cover of book

Vampire Lectures
by Laurence A. Rickels
University of Minnesota Press, 1999
Cloth: 978-0-8166-3391-3 | Paper: 978-0-8166-3392-0
Library of Congress Classification PN1995.9.V3R53 1999
Dewey Decimal Classification 791.43675

A wild and wide-ranging "psycho-history" of the vampire.

Bela Lugosi may--as the eighties gothic rock band Bauhaus sang--be dead, but the vampire lives on. A nightmarish figure dwelling somewhere between genuine terror and high camp, a morbid repository for the psychic projections of diverse cultures, an endlessly recyclable mass-media icon, the vampire is an enduring object of fascination, fear, ridicule, and reverence. In The Vampire Lectures, Laurence A. Rickels sifts through the rich mythology of vampirism, from medieval folklore to Marilyn Manson, to explore the profound and unconscious appeal of the undead.

Based on the course Rickels has taught at the University of California, Santa Barbara, for several years (a course that is itself a cult phenomenon on campus), The Vampire Lectures reflects Rickels's unique lecture style and provides a lively history of vampirism in legend, literature, and film. Rickels unearths a trove that includes eyewitness accounts of vampire attacks; burial rituals and sexual taboos devised to keep vampirism at bay; Hungarian countess Elisabeth Bathory's use of girls' blood in her sadistic beauty regimen; Bram Stoker's Dracula,, with its turn-of-the-century media technologies; F. W. Murnau's haunting Nosferatu; and crude, though intense, straight-to-video horror films such as Subspecies. He makes intuitive, often unexpected connections among these sometimes wildly disparate sources.

More than a compilation of vampire lore, however, The Vampire Lectures makes an original and intellectually rigorous contribution to literary and psychoanalytic theory, identifying the subconscious meanings, complex symbolism, and philosophical arguments--particularly those of Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche--embedded in vampirism and gothic literature.

"Goth music lovers who prefer black as the color of choice and those of us who consider midnight the beginning of a night out on the town have found their spokesman and chronicler in Laurence Rickels, the author of the all-to-true, The Vampire Lectures. What began as a small lecture ten years ago has grown into a blockbuster. The whole nine yards is covered in this tell-all-eyewitness accounts of vampire attacks to medieval folklore 'truths'. It's an interesting, wild and very informative cutting-edge read for those sleepless nights at home . . . alone . . . in the dark." Village Voice

"The Vampire Lectures ranges widely and loosely through fang-filled literature and film, and argues that our relations to the dead, including the ghostly stains that the Other leaves on the psyche, fuel pop culture's continued fascination with the undead. Quite fun to read." Bookforum

"The Vampire Lectures is exhausting in its attention and overwhelming in its application. Rickels cross-pollinates Stoker's inceptive novel and its fifteenth-century inspiration (Vlad the Impaler) with obscure seventeenth-century newspaper accounts of the blood-bathing habits of Countess Elisabeth Bathory, current Goth culture and over fifty films-from Interview with a Vampire to Blacula. Rickels whips up an impressive vat of societal blood, sweat, and fears; and while he claims no grand conclusion about our ongoing fascination , he does suggest possible motivations for the ingrained symbolism (and therefore, appeal) of the vampire. The book is buoyed by Rickels' constantly playful language-'alle-gory,' 'fab-you-less' and 'shot in the darkroom.' The Vampire Lectures is engrossing, challenging and-like the death, sex and AIDS that it evokes-morbidly fascinating." Gadfly

Laurence A. Rickels is professor of German and comparative literature at the University of California at Santa Barbara. His books include The Case of California (2001), the edited volume Acting Out in Groups (1999), and Nazi Psychoanalysis, Volume I, II, and III (2002).
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