Thursday, 6 August 2015

THE VAMPIRE DEFANGED by Susannah Clements

Vampire Defanged, The: How the Embodiment of Evil Became a Romantic HeroVampire Defanged, The: How the Embodiment of Evil Became a Romantic Hero by Susannah Clements
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Vampires first entered the pop culture arena with Bram Stoker's 1897 novel, Dracula. Today, vampires are everywhere. From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to the Twilight Saga to HBO's True Blood series, pop culture can't get enough of the vampire phenomenon.

Bringing her literary expertise to this timely subject, Susannah Clements reveals the roots of the vampire myth and shows how it was originally immersed in Christian values and symbolism. Over time, however, vampires have been "defanged" as their spiritual significance has waned, and what was once the embodiment of evil has turned into a teen idol and the ultimate romantic hero. Clements offers a close reading of selected vampire texts, explaining how this transformation occurred and helping readers discern between the variety of vampire stories presented in movies, TV shows, and novels. Her probing engagement of the vampire metaphor enables readers to make Christian sense of this popular obsession.

MY REVIEW: As the book description indicates, Susannah Clements is writing from a Christian perspective. However, apart from the conclusion, where the author writes explicitly to Christians, the book is a scholarly analysis of the vampire literature from Bram Stoker to Twilight. The religious themes of the book are rooted in the fact that Bram Stoker's 1897 novel was written by a Christian and saturated in Christian themes. The argument that the vampire myth has become increasingly secularised in each of its reworking is a fascinating and persuasive perspective. However, it would have been good if Clements could have discussed alternative views of the vampire literature and responded to any criticisms of her perspective.

The book reads like a scholarly essay and doesn't have the features of what might be called a popular book. It is written with an objective voice with little (if any) rhetorical strategies that modern lay readers might expect to make the read an enjoyable one. The author, however, writes very clearly and articulately. The analysis is intriguing and, for those familiar with any of the