Through a text darkly: The shape of the fantastic in the shadow of the vampire

Deborah G Christie, Fordham University


The vampire owes much of the credit for its eternal life to human superstition and knowledge of our own mortality. Originating as folklore in almost every culture, the vampire endures as a symbol of unresolved tension between what we think we know and what we fear we do not. St. Paul makes this tension clear in his First Epistle to the Corinthians when he says “now, we see as through a glass, darkly, then, we shall see face to face” (11:13), referring to the limits of human understanding and the fear resulting from this imperfect vision. Cultural fears have historically fueled the pages of prose fiction; the ambiguity of fear, and the social tensions that it throws into sharp relief, are very often expressed within literary works that employ the fantastic, an often misunderstood genre that boasts as its chief utility: indecision. The fantastic allows for the liminal space of indecision to be protracted out to great length and, in many cases, great detail, and while a text resides in the partial shadow of this genre any number of boundaries may be questioned, if not outright challenged. Chapter one establishes the conditions of the fantastic and demarcates the historical and philosophical boundaries of Truth as put forth in both scientific and literary terms. Chapter two focuses exclusively on Bram Stoker's seminal text, Dracula, as it marks both an expansion of our understanding of genre and an encroachment on our conception of social boundaries. While Chapter three investigates the influence of the vampire as first a linguistically available and then a manifestly visual social metaphor, chapter four traces the spread of the vampiric contagion as a virus in the body politic, ultimately coalescing into a figure of social hybridity. Rounding out my discussion of both the vampire and the questionable parameters of the fantastic, my conclusion posits whether the vampire is still a figure of fear for us or whether our continued efforts to breath life into this figure have rendered it into the more comforting avatar of the evil we know rather than the one we do not.

Subject Area

Literature|British and Irish literature|Folklore

Recommended Citation

Christie, Deborah G, "Through a text darkly: The shape of the fantastic in the shadow of the vampire" (2005). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3159385.