Université de Montréal. The Figure of the Vampire as an Emblem of Tradition. Par Marie Levesque - PDF

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Université de Montréal The Figure of the Vampire as an Emblem of Tradition Par Marie Levesque Département de Littérature comparée Faculté des Arts et des sciences Mémoire présenté à la Faculté des Arts

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Université de Montréal The Figure of the Vampire as an Emblem of Tradition Par Marie Levesque Département de Littérature comparée Faculté des Arts et des sciences Mémoire présenté à la Faculté des Arts et des sciences en vue de l obtention du grade de maîtrise en littérature comparée Novembre, 2014 Marie Levesque, 2014 Résumé Afin de se perpétuer dans le temps, la tradition recourt à des figures qui la véhiculent. Cette étude prend pour objet la figure du vampire qui, en transmettant des aspects importants de la tradition culturelle, prend la forme d une tradition en soi, se manifestant dans une série de récits et d œuvres littéraires et culturelles. Ces figures possèdent le plus grand pouvoir de transmission puisqu elles ne sont pas des traditions à la base, mais elles ne peuvent rester culturellement importantes seulement qu en devenant des traditions. C est-à-dire que la figure du vampire possède sa propre tradition littéraire et/ou filmique, tout en offrant une vision de la transmission, de la tradition et de l éducation. Afin de demeurer présentes à travers le temps, les traditions doivent posséder un noyau principal, tout en restant assez malléables afin que des caractéristiques secondaires de celles-ci puissent changer et évoluer. Le vampire est une figure toute aussi malléable que les traditions, faisant donc d elle l emblème parfait du concept. De plus, cinq nœuds de tradition réapparaissent, à différents niveaux, dans la littérature vampirique. Le choix de la victime, la morsure vampirique et l échange de sang transformatif et le lien de ceux-ci à une vision perverse de la sexualité, le processus d éducation, le désir d appartenir à une famille ou à une communauté et le besoin de comprendre ses origines, illustrent tous le lien indéniable entre la figure du vampire et le concept de la tradition. Ce mémoire explore l impact de la figure du vampire comme emblème de la tradition à travers le roman vampirique classique le plus traditionnel Dracula de Bram Stoker et à travers les 2 trois premiers tomes des Vampire Chronicles d Anne Rice, soit Interview with the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat et Queen of the Damned, ainsi que leurs adaptations cinématographiques. Mots-clés : transmission, tradition, figuration, vampire, perversion, simili-mort. 3 Abstract To perpetuate itself in time, tradition makes recourse to figures that convey it. This study takes as its object the vampire figure that, in transmitting important aspects of the cultural tradition, takes the form of its own tradition, manifesting itself in a series of narrative and cultural works. As this study maintains, the vampire figure possesses its own literary and cinematographic tradition, even as it provides an understanding of transmission, tradition, and education. In order to persist through time, traditions need to retain a static core, while also being malleable enough to allow for the transformation of the secondary features. The vampire is a malleable cultural figure, making it the perfect emblem of the concept of tradition. Moreover, five recurring traditional constellations are present, in various degrees, in vampire-centric narratives. The victim choice, the vampiric bite and the transformative blood exchange with its undeniable relation to perverse sexuality, the training process, the desire to belong to a family or a community, and the search for one s origins all illustrate the link between the vampire and the concept of tradition. This thesis explores the impact of the vampire figure as an emblem of tradition through the most classic the most traditional narrative, Bram Stoker s Dracula, and through the first three installments of Anne Rice s Vampire Chronicles Interview with the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat, and Queen of the Damned as well as through their film adaptations. Keywords: transmission, tradition, figuration, vampire, perversion, undeath. 4 Table of Contents Dedication... 7 Acknowledgments... 8 Introduction: Transmission, Tradition, and Figuration... 9 Chapter I: Perversion and Tradition in Bram Stoker s Dracula Chapter II: The Origins of Modern Vampiric Tradition in Anne Rice s Vampire Chronicles. 44 Chapter III : The Continuity of Vampiric Tradition in Film Adaptations Conclusion: Vampiric Immortality and the Everlasting Transmission of Traditions Bibliography Dedication To the mad ones. The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles [ ] Jack Kerouac, On the Road, Part 1, Chapter 1. 