Friday, February 19, 2010

Close Reading Questions for Polidori's The Vampyre (handout--see box)

Note: According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word “vampire/vampyre” is of Slavonic origin, occurring equally throughout Russia Poland, Serbia, and Bulgaria as “vampir” or “vepir.” Interestingly, its first appearance in English is documented in 1734, though it becomes much more common after Polidori’s story in 1819. Thereafter, it enters the lexicon as both as “a person of malignant and loathsome character” and “An intolerable bore or tedious person.”

Answer TWO of the following…

1. Setting is extremely important in Gothic fiction, as Stevens reminds us: “some form of obscurity or mystery seems to be a common factor” (54). What is mysterious or obscure about the setting of The Vampire, particularly Aubrey’s long sojourn in Greece? How does this contribute to the Gothic sensibilities of the tale?

2. In what ways might we read The Vampyre as a story of “innocence and experience” similar to Austen’s Northanger Abbey? Consider the character of Aubrey in particular, and Polidori’s use of words such as “imagination,” “innocence,” “frank,” and “infantile.”

3. The vampire was traditionally a loathsome creature of myth and legend—similar to a decrepit grave robber. How does Polidori transform the vampire legend, and what might this say about English society in the early 19th century? Consider how Polidori describes Lord Ruthven and his “vampiric” actions.

4. In many ways, The Vampire reads as a folk or fairy tale, with little use of traditional novelistic details such as characterization, dialogue, or narration. Why do you think he adopted this method? Is there a unique relationship between the Gothic and the fairy tale?

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