The Undead Among Us - The Figure of the Vampire as the "Unknown Other" and Its Representation in "True Blood"

©2014 Textbook 68 Pages


Drakul. Nosferatu. Upyr. Vampyre. There have been many names for what we know today as the vampire. For over a century, literature, television, cinema and many other areas in our daily lives cannot be imagined without the appearance of this fictional character. Almost everyone is familiar with the image of the walking undead that creeps out of its coffin at night and sucks the blood out of humans. The undead has always been appealing to its audience. It is the ‘otherness’ of such monsters, their frightful darkness and exoticism that makes them so interesting.
This book deals with the figure of the vampire regarded as the ‘unknown other’ and how it is fictionally represented in the American TV series True Blood (2008 - ). Considering both psychoanalytical concepts as well identity theory, the author depicts the literary and cinematographic development of the fictional figure of the vampire since the late nineteenth century, and analyzes different representations of the vampire and its “otherness” as well as their appeal to the audience in the True Blood.


Table Of Contents

other "supernatural" creatures such as werewolves, mind readers, witches, and
shape shifters.
This study focuses on the figure of the vampire. It attempts to examine the fictional
character of the vampire as it is represented in the series with particular attention on
the concept of the "unknown other". Questions such as `Why is the fictional undead
so appealing to the audience?' and `What makes the figure of the vampire
particularly engaging to the viewer?' shall be considered. Primarily, the book will
examine how the vampire is depicted in the series, if and how it is different from
fictional humanity, as well as in how far the figure of the vampire has transformed
compared to its representations in nineteenth and twentieth century popular
culture. Working with the hypothesis that the fictional vampire is not a "monster"
anymore, it shall be analyzed what happens to the undead when it coexists with
humanity. It is presumed that the more the vampire longs for life and assimilates
itself in human society, the more human it becomes itself, which leads to the loss of
the image of the frightful monster it used to be. As an undead that disrupts the
boundaries between the self and the other, the figure of the vampire can be
regarded as an ambivalent figure walking on the thin line between life and death, as
well as between human and inhuman. At the beginning of the book, different
approaches of "otherness" as well as of the "unknown other" will be provided as an
Considering concepts by Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan and Julia Kristeva, among
others, this background chapter serves as a basis for the discussion and analysis of
the TV series. Ensuing, the study will provide a brief overview of the vampire myth as
well as the fictional representation of the vampire in American popular culture in
particular, which shall function as a comparable foundation to work with in the
analysis part of the book. The main part of this study is formed by the analysis of the
TV series True Blood
with a focus on the fictional representation of the undead, and
in particular the figure of the vampire, regarded as the "unknown other", whereby
several extracts of the series' episodes will be considered in depth.
This book focuses on the first and the second season of True Blood in particular, as season three and
four were not available in Germany by this time.

The Unknown Other ­ Fright and Fascination of the Monster
The Other, the Self, and the Uncanny
Dealing with the other of both individuals and groups, as well as the contact with
foreign environments and the imagination of the other, have been examined by
many academics in various fields such as philosophy, sociology, political science,
theology, and anthropology (cf. Janz 7). In addition, psychoanalysis, linguistics, and
cultural studies attempt to define where the notion of the other descends from,
what it expresses, and why it is both shocking and fascinating. The idea of the
unknown other was first philosophically examined by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.
In his work The Science of Logic (1812/1813) Hegel outlines that the entity is always
something opposing; something or someone can only be conceived if it is
distinguishable from the other (cf. Hegel 98).
The term of the so called other can describe many different phenomena. In English
there are several words describing what in German is expressed by the single word
"fremd": foreign, strange, different, extrinsical, other, alien. All these adjectives
signify what this book refers to as the "unknown other". According to The Oxford
Advanced Learner's Dictionary (1995), "other" always goes along with something or
someone different or remaining in a group. That definition already implies that the
other is closely connected to the self. In order to be able to identify what is other, it
is necessary to define the self. Being aware of their own identity and characteristics,
individuals are able to distinguish and isolate themselves from others. Vice versa,
they are able to identify themselves by being aware of what they are not. Thus, the
concept of the other has been used in social science to examine groups' and
societies' dealings with `others', particular in terms of exclusions, such as defining
who does not fit into their society. Furthermore, the other is integral to
comprehending and constructing roles of individuals in relation to other people.
Besides, othering
helps to distinguish between the self and the other, between
home and away, the certain and the uncertain, the familiar and the foreign.
As philologist Rolf-Peter Janz pointed out, many theorists agree upon the notion that
the other does not involve particular characteristics; something other always stands
The philosophical term for Otherness is `alterity', meaning the contrast between the entity and the
Other to which an identity is constructed. It also suggests the ability to distinguish between the Self
and the not-Self, the Other. The concept of alterity was established by philosopher Emmanuel Lévinas
(cf. Lévinas 3ff.).

