Vampires Symbolize Society’s Fears, Anxieties and Conflicts Nov 7, 2015 7:54:26 GMT -5
Post by Graveyardbride on Nov 7, 2015 7:54:26 GMT -5
Vampires Symbolize Society’s Fears, Anxieties and Conflicts
With a black cape billowing behind him, Jerrold E. Hogle, distinguished professor of English at the University of Arizona and an expert in Gothic and Romantic literature, took the stage at the Fox Tucson Theatre, where he spoke to an enthusiastic crowd of vampire aficionados. Hogle’s presentation, "The Dark Immortality of the Vampire," was the third in a series of free weekly lectures on immortality hosted by the UA School of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
Longtime Interest in Vampires. Hogle’s interest in vampires predates his academic career. "I was one of those kids that ... saw, or felt he saw, monsters and goblins and ghouls under [the] bed," said Hogle. "My parents were a little concerned." They sent him to a psychologist where, at the tender age of 5, Hogle began to wonder why people create stories to scare themselves. Now he asks that same question in an academic context. Throughout the ages, says Hogle, the vampire persona has been appropriated as a symbol of society’s fears, anxieties and conflicts.
Vampire Origins. With their pale faces, clawlike hands and slender fangs, vampires have inspired many a nightmare. Dreaded and revered, dead yet immortal, vampires exist in that grey realm between life and death. A common attribute of vampires is their need for blood. "Immortality for vampires always comes at a cost ... you have to keep getting it by sucking blood, if you stop sucking blood as a vampire, you die," said Hogle.
The iconic vampire hearkens back to All Hallows Eve, a Celtic-inspired festival that commemorated the transition between harvest season and the beginning of winter. During that transition, it was believed that a portal opened in the earth, allowing mysterious creatures, including vampires, to walk among us. When that portal closed, all but the vampires fled underground. According to Hogle, vampires share a common set of traits: They are undead but immortal, and endowed with super strength, the ability to shape-shift and an over-arching erotic sensibility.
Evolving image. The image of the vampire has evolved with the culture. Originally a monstrous creature representing evil in the world, the vampire is now sometimes portrayed in a more sympathetic light, as in the romantic Twilight books and films or the True Blood TV drama where good vampires battle evil and drink artificial blood. As the vampire persona evolves, we playfully assume vampire regalia, as some audience members did, including Diana Liverman, Regents Professor in the UA School of Geography and Development and co-director of the UA Institute of the Environment. Fake bite mark tattoos were available in the lobby.
Chris Sloman, a graduate student in the UA Department of English who is familiar with Hogle’s research, enjoyed the talk. "I think he did a very good job of going toward the original roots and seeing how a lot of that same stuff is still in play even as we are moving into a different understanding of things," Sloman said. "It’s interesting that the vampire is something that is … useful for us to consider."
Jon Laguardia, also a UA graduate student in the department of English, reflected on the use of the vampire to restore morality and ethics. "A lot of recent texts, like the Twilight series ... use the figure of the vampire ... to reinstill really conservative values," Laguardia said. "You have the vampire in Twilight who has the ability to do whatever he wants ... yet resists doing everything he wants because he has moral obligations."
"The vampire has lasted ... because it can symbolize so many things – conflicted attitudes about sex ... conflicted attitudes about immortality itself," Hogle said near the end of his lecture. "As long as there are conflicted attitudes, the vampire can symbolize them."
Source: Angela Hoover, Arizona Daily Star, October 29, 2105.