Wednesday, February 24, 2010

For Tomorrow: Polidori

For tomorrow let's just devote our discussion to The Vampyre, and I might bring in something to intoduce Frankenstein as well.  I'm just too exhasuted to do prepare anything else, and besides, I think we could use some good discussion of this pivotal Gothic work.  If you missed class on Tuesday, I got sick 20 minutes in and had to cancel class, so you only missed a little lecture on the Shelleys, Byron, and Polidori, some of which I can repeat on Thursday.

Take care!


  1. Polidori's The Vampyre

    Question 3:
    The vampire as a loathsome creature was sustained in its early tellings by the manner in which the vampire "lived". A creature of the night that dwelled in shadows rather than light and flaunted the ability to route death by the absence of a soul were all hallmarks of the early tales. The vampyre of John Polidori moved amongst society while staying on the fringes of it. The incidental characters were entranced by Lord Ruthven yet seemed to understand that for all of their attempts, he was largely unaffected and disinterested in them and their company--despite the fact that he attended all of their parties. He was an original "bad boy". Polidori seems to be showing that the vampiric were part of the crowd and perhaps even feeding off of them. The vampire story seems to spotlight the ability of the "walking dead" to move about undetected by the people around them--feeding off of society's structures--such as the "Season" parties and social events. The vampire (as it is never seen in the light of day) is a creature of darkness that cannot be known in "the light" and it desires to suck the lifeblood out of the living under the protection of the shadow, darkness and night. Its relation then, to society at large, is that of the revelation of the dark nature within everyone, that person that we do not show to others or hide from ourselves. Polidori's vampyre giving generously to the wicked while being disaffected by the good could also be a gauntlet thrown down on contemporary society of the early 19th century,as seeming to reward the endless tyranny, political and social gluttony of the upper class, while they fed off of those that were the working class, the honest and yet, lower standing on the social ladder.

  2. Question 4:
    The use of a folk loric structure in Polidori's The Vampyre, serves as a connection to the history of the vampire in folk lore and myths of many countries. While one of the most notable stories of the vampire is Bram Stoker's "Dracula" (set in Eastern Europe) the vampire is not an indigenous creature of any singular country. Most of the spooky stories of creatures such as the vampire, were oral lore that was transmitted as a means of conveying truths of shadow and light, good and bad, right and wrong. When these tales were written they drew upon the superstition and historical situations to create a lineage that could not readily be completely disputed. The "lifestyle" of the vampire was such that while the conscious mind would attempt to dismiss the possibility, there was no such ability to dismiss the absolute truth that within each person there is a darker, shadow side that preyed upon the weak and defenseless--even if that weak and defenseless was within ourselves. The sincere hope or "moral" of the vampire folk lore rests upon the ability to be redeemed or set free by the white and bright light of day.
    Old Europe was a perfect setting for the gothic tales of the vampire. The crumbling civilizations and structures of Greece and the former glory of thee Roman Empire showed that humanity was passing away--nothing was infinite on this plane of existence. Yet, the vampire transcended time and place. The shadow realm would always exist, unaged, unchanged, for as long as tales were told and humans would always strive and battle against the dark/light impulses that were part of them and the world they lived in.
    It is interesting to note however, that recent trends in the vampire tales have brought many of the vampires into the light without ending their existence. It seems to portray the desire of contemporary readers (and perhaps humanity at large) to show that a state of balance can be reached that makes allowances for the duality in everyone--that the dark need not overcome the light and perhaps there is a gray area where once it was simply black or white. Literature and film have brought the likes of Lestat, Edward Cullen, Stefan Salvatore all into the light taking away the stigma of darkness and likewise, creating a bridge over the abyss within them that allows them to interact with the everyday world and while we know we shouldn't love them--we simply can't seem to help ourselves.

  3. 2. In exploring the "innocence v. experience" angle, it is apparent that Aubrey is close-minded to the real happenings of the world, much like Catherine in "Northanger." While she was lost in the world of the Gothic novel, Aubrey seems to be the very model of the "ideal" gentleman in this period. He travels and is full of naivete when he meets something that is beyond his limited comprehension. Ruthven is, as an immortal monster, experienced in the workings of the world, and will exploit them for his benefit whenever he can.

    At this stage of his unlife, he loves toying with his prey, and it would appear by all counts that he wants to destroy Aubrey's sanity and character just for the sheer challenge of it all. He (Ruthven) makes Aubrey promise not to reveal that he is undead to anyone, in a very Faustian set-up. The struggles Aubrey must face in meeting and dealing with Ruthven drive him to the brink, and he questions himself in how to proceed. Much like Catherine, he is lost in a brand-new world, and doesn't know how to properly conduct himself. We, as readers, must then question our own morals in deciding whether Aubrey is ultimately correct in his actions, or if we would have taken a different path altogether.

  4. 4. Polidori, in my estimation, knew the appeal not only of the Gothic in his lifetime, but also the power of the fairy story. Indeed, the Brothers Grimm utilized both of these elements in their own tales. The marriage of the two styles of storytelling was not all that old when it came Polidori's time to pen "The Vampyre," but it is nevertheless something that is an interesting blend. Dark, traditional, steeped in history, with a hint of the fantastical and unknown. It is something I very much enjoy reading today with Neil Gaiman, who was partially inspired by "Castle of Otranto," and mixes the Gothic with fairy tales in bringing us his short stories and any of his other works.
    Is it a gamble that has paid off for Polidori, the Grimms, and modern-day storyweavers who play with it? Or is it a formula for greatness that just happened to be stumbled upon?