in relation to the self and own. Therefore, the theory of the other can be described
as a theory of difference (cf. Janz 8). The other proves to be a projection surface of
own wishes and worries. Janz compares this feeling with the times of Columbus's
discovery of the New World that lead to descriptions of the other (meaning native
inhabitants of the continent) as wild, barbaric, and animal-like. It becomes obvious
that the other is strictly speaking not existent. In the same way as identity is a
construct influenced by certain markers or sources of identity, the other is an
artificial and incented product. The concept of defining as well as differentiating a
self from the other is not something given; it can rather be explained by an
individual's feeling towards something or someone. Each person defines for
themselves what is different or other to them. That always depends on the person's
self, meaning their identity having been influenced by identity sources such as
gender, age, religion, class, descent, and ethnicity (cf. Fong 27ff.). Particularly
cultural background plays an intrinsic role in the definition of what is other. Coming
from the Old World, meaning Europe, discovering a new, unknown, and different
continent, consequently leads to a determination of what is different about it. The
inhabitants, the climate, the animals, food ­ everything is not as Europeans were
used to and therefore the new and other expressed something frightful and
dangerous to them.
In his book Orientalism (1978), literary theorist Edward Wadie Sad examines the
notion of the other with regards to cultural differences. With the term "Orientalism",
Sad describes the Eurocentric, Western view on societies in the East, meaning the
Arabic World. His central idea is that Western knowledge about the East did not
develop from facts, but from prejudiced archetypes. By defining the known ­ the
Western society and culture ­ inhabitants of the Western world conceive all
"Eastern" societies as fundamentally similar to one another, and in the same way
fundamentally dissimilar to "Western" societies. This discourse defines "the East" as
antithetical to "the West". Thus, Sad argues that "Orient", describing the East, and
"Occident", describing the West, work as oppositional terms, so that the Orient is a
construction of a negative contradiction of the Western culture (cf. MacKenzie 4).
Accordingly, Western people's thinking towards the East expresses a sense of
superiority in which the Orient is regarded as "weaker than the West, which elided
the Orient's difference with its weakness" (Sad 204).

Anything that is unknown is first of all perceived as different. Therefore, people may
depict the foreign as strange and as not "normal", according to their knowledge and
world view. One reason for that may be a natural, inherent fear of anything not
known. People tend to be suspicious and careful of things they are not familiar with:
other people, places, rites, religions, food ­ anything that is not as they are used to,
that is different, other, and strange, is perceived as "abnormal". As mentioned
before, these perceptions always depend on the perspective and background of each
person. Markers like age, gender, nationality, and culture, or outer influences such as
parents, friends, or society itself have an intrinsic impact on people's perception and
reaction towards the unknown and the other.
In the same way as the unknown presents something frightening, it represents
something astonishing and appealing. The other, the unknown, uncertainty,
inconceivability, the feeling of the uncanny belong to the common attributes linked
with the other. In this matter, neurologist Sigmund Freud's
1919 essay "The
Uncanny" is of particular importance. According to Freud, anything that arouses
dread and horror belongs to the realm of the Uncanny (Creed, Phallic, vii). The
uncanny effect becomes apparent when something forgotten returns to
consciousness. Therefore, the uncanny can be described as follows:
The uncanny is ghostly. It is concerned with the strange, weird and mysterious,
with flickering sense [...] of something supernatural. The uncanny involves
feelings of uncertainty, in particular regarding the reality of who one is and
what is being experienced. Suddenly one's sense of oneself [...] seems strangely
questionable. [...] But the uncanny is not simply an experience of strangeness
and alienation. More specifically, it is peculiar commingling of the familiar and
unfamiliar. It can take the form of something familiar unexpectedly arising in a
strange and unfamiliar context, or of something strange and unfamiliar
unexpectedly arising in a familiar context (Royle 1).
Something completely unfamiliar can be either fascinating or frightening, as both
senses are closely connected (cf. Janz 9). Going along with the process of identity
formation, the other as well as the experience of foreignness can be regarded as
basic constructs of human ideology. The ambivalence of the fascinating and the
frightening, which is constituent for the other, is complex and difficult to relate to. It
may be the lure and temptation of the other, a mysterious drive to morphe one's self
Freud founded the discipline of psychoanalysis and is best known for his theories of the unconscious
mind. He also created the clinical method of psychoanalysis for investigating the mind through
dialogue between patient and psychoanalyst. One of his major works is The Interpretation of Dreams
(1900). Works by Freud that deal particularly with the Uncanny are The Uncanny (1919) and Beyond
the Pleasure Principle (1920).

