Two Centuries of the Vampire : Toward and Against the Commodification of Anxiety



Year of publication 2022
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description Some 203 years ago, the vampire first rose in the Anglophone prose fiction. John Polidori’s “The Vampyre” (1819) begins a series of figurations of the vampire which continue to transform alongside the transformations of the social order, affecting the figurations of the vampire through their social production. To encompass the two centuries of the vampire’s ever-evolving figurations is no easy task but after a measured consideration, it may appear necessary to approach it from a position arguing for the cultivation of sensitivity toward the radical potential of the figure of the vampire. While the vampire’s persistent returns have at times been perceived as the mark of its eternal evil and malevolence, it is, nevertheless, important to also consider the figure of the vampire from a different perspective, less weighed by the overly anthropocentric and socially totalized modes of thinking. In the face of the tendencies which dominate the vampire’s figurations in the last two centuries, it appears necessary to always push to re-energize the interest in the figure of the vampire as a radical figure, embodying the potential for incisive social criticism, so typical of Gothic and Horror fiction for their aesthetic evocation of anxiety. Approaching this anxiety from a position sensitive to its psychic, material, and existential determinations can help in considering it as a revelation of something rotten in the modern, patriarchal, civilized, capitalist social order. It is crucial to approach the vampire not as a figure like Walter Benjamin’s angel of history, gazing backwards at the rubble and refuse propelling it toward uncertain future, but rather as a figure always speeding toward the future with inhuman resolve for change, wearing its blood-stained visage and dragging behind its human shadow as a haunting reminder of the cynicism of the capitalist mode of social production and of the necessity to oppose it, in cultural production and in each of our own’s micropolitical lives. From this less regulative and more liberative perspective, the vampire can be seen as a revolutionary figure, subversive first and foremost to the illusion of the totality of the civilized mode of social production and revealing its monstrous underbelly. It is perhaps only when one cultivates a sensitivity toward the vampire as this revolutionary figure that the vampire can once more become useless for the capitalistic cultivation of social subjectivity as a source of means toward economic ends and can once more become a figure of intense libidinal resistance to the capitalist profit-oriented logic and its own vampirism.
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