7 Acknowledgments My most profound and sincere thanks go to my thesis director, Terry Cochran, who guided me while giving me the latitude I needed to write a thesis faithful to what I had in mind. Thank you so much for your support, and for making this experience extremely enriching. To Maureen, without whom this thesis would not exist. Words cannot describe how grateful and blessed I am to have you in my life. You pushed me harder and harder every step of the way to ensure that I would develop to my full potential and for that, I am forever indebted to you. I never thought a former professor would become such a dear friend over the years. Thank you so, so much! À Misou, merci pour ton support, dans les bons comme dans les moins bons moments. Merci pour toutes les relectures et les commentaires. Merci de croire en moi. Merci de me comprendre comme personne d autre ne sait le faire. Tu seras toujours ma sœur cosmique. Je t aime! À Stéphane, merci de m avoir si brillamment transmis ton savoir. Mon mémoire ne serait pas ce qu il est sans nos nombreuses discussions de fin de soirée. Merci infiniment! À ma famille et mes amis, vous qui m avez supportée et encouragée de près ou de loin dans cette aventure, ma vie ne serait pas la même sans vous. Merci tout spécial à mes parents qui m ont toujours poussée à aller au bout de mes rêves et à faire de la différence quelque chose d extraordinairement beau. À Bohème et Toffee. 8 Introduction Transmission, Tradition, and Figuration The concept of tradition the transmission of artifacts, ideas, symbols through time has always been questioned in many different fields. The point of view of a given tradition can and will change during its transmission process. Indeed, if traditions did not get altered throughout the years, no history could be made. However, the concept of tradition, because of its abstract nature, requires the vessels which figure within to be thoroughly understood. These vessels can take multiple forms, some more tangible than others, going from family heirlooms to figures and symbols. I will argue that figures are the most fecund vehicles of tradition. Since they are intangible, and sometimes imbued with transcendence, they can convey both a more literal meaning of the concept, as well as its symbolic inclination. The figure which will be used in this thesis to illustrate both aspects is the vampire. Not only is it a figure that has been around for a long time, which gives it its own narrative tradition, but, more importantly, the figure of the vampire itself possesses, in its many forms, its own history, its own tradition. Indeed, I will demonstrate that the vampire, through a few traditional reoccurring constellations, comes with a strong explicatory vision of tradition. The traditional elements can be categorized into five broad aspects: the choosing of the victim by the master-vampire, the vampiric transformation itself (the bite and the blood exchange), the training process, being integrated in a family or a community, and finally, the impact and the place of sexual relationships in vampirism. In analyzing these various threads, this study will establish, on the one hand, that vampires possess their own tradition and, on the other, that they serve as vehicles for an understanding of tradition. Indeed, tradition, in its basic form, can be described as the transmission of knowledge through time. I will first define the central elements of this statement through the lens of etymology in order to explain the literal side of it. Then, I will delve into the symbolic aspect in order to illustrate the transcendental 1 nature of the concept. The latter explanation is of capital importance, since figures belong in this intangible realm. Once the concept of tradition has been thoroughly clarified, we will explore what figuration is and how the vampire fits into this mold. First and foremost, the concept of tradition cannot be brought forward without giving a thorough description of what transmission is. Without transmission, traditions would come to a grinding halt. The term transmission comes from the Latin prefix trans-, which means over, across according to Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short. It can also signify through ( Trans., A Latin Dictonary). Therefore, transmission ever and always implies something going beyond, further, something which goes across boundaries. The transcendental nature of transmission is also applicable to figuration, since figures belong in an intangible realm sustained by intellectual creation. Moreover, the act of transmission is undeniably linked with the process of tradition because the Latin verb trado and its conjugated form tradere is first defined by Lewis and Short as to give up, to hand over, to deliver, to transmit, to surrender. They also posit that this term signifies to make over, to transmit as an inheritance, as well as something being delivered through the act of teaching ( Trado, A Latin Dictionary). Indeed, the transmission of traditions most often occurs through a teaching-learning dynamic. Sociologist Edward Shils states that [the teachers] 1 I use the word transcendental in this case, to mean of the transcendent, and not in its vernacular sense. 