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Preface
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Notes: Works Cited: Index

PREFACE

The purpose of this study is to investigate the experience of the numinous in a specific category of Gothic literature, which employs a vampire as the primary focus of its action, regardless of whether that figure is literal or metaphoric. I have, therefore, chosen to discuss the use of the vampire figure as a representation of the numinous over several literary periods in a kind of super-religious context that goes beyond the realm of traditional religious systems. The texts examined in the following chapters include both poetry and fiction, written at or near the ends of their respective centuries by both British and American authors. At the ends of centuries and millenniums, many humans suffer a sense of spiritual alienation exacerbated by fear of the unknown on such a momentous threshold of time; as a result, they often begin to question their spiritual beliefs. My study explores how at the ends of the last three centuries (and one millennium) these particular authors have used the numinous qualities of the vampire to convey a human sense of alienation from the divine and a desire to overcome that alienation.

CHAPTER ONE. DREADFUL REVELATIONS: THE NUMINOUS AND THE VAMPIRE

The numinous value, or sacred functioning, of the vampire myth lies in the influence that an encounter with the numinous has on the individual. In vampire literature, an encounter with a vampire works on both structural and thematic levels to produce, first, an effect or condition of perception which allows the reader, and perhaps the character, to experience a sense of powerlessness in the face of someone or some thing supernaturally powerful; and, second, through the feelings of fear and the accompanying themes of power and powerlessness, to reach an epiphany, a kind of catharsis of soul that brings the character to a new understanding of being-in-the-world. Those who come in contact with the vampire must question what it is to be human and mortal in this world; but the most important problem for all of the characters in the texts discussed in the body of this work is how does one relate to the divine in a world in which the divine may or may not be present, and in which faith may or may not be strong enough to vanquish the fear that the divine does not exist at all.

CHAPTER TWO. SURRENDERING THE SELF: THE NUMINOUS AND THE VAMPIRE IN COLERIDGE'S "THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER"

As a representative of the Romantic artist, the Ancient Mariner journeys from the primitive, negative numinousness toward positive creativity and communication. Isolated from the divine in the primitive stage through his dread at the mystery and power of the numinous vampire figure, referred to in this discussion as Life-in-Death as she is in later editions of the poem, and through his resulting loss of ego because of that dreadful power, the Mariner recognizes his need for a relationship with divine power and seeks a reunion in the artistic phase as he gains insight into his alienated state by experiencing the condition of Life-in-Death himself. Eventually, he attains a degree of reintegration with the divine, and to some extent with society, as in the creative stage he is forced into the role of communicator carrying the cosmic message of divine unity to those who must hear his tale. The Mariner is associated with the divine by becoming not only the artist/prophet, but also the numen/vampire. Through his penance and through his existence as vampire/artist he serves as the vehicle for the Hermit, the Wedding Guest, and the broader reading and listening audience to relate to the world in a more spiritual sense.

CHAPTER THREE. RECREATING THE WORLD: THE SACRED AND PROFANE IN BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA

[Mircea] Eliade argues that to experience sacred space and time is to reveal a longing to reactualize the primordial situation of creating the world. In his analysis of early religions, Eliade found that many people believed that sacred space and time was renewed each year with the rebirth of the land; and when each new year began, chaos had to be overcome once more. So, too, would this be true on a larger scale at the end of a century or a millennium. Humanity's terror of each new century or new millennium may be perceived as a terror of chaos and the possibility of death without renewal. The longing to live in the presence of the gods then may be expressed as an unquenchable thirst for being, a need to exist as a spiritual entity as well as a physical one. This thirst for being may be manifested as the individual's will to take responsibility for the sacredness of his or her own society, as Professor Van Helsing and the others do when they seek out Dracula, risking possible nonexistence and dissolution into chaos and death to imitate the gods and return their profane world to sacred space. As numinous fiction, Dracula is a story of salvation, of initiation into the sacred, despite the fact that their sacredness has a secular slant. In their confrontation with the negatively numinous vampire, the humans evaluate their own evil potential and their longing for reaffirmation of a spiritual future because the chaos of the unknown, the chaos of living death, is too frightening.

CHAPTER FOUR. EROS AND THE THANATOTIC HERO: THE SPIRITUAL JOURNEY OF LESTAT IN ANNE RICE'S VAMPIRE CHRONICLES

In the numinous encounter, the subject is caught between the urges of Eros and Thanatos. Fascinated and excited by the urge toward death, which draws one toward numinous contact, yet dreading the idea of death, the subject counters fascination with a fear of annihilation and an urge toward life and meaning. It is in the ambiguousness of a position between dread and fascination that the subject of the numinous encounter finds the capacity to create meaning from fear. In an attempt to survive the reality of the numinous encounter, to master or control the mystery and dread of the numen, the person searches for ways to create moral meaning out of the experience, and, thereby, to deny the promise of death which life holds. Therefore, terror of death can be understood to lead to heroic action, as the reaction to the numinous encounter for the healthy mind is to create systems of action that will help to repress the fear that threatens to overwhelm it. To repress the fear of death is to deny it and, therefore, to deny the power of the numinous in order to function in the world. As a vampire, Lestat is caught in this ambiguous position, representing the numinous as Thanatotic hero-vampire, yet striving for Eros because he needs more than simple survival.

CHAPTER FIVE, CONCLUSION: VAMPIRES FOR A NEW AGE

Having survived the passage into the new millennium, we humans also have been transformed, renewed, and resurrected; in answer to our resurrection we must find a new spirituality to serve as a guide for the new century. This new spirituality should show us that we have faced the death of time and survived, and that the numinous is, therefore, within each of us. In the first century of the new millennium, the question remains: how do we human beings make meaning to give ourselves cosmic significance? The use of the vampire figure in our literature may continue to provide a clue in our search for significance. . . . Who will be the new vampires of the twenty-first century? Will they be villains or heroes? Will they represent our political, economic, philosophic, or religious enemies, or relate to us in evangelical tones the doctrines of our salvation? Will they be marginal creatures who represent us in our human struggle toward goodness despite ourselves? In light of circumstances since the turn of the century/millennium, we can no longer deny our individual or cultural mortality. We live now in an apocalyptic culture, ripe for revelation about ourselves.

NOTES: WORKS CITED: INDEX


 
 
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