Isabella North / History of Art and Design BA(Hons)

Lady in white dress laid out on lounge chair with vampire creature on top of her

 

The vampire has been a character present in folklore for centuries. The Victorian upsurge of the vampire within art and literature, however, led to the characterisation taking on new particular traits based on nineteenth-century fears. This dissertation focusses on exploring the anxieties within Victorian society through examining political and social debates, and the way in which they were reflected within the vampire to present a physical form of fear.

The analysis found within this topic looks at numerous Freudian concepts in addition to the theoretical understandings of Michel Foucault and H.P. Lovecraft in order to highlight the conception of the vampire being an embodiment of fear, particularly that of the sexual, xenophobic, and primal psychological fears presented within Victorian civilisation.

Using a variety of visual and literary examples from the period between the late eighteenth to late nineteenth centuries, the chapters of this dissertation highlight threats such as a fear of vulnerability through personifying aspects of darkness and nocturnal instincts, in addition to the relation between the dominant male and the female victim dynamic. This leads to exemplify an understanding of fears of the unknown, deliberating the fears of degenerative supernatural entities in comparison to modern science, as well as indulging in the representation of gender politics through fears found within the ‘New Woman’. Lastly, the dissertation illustrates fears of foreign threats through analysing xenophobic portrayals of the vampire associated with immigration and disease. Each topic of discussion contributes to an overall perception of the vampire as the epitome of Victorian anxieties therefore elucidating the impression that the vampire is the manifestation of fear in a physical form.

 

Man lying limp whilst vampire woman leans over him
Philip Burne-Jones. The Vampire. 1897. Illustration. Bridgeman Images.