9 enfold [the pupil], infuse the tradition into him, and they place him in a position in which [the student] can move forward from [the teachers], while remaining within them (119). The teaching process is not only there to ensure the perpetuation of traditions, but also to give the pupil the necessary tools to teach his/her own students later on. Félix Gaffiot follows the same idea by defining the Latin term for tradition traditio as transmission, enseignement; relation, rapport; tradition ( Traditio., Dictionnaire latin français). The teaching rapport implies a learning process by the pupil. The teacher or, in this case, the master-vampire infuses the student with his own knowledge. The bond evolves when the pupil has assimilated the vampiric tradition so strongly that he is able to shape it to his/her liking. The newborn will therefore alter elements of the tradition. These modifications are an inherent aspect of the concept of tradition. If no changes occur, traditions become static, and the transmission process falters. Thus, the core elements of a tradition must remain intact, while secondary features can and must be altered in order for the transmission of traditions to run its course through time. The most essential aspect linking the transmission of traditions and vampirism resides in the vampiric transformation. The biting and the blood exchange not only make a human being into a vampire, but it also allows vampiric tradition, and intrinsic features the ability to fly, to control minds, etc. to be transmitted. Thus, the static core of a tradition is what allows it to remain imbued with immanence, and culturally present in and through time. The impact of culture and media is also relevant to the creation of figures. Figures, being symbolic in constitution, cannot persist through time without becoming traditions. Indeed, symbolic constellations are not traditions, but they can be preserved only as traditions (Shils 90), since a community needs to accept them and re-transmit them in 10 order to ensure the perpetuation of the figure: [ ] intellectual traditions are themselves symbolic constellations, transmitted, received, possessed, and transmitted (Shils 90). Simply put, any tradition of an intellectual nature is formed in a transcendental fashion, to eventually be transmitted through culture. The vampire is a figure that is transmitted through narratives; it does not describe an existing being. The narrative transmission of the vampiric figure suggests two threads: one where a tradition of vampire narratives changes in and through time, but also another whereby narratives about vampires establish a vision of transmission, of tradition, and of education. The vampire and its impact on culture has caused a lot of ink to be spilled over the centuries. The strong hold of the vampire figure on the collective imagination transformed it into an extremely malleable narrative being. Vampire literature followed the footsteps of the figure by becoming vast and varied, making it impossible for the multiple facets of the vampire to be encompassed in one single model (Benefiel 262). The variety of changes the vampire went and still goes through paved the way for many different interpretations of what the figure represents. The folkloric vampire of the 17 th century was often described as a ghoul, a revenant who terrorized people in their sleep at night, draining their blood. The purpose of this figuration of the bloodsucker was to explain diseases and the fear of what was other 2. The resolution of 2 Paul Barber, in his introduction to his book Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality, states that the vampire lore proves to be in large part an elaborate folk-hypothesis designed to account for seemingly inexplicable events associated with death and decomposition (3). The folklore revenant is the tangible representation of the belief that the dead may bring us death (Barber 3). This assumption was principally present in European cultures and Asian countries. For more information on the subject, see Paul Barber s 11 these phenomena did not make the vampire disappear, however. The beginning of the 19 th century the Victorian Era paved the way for the gentleman vampire in Gothic fiction, the most important being Bram Stoker s Dracula. The Count became so embedded in people s imagination even centuries later that he became the vampire by which all other vampiric figures are eventually measured (Zanger 17; Hollinger 207). At first glance, Stoker s vampire seems to only be the villain who must be vanquished by the agents of good and of the Church. While Dracula does serve that purpose in the plot of the novel, he also embodies many aspects which may have been regarded as taboo in the 19 th century, such as the repression of sexual desire, the fear of newcomers and that of little known diseases. There is a plethora of essays and books written on Dracula. One of the most prolific topics related to the father of vampires