Masters Thesis

“In our veins flows the blood of many brave races”: the influence of the German literary vampire on constructions of race and nation in nineteenth-century British vampire fiction

The literary vampire figure, as it would be recognized today, entered English literature through translations of late eighteenth century German poetry. The purpose of this project is to explore how the relationship between German vampire ballads and British vampire narratives acts as a literary manifestation of German-British cultural and political attitudes and interactions in the roughly century and a half before World War I. This relationship will be discussed through an exploration of the constructs of blood and body within vampire narratives in direct relationship to sociocultural discourses of race in Pre-WWI England. This project seeks to explore the following questions: Are vampire narratives a fictional response to “the German Problem” of nineteenth century imperialism? What is the significance of the vampire figure being outside normative constructions of race and nation? Drawing on Goethe’s “Bride of Corinth” and Bürger’s “Lenore,” I will do a close reading of John Polidori’s The Vampyre, J.S. LeFanu’s Carmilla, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. This reading will be theoretically framed by by Homi Bhabha’s theories of liminiality, mimicry, and ambivalence as one way to describe the vampire body.

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