In Haunt

“Vampires are remarkable mirrors of social and cultural change,” says Dr Sorcha Ní Fhlainn, Senior Lecturer in Film Studies and American Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University, where she is also a founding member of the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies.

Now this Manchester-based academic, whose research interest in vampires spans over two decades, is releasing a book: Postmodern Vampires: Film, Fiction, and Popular Culture. Due on the 22 May 2019 and published by Palgrave, this is the first study of its kind to consider the vampire’s perspective on American cultural history.

Postmodern Vampires

From US socio-political movements to presidential change, Sorcha’s work considers the cultural connections of vampires to American identity– incorporating a range of films and texts along the way. Many of them are cult classics readers may recognise, and all incorporating vampiric characters or qualities of their own, for example The Lost Boys, Blade, Twilight, Let Me In and True Blood.

How have vampires affected the American and wider imagination? How about perspectives of America from the outside? And why do vampires continue to be a recurring feature of popular culture? These are just some of the questions Sorcha considers in her impressive, 264-page work.

“These vampires speak and share their observations on the world; they offer insights and share secrets,” Sorcha adds, emphasizing that writing about vampires is not just interesting, but intensely relevant. A highly powerful feature of the book, for example, is how it considers the metaphor of the vampire and American President as reflections of one another – a bold and significant approach.

Sorcha is certainly no stranger to considering the cultural importance of vampires either. Her research expertise crosses the fascinating fields of Gothic and Horror Cinema, Vampire Studies and Teratology (Monster Studies), with previous paper titles including ‘A Very Special Vampire Episode: Vampires, archetypes, and postmodern turns in late-1980s and ‘90s cult TV shows’ and ‘Aboard The Midnight Meat Train: Clive Barker's Urban Nightmare’.

 The work of horror writer and multi-discipline British artist Clive Barker is another key interest of Sorcha’s, having edited and contributed to the 2017 book Clive Barker: Dark Imaginer. Heavily inspired by 1980s culture – the era not only in which Clive Barker began releasing books but also vampires were causing a stir in popular culture – Sorcha has also organised an upcoming symposium which brings it all together in the form of The Gothic 1980s: The decade that scared us’. Due to take place at Manchester Metropolitan University of Saturday 8th June, this is set to be an event offering multiple perspectives on the dark side of 1980s culture… with vampires to be expected!

Ahead of the release of Postmodern Vampires: Film, Fiction, and Popular Culture, Sorcha spoke to HAUNT Manchester to tell us more…

Hello Sorcha. Your upcoming book is called Postmodern Vampires: Film, Fiction, and Popular Culture – why do you think it is especially important to consider the cultural relevance of vampires in current times? 

“Vampires are remarkable mirrors of social and cultural change. They evolve with the times and often articulate the precise nature of our worst fears and what it means to live in uncertain times; the irony is that many vampires seem immutable in the face of time, but they are remarkably up to date. The vampires I explore in the book, from 1968 to today (charting the American presidency from Nixon to Trump) looks at this cultural and social evolution in vampire literature, film, and popular culture to document what vampires have to say as embodied gothic voices, especially as they seek to integrate into human culture and give voice to marginal concerns which have gone unheard or have been ignored.”

Do you have a set definition of a ‘vampire’ that your book works with? 

“My definition largely explores popular culture representations of the vampire, though not all of them wear capes, sleep in coffins or even have sharp teeth! Vampirism bleeds out into other forms of consumption too (the exploitation of others, human capital, financial circulation and flow), but the films and novels I examine are all readily identifiable as vampiric.  What differentiates the set of vampires here is their postmodern inflection—these vampires speak and share their observations on the world; they offer insights and share secrets and are enabled to do so in narratives which are aligned with their subjective experiences. The vampire is no longer the 'thing' to be hunted, but rather takes centre stage of the entire text.”

Sorcha Bio Image

How long have you been working on the book – and what was the inspiration behind it? 

“I have been working on this book for many years, not only in terms of my research interest in vampires (which spans more than two decades as a scholar) but also in terms of the flow of cultural history. Each new American presidency has found its expression in the vampire narrative; at the last American election, I decided to wait and see what would become of the vampire narrative in the Trump age, which concludes my study.”

Vampires seem to both enchant as well as terrify people. Why this duality, do you think? 

“Vampires embody both the desires and the terrors of humanity: we all wish for some form of immortality or ability to transcend our own allotted time, and vampires do this with remarkable ease. The terror, of course, is that you must pay the price of this extended time with blood and suffering - whether the suffering is your own angst or the death of those you care about. Immortality also comes with its own burdens too... boredom often makes the undead quite weary — few vampires have the ability to endure millennia.”

Can you tell us a bit more about the cover of the book? ​​

“The cover of the book is by the acclaimed Marvel artist Alex Ross, who kindly agreed to allow me to use this arresting image as it perfectly encapsulates the major themes of my study. Ross's image is his artistic protest at the erosion of civil liberties in the wake of the Patriot Act (2001), and is a powerful consolidation of symbols of political power, American idealism, and the vampire as a reflection and metaphor for contemporary socio-political concerns. It simultaneously looks back to the metaphor of vampirism as used by Karl Marx and looks forward to a new world where civil liberties may be drained away by those in power.  For the purposes of my study, the cover aligns the metaphor of the vampire and American President as reflections of one another, each are in turn revealed as epochs of their respective cultural decade.”

By Emily Oldfield




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