to another order which puts the self in jeopardy of collapsing (cf. 9). The feelings of
being both attracted and deterred may be what makes the other so appealing and
desirable. Freud even goes so far to say that the uncanny is the "species of the
frightening that goes back to what was once well known and had long been familiar"
(Freud, Uncanny, 124). According to him, fear towards the unknown, the uncanny,
results from repressed anxieties, having developed during a person's childhood. Also,
he refers to death, and particularly the return of the death, as motifs that trigger
feelings of the uncanny.
Jacques Lacan extended Freud's ideas by the dimension of the mirror stage. With this
notion he was able to broaden the fundaments of psychoanalysis and likewise to
deconstruct the principles of contemporary philosophy, meaning the self (cf. Gekle
30). The following chapter depicts Lacan's concept of the mirror stage and its role in
forming an individual's sense of its self ­ its identity.
2.2 Jacques Lacan ­ The `I' and the Mirror Stage
While dealing with the phenomenon of the other, psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan
introduced the theory of the so called "mirror stage" in 1936, meaning images and
the development of the function of the "I" or the self. In this early component of his
critical reinterpretation of the work of Freud, Lacan describes a child at its birth as
"unfinished". The infant associates this crudity with helplessness and dependence
which is experienced as extremely frightening.
The mirror stage is a development phase of children between the sixth and the
eighteenth month of life during which infants become capable of recognizing their
mirror images. Apparently, children of that age show a certain reaction which can be
described as exultant or jubilant towards their own reflection (cf. Suchsland 41).
According to Lacan, this reaction results from the child's identification with the
mirror which allows him/her to imagine itself as a "delimiting autonomous unit",
even though the child is still far away from being able to control its motor and bodily
functions (cf. ibid.). Seeing its own specular image, the child identifies with the
reflection, resulting in a psychic response to the mental representation of an "I".
Lacan describes the function of the mirror stage as a special case of the function of
the `Imago' which in psychology is regarded as the unconsciously developing first
image of attachment figures, usually the mother or the father of a child. The Imago
develops a relationship between an individual and its reality: between its inner world

and its outer world (cf. Gekle 55). With the child's awareness of its mirror image and
therefore its self, it is able to distinguish itself from the other. Now, the Imago
represents the roll of the other in the self (cf. 55). He defines his theory of the mirror
stage: "Das ist das ursprüngliche Abenteuer, in dem der Mensch zum erstenmal die
Erfahrung macht, dass er sich sieht, sich reflektiert und sich als anders begreift, als er
ist [...] (Lacan qtd. in Pagel 26). Suchsland formulates Lacan's theory as follows:
Es verhält sich nicht so, dass das Subjekt im Gegenüber etwas Eigenes wiedererkennt, im
Gegenteil, es formt sich erst nach diesem äußeren Bild. [...] Das Ich entsteht nicht durch
Erkennen, sondern durch Verkennen. Die Identifikation mit dem Ideal-Ich bringt das
Kind in ,,Nichtübereinstimmung mit der eigenen Realität", denn seine Hilflosigkeit, seine
Abhängigkeit und seine motorische Unbeholfenheit bestehen ja weiterhin (Suchsland
The mirror stage describes the formation of the ego
via this process of
identification. For the child, its mirror image suggests an "inviting delusion" of
something or someone perfect and complete, an intact connection between the
inside and the outside. This image may function as stimulation for the child to
imaginatively cope with its helplessness and dependence, and the child's relation to
the reflection becomes a model for all later identifications and projections (cf. 42).
Due to the image's apparent perfection, it serves as a model the child wants to form
its own image from. The image ­ the deceit ­ becomes the focal point of the ego
formation and therefore the perfect `I' of the child (cf. 42). Thus, the self constitutes
itself through identification of the own body with the `I' of another since its image is
separated from the own body (cf. Keitel 141). Jacques Lacan's concept of the "mirror
stage" converses the conventional perception of a mirror: While a mirror usually
shows the reflection and imitation of an object
, Lacan asserts that a mirror
constitutes the self with the subject attempting to imitate the completed union of
the mirror image (cf. 142).
According to Lacan, the human psyche deploys through symbolic structures and
always represents a desire of the individual. Zizek refers to Lacan and defines this as
the desire of or the desire for the other, which makes the other the object of desire
(cf. Zizek 191).
The ego is part of Sigmund Freud's structural model of the psyche (cf. Storey 91-93). It introduces
the ego, the super-ego, and the id. The id, as the impersonal part of our nature and subject of natural
law, is the most primitive part of the individual. The ego develops out of the id and cannot exist from
the start.
By direct influence from the external world, the ego's development leads to its
representation as reason or common sense, "in contrast to the id, which contains the passions"
(Freud qtd. in Storey 92). The super-ego emerges, according to Freud, out of the Oedipus complex and
therefore of the child's experience with the authority of the parents, especially of the father.
According to Freud, the symbol of the mirror is connected to narcissism (cf. Gast 143 ff.).

