vampire novels, but have always found their concepts interesting.  Most of the novels I read are in the sports autobiography genre (Never Die Easy: The Autobiography of Walter Payton and My Story: Pete Rose are my favorites).  As a result, when I open a book I hope to read about real people and their experiences.  Reading vampire novels will be something totally new for me in the world or literature.  I have had mostly great experiences with online communities.  I have take a few online course during my time at UWM and have enjoyed them.  I feel like it gives people the ability to contribute to class more actively than lectures and I look forward to discussing these novels with you all.


I am not too familiar with vampires but this is a scene from the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall.  The main character of the comedy creates a Dracula Roc-opera throughout the film.  Pretty funny if you've never seen it.

US Virgin Islands

CBS Sports

http://www.cbssports.com/

I watch a lot of sports so when I'm away from the tv I like to keep track of what is going on with cbssports.

Fighting Gravity - America's Got Talent 2010