is the sexual nature of the novel. Eroticism and sexuality were then perceived as desires and/or drives which needed to be repressed at all costs. The vampire, being a narrative figure, was the perfect vehicle by which these desires could be expressed. As George Stade states in his introduction to the novel, Bram Stoker s Dracula, in short, is an apparition of what we repress, particularly eros. To be bitten by Dracula is to become a slave to a kind of lust, abandoned to unlawful hungers, a projection of the beholder s desire and dread (vi). This lust-induced temptation must be removed, however, in order to be in line with the authority of the clergy. Margaret L. Carter, in her essay The Vampire as Alien in Contemporary Fiction, paraphrases Rosemary Jackson s thoughts on the correlation between Dracula and sex: aforementioned work and The Vampire: A Casebook, edited by Alan Dundes (see bibliography for the complete reference). 12 Rosemary Jackson, like many other critics, also sees ambivalence toward Dracula s sexual prowess as central to the novel. In her view, Stoker objectifies forbidden desires in the vampires Dracula and his female disciples in order to assert the conservative values of established society by exterminating the vampires, and, with them, the subversive drives that threaten to break free. (29) Dracula and his vampire wives therefore become vicarious vehicles through which readers might comprehend their repressed impulses. Stoker, being faithful to the school of thought of the 19 th century, kills all the vampires at the end of the novel. Dr. Van Helsing and his companions kill the Count in the name of God. From this perspective, Dracula also becomes a representation of the Anti-Christ. As Veronica Hollinger suggests, [ ] the vampire [in Stoker s Dracula] functions as the revelation of Evil in all its resplendent horror; as such, the vampire functions also to guarantee the presence of Good in the world of Stoker s human characters. Existing as he does beyond the margins of the Good, the human, and the natural, the vampire s very existence acts as a confirmation that these categories remain in place, demarcated against and defined by that which is not Good, not human, not natural. (202) The vampire in Stoker s work acts as both the narrative villain and the representation of the power of the Church. Count Dracula is, in basic terms, the Anti-Christ who must be sent back to Hell because of his killings, and because of the lustful feelings he brings out in women Mina Harker and Lucy Westenra, especially. Jules Zanger takes on a similar stance: In the Victorian world that created [Dracula], his absolute nature was an expression of the formally dichotomized structures of belief which, although crumbling, still dominated that world: 13 religious, moral, political dichotomies that sharply distinguished good from evil for the mass culture [ ] (25). Stoker achieves some closure with the elimination of his vampire characters, but desires constantly renew themselves. They ever and always imply a state of transgressive behavior. As a matter of fact, the link between desires and vampirism is so strong that Rosemary Jackson says that since sources of desire are inexhaustible, a new other being a new vampire is created to fill in the void. It is also one of the reasons that prevent these beings from ever leaving collective psyches (Carter 29). In addition to the release of repressed desires through its representation of Anti-Christ, the vampire figure in Dracula is often portrayed as the outsider who invokes fear, precisely because it is other. Victorian culture did not embrace the outsider; people were scared and repulsed by it. Changes occur with the publication of Anne Rice s Vampire Chronicles. The first volume, Interview with the Vampire, was released in 1976, and the vampires populating Rice s universe embraced a completely different lifestyle. The author once declared that the vampire is a metaphor for the outsider (Carter 27). In the subsequent novel The Vampire Lestat, Rice made Lestat a rock star because rock stars are symbolic outsiders who are expected to be completely wild, completely unpredictable, and completely themselves, and they are rewarded for that (Carter 27). The outsider status borne by the vampire in Anne Rice s Chronicles presents him as admirable for the same reasons which made him a creature to be feared in Bram Stoker s time (Carter 30). This paved the way to a more individuallycentered and free vampire, in all aspects of their lives, whether they are social, sexual, etc. This freedom also presents a rebel bloodsucking being who craves not only blood, but recognition as well, and he achieves it through rebellious acts. Rice s vampire Lestat, and the 14 vampires in Joel Schumacher s film The Lost Boys, among others, follow that exact pattern. Through this change, Rice created a vampire who is not simply a figure with whom a reader can identify to some degree, but a dynamic character who went
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