Due to its otherness, the other is able to present something desirable and likewise
something appealing. By comparing the self with the other, individuals are able to
develop symbolic relationships with other individuals. This ability is regarded as the
basis of social beings and is therefore the core of what makes someone human (cf.
Suchsland 65). Lacan furthermore describes the ideal-`I' as something that wants to
be achieved ­ the other which is desired. Thus, the invention of the `I' is depicted by
the imaginary; because of its narcissistic characterization, the `I' underlies the illusion
of the desire of being one with itself (cf. Pagel 33). Therefore, according to Lacan, the
`I' serves as an `imaginary function' that always stands in relation to the other.
In Lacan's theories, the term of the other stands for anything that evokes a division
in the operations of the `I' (cf. Keitel 139). In fact, the self is not able to become a
unit, to attain completeness due to the other; the other keeps the desire continuing
(cf. 139).
Psychoanalyst and philosopher Julia Kristeva referred to Lacan's ideas and advanced
his theories of the other in psychoanalysis.
Julia Kristeva ­ Abjection and The Other in The Self
After Jacques Lacan, it was Julia Kristeva who advanced his theories of
psychoanalysis, of the self and the other. Referring to literary theorist Roland
and his book L'empire des Signes
(1970) (The Empire of Signs), Kristeva
assumes that all experiences are integrated in a system of signs and thus have a
certain symbolic meaning. Anything that we observe is not perceived in a neutral
way, but through individual memories and feelings. Dealing with this thesis, Kristeva
published her book Des Chinoises (1974) (About Chinese Women) which addresses
the confrontation with the other as well as how symbolical orders may affect
conscience and perception (cf. Suchsland 8). Just like Barthes, Julia Kristeva uses
structural linguistics (semiotics) to determine social phenomena as the individuals'
perceptions are structured by symbol systems (cf. 9). However, Kristeva considers
symbolization in terms of its dynamics which distinguishes her theories from both
classical structuralism and Lacan's psychoanalysis. For her, the symbolic is not a fixed
Roland Barthes is considered to be the most distinctive scientist of structural semiotics. He uses
methods of structuralism and psychoanalysis to examine contemporary sociological phenomena such
as texts, films, advertisement, or art. With his radicalization of methods of structuralism he became
one of the originators of post structuralism (cf. Storey 118f.)
L'empire des Signes is a collection of Barthes's observations during his visit to Japan in 1966.

system but rather a process in which two heterogeneous moments process against
each other (cf. 12). Contrary to Lacan, she focuses her attention on what cannot be
captured by the symbolic.
Accordingly, Kristeva determines the concept of the other as being both something
foreign, or hostile, and something appealing (cf. Kristeva, Powers, 11). Her main
examination focuses on `abjection', describing something that disturbs an
individual's system, order, and identity (4). In this regard, the abject can be viewed as
the other, "the place where meaning collapses" (2), that is not a person's correlative:
"The abject has only one quality of the object ­ that of being opposed to I" (1).
Apparently, the other can be experienced as anything that is not like one self and
that the self is not used to. Referring to Freud's structural mode of psyche, Kristeva
factors the ego, that merged with a person, and the superego that "has flatly driven
it away" as it "lies outside, beyond the set, and does not seem to agree to the latter's
rule of the game" (2). She concludes: "To each ego its object, to each superego its
abject" (2).
The abject represents a wide-ranging construction of the other, something or
someone that is being loathed, that disrupts the processes of life. For Kristeva, the
abject may be located in sexual perversity, gender ambiguity, incest, torture, bodily
wastes, death, and murder (cf. Magistrale xv-xvi). She is convinced that nowadays in
particular, the border between countries has become an abject (Kristeva, Powers, 4).
People fear foreigners, regard them as different, abnormal, and even frightening.
Abjection does not respect borders, positions, or rules. "The in-between, the
ambiguous, the composite. The traitor, the liar, the criminal with a good conscience,
the shameless rapist, the killer who claims he is a savior" (4).
However, abjection may also result from something known, from the inner world
that used to be common and familiar. For instance, Kristeva regards food loathing as
"perhaps the most elementary and archaic form of abjection" (2). In relation to the
horror genre, it is relevant to note that food loathing, or in the case of the vampire
the drinking of human blood or the eating of human flesh, represents a major source
of abjection (cf. Creed, Kristeva, 65). Furthermore, the corpse, the body without soul
represented by the vampire, marks the ultimate in abjection (cf. 65). With the
concept of a border being central to the construction of the monstrous, the vampire
can be regarded as the one that crosses the border (cf. 66). The horror film confronts
the audience with the abject. Represented by the figure of the vampire, the abject

crosses the boundaries between the human and non-human.
What seems to express the most astonishing and frightening other is what is
connected to what we already know, what we thought we were used to and what we
are familiar with. We connect symbols, memories, and experiences with good or bad
feelings. As soon as we are confronted with something that used to represent a
pleasant feeling in a completely new and negative context, the feeling of what
Kristeva describes as abject is evoked. Expectations are not fulfilled. Instead,
discomfort or even fear is provoked. Therefore, the most different, foreign, and
frightening experiences result from an individual's personality. As Kristeva points
out, the foreign, the other can be found in our self (cf. 208).
The Role of the Other in Gothic and Horror Fiction
From time immemorial, human life has been confronted with new, unknown, and
strange things that represented something scary, dubious, but also fascinating at the
outset. Dangerous animals, destructive natural phenomena, or new discovered land
with foreign inhabitants represent both a threat and something interesting that
seems worth being examined. The United States of America can look back on
centuries of discovering and exploring the unknown ­ be it the continent of America
with its inhabitants, animals, and landscapes, or be it space, the moon, and other
unfamiliar cosmic phenomena. America's citizens may be used to being confronted
with a frontier
metaphorically describing a seemingly insurmountable obstacle
behind which God knows what may wait for them. Even though this frontier presents
a foreign and dangerous unknown, individuals and groups likewise have been putting
effort into exploring and understanding the other.
Something both frightening but at the same time fascinating encompasses the other
which also makes it a typical motif to be dealt with in American popular culture.
Particularly, the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, marked by times of
uncertainty and intrinsic development, produced novels, short stories, and plays
equally processing a need to cope with the unknown other. At the beginning of the
nineteenth century, American citizens were confronted with the new republic called
The border between civilization and wilderness, the frontier, is regarded as a symbol for crossing
from a world with civilizing order over to a world of moral wilderness and anarchy in which the
individual is on its own (cf. Lösche 723-724). The frontier marks a place of probation, enabling the
individual's renaissance with a new identity. Being confronted with the unknown, uncivilized other,
the new European arrival, experiences a rebirth as an American (cf. ibid.).

USA, an entirely new and modern democracy built upon values that might have
seemed strange to people from the "old world". Not knowing what may come, how
the republic will develop, if the country will be able to develop and continue at all, or
wondering what may lie behind the mountains and what kind of barbaric beings may
be in wait for them; these things caused worries and posed threats to the inhabitants
of the young United States.
The literary stream of Gothic Fiction, after its development in England, reached the
new world. All the works categorized in that literary stream deal with certain strange
phenomena as well as with the other. As Ruth Bienstock Anolik declares, the Gothic
"is marked by an anxious encounter with otherness, with the dark and mysterious
unknown" (1). She continues declaring that people from the eighteenth century
onwards used literature as a seemingly escapist mode that provided them a ground
upon which they are able to "safely confront very real fears and horrors" (1). With
the appearance of the Gothic, foremost fearful inhuman others were introduced:
supernatural, monstrous manifestations symbolizing anything irrational,
uncontrollable and incomprehensible. However, in the course of the nineteenth
century, enlightenment, scientific advancement, and the vanishing of the American
frontier at the very end of the century lead to new mysteries and new unknown
others that needed to be understood. Enlightenment and empirical science enabled
solving apparent supernatural mysteries; the sources of fear dried up. Yet, Gothic
fiction and its mysterious others did not disappear. Science, change, and discovery
introduced new monsters that were relocated to new dark spaces in social, racial,
and gender politics, as well as consciousness (cf. 2).
Many authors of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries such as Horace Walpole
("The Castle of Otranto", 1764) or Ann Radcliffe ("The Mysteries of Udolpho", 1797)
set their stories in exotic, Catholic places in south and southeastern Europe.
Primitive, irrational beliefs and religions as well as ageless superstition seem to
distinguish these regions according to authors of the British and American Gothic
Novel (cf. Kührer 126).
American author Edgar Allan Poe, however, set his short story "The Fall of the House
of Usher" (1839) in a mysterious castle on the American continent, in the home of
the narrator's sick friend he is visiting. Suddenly, the other is not a foreign figure
anymore, coming from far away and unknown places. The monster has become an
intruder that is coming from inside our society, our community, of ourselves.

The other can be of all kinds such as the religious, the racial, or the social other. The
fictional figure of the vampire is able to represent all kinds of others and in the same
way all stages between anxiety and appeal. The vampire in popular culture is
presented as an undead creature that was once a human being that rose from their
grave in order to walk through the night and feed on human blood. The figure is
therefore depicted as something that used to be human, that to a certain extent still
looks human and may not even be distinguishable from unbitten individuals. As an
evil that is both coming from the inside as well as not looking much different from
other living beings, the vampire represents some of the most horrific ideas in horror
fiction. What is most frightful is a figure of visible humanity, "since when it is
ambulatory and mimetic of the individual, it is difficult to distinguish the evil being
from a fellow member of the community" (McClelland 2). Also, Thomas Koebner
said, that the descriptive other always shows several traces and segments of the
known (Koebner 176). Horror movies, the advancement of literary horror fiction on-
screen, work against the common feeling that anything is familiar, that offers no
surprise anymore. The horror genre reacts with image sequences that are as horrific
and gruesome as possible. Janz, who refers to Koebner, states:
Die Schleimmonster der neueren Horror-Phantastik und die altgediente Dracula-
Gestalt ­ sie werden beide in Szene gesetzt, weil sie das Grauen vor dem absolut
Fremden, dem Tod, und vor der Auflösung des Körpers unter der Erde zu
erwecken vermögen. Dabei wirkt auch hier das Fremde umso befremdlicher und
unheimlicher, wenn er ­ man weiß nicht, wie ­ mit dem Längstvertrauten
vereint auftritt (Janz 15).
Horror movies provide ways of defining "what is evil (and what is good) in societies,
what is monstrous (and what is `normal'), what should be seen (and what should
remain hidden)" (Gelder 1). Therefore, this genre serves as the perfect ground to
deal with the unknown, the familiar and unfamiliar uncanny, personified by
horrifying creatures.
Besides other figures in horror fiction unifying the unknown other coming from the
inside such as Frankenstein or the zombie figure, the figure of the vampire
represents one of the most intriguing monsters. The vampire representing a key
feature of most horror narratives, the presence of a foreign or unfamiliar other,
unifies the audience's "fear both of the other and the forcible domination by the
other" (Bishop 96). In contemporary American popular culture, "the vampire has
become one of the most pervasive and recognizable symbols of insidious evil"

(McClelland 2). However, its depiction and representation has been undergoing
intrinsic transformation processes ­ from a frightful creature of the night to a
handsome, appealing man (or woman).
How the myth as well as the fictional figure of the vampire emerged and developed
is depicted in the next chapter. Furthermore, the vampires' reading as the unknown
other and its transformation in popular culture is being examined.

The Figure of the Vampire
Rising from the Grave ­ A Brief History of the Vampire Myth
Throughout the whole vast shadowy world
of ghosts and demons there is no figure so
terrible, no figure so dreaded and abhorred,
yet dight with such fearful fascination, as
the vampire, who is himself neither ghost
nor demon, but yet who partakes the dark
nature and possesses the mysterious and
terrible qualities of both.
­ Montague Summer (7)
In order to understand the vampire's depiction as well as its role in twenty-first
century American popular culture, it is essential to know where its legend originated.
The vampire has recurred as a figure in literature and Western culture for the last
two centuries; its history in lore and myth goes back even further. As many
adaptations of vampire figures are portrayed in literature and film, as many historical
traces of the vampire myth can be found. Anthropologists and historians trace the
existence of vampires back in time for almost one thousand years, to ancient
cultures from all over the world. Hebrew, Roman, Indian, Greek, Egyptian, and
Chinese legends and stories about blood-sucking, undead, evil spirits have been
noticed. Causes for the emergence of legends of the vampire have been very diverse
and can be found in religion, medicine, as well as societal conflicts that resulted in
attempts of blaming someone for inexplicable happenings
. Thus, many scholars
assume that vampire stories developed in part "because of early peoples' inability to
understand concepts like decomposition and infection" (Clements 3). Clements
summarizes that "the vampire legend as we understand it today is a mixture of
primitive beliefs, European folklore, and Christian influences" (4). McClelland
believes that the "original" vampire can be regarded as the "primary manifestation
of a deep religious and social conflict" (9).
Even though assumptions of the vampire's origin are numerous and diverse ­ it is
simply impossible to declare the actual and `real' source of a phenomenon that can
Some folkloric vampire narratives derive, for example, from the general ignorance of "poor illiterate
European peasants who simply had no other way of explaining why corpses dug up from shallow
graves by hungry wolves showed signs of lividity" (McClelland 86).

be found for centuries in so many cultures ­ what is most important to consider is
that there is a difference between the folkloric and the cultural vampire figure. While
the folkloric vampire is based on religious, superstitious beliefs, the latter has been
transformed and adapted to its respective time since the very first vampire fiction.
How the fictional figure of the vampire developed out of folklore, how it is read in
culture and society, as well as its transformation from the frightful creature to the
appealing unknown other is depicted and examined in this chapter.
According to Florian Kührer, it can be said with some certainty that the origin of the
vampire myth lies in southeast Europe, especially in the regions of today's Serbia,
Macedonia, and Bulgaria (cf. Kührer 15). Western and therefore American images of
the walking (un)dead have been primarily influenced by southeastern European
folklore. As soon as vampire stories developed in folklore, they began to emerge in
literature. Bram Stoker's novel Dracula (1897) was built upon a number of different
traditions, but was focused on the history and culture of Transylvania
. "Since
Dracula has been so central to our understanding of vampires in the Western
tradition, the way we understand the vampire is heavily influenced by folklore from
that [southeastern European] region" (Clements 3). Stoker's prototype for his Count
Dracula was said to be Vlad III, Prince of Walachia (1431-1476), who was greatly
feared by the Wallachians for his utterly vicious pleasure in torturing and execution
methods. Thus, he allegedly enjoyed dining in the presence of dozens of impaled
corpses and washed his hands in their blood (cf. Axelrod 33). Even though many
critics refer to Vlad III, also known as Vlad Tepes or Vlad the Impaler, as the ultimate
template for Stoker's novel Dracula (cf. 34), it is not proven that Bram Stoker actually
knew anything about the Prince of Wallachia (cf. Kührer 270).
As this book deals with the representation of the figure of the vampire in American
popular culture, it is necessary to know about its depiction in fiction. With so many
different cultures depicting all varieties of vampire myths that are the origins of the
undead in literature, a distinct definition of the vampire seems very difficult. First of
all, the monster called vampire
is categorized as undead. As opposed to living
monsters such as werewolves or witches, vampires are associated with revenants,
meaning mobile undead creatures that crawled out of their coffins in order to pursue
postmortem matters (cf. Kühner 13). Furthermore, in contrast to zombies who may
Transylvania, in German "Siebenbürgen", is a region in the central part of Romania.
For the remainder of the book, "vampire" always refers to the figure of the vampire in fiction such
as literature, film, and television, rather than to the legend figure in folklore.


Type of Edition
ISBN (Softcover)
File size
1 MB
Publication date
2018 (June)
True Blood Vampire Unknown Other Identity

Title: The Undead Among Us - The Figure of the Vampire as the "Unknown Other" and Its Representation in "True Blood"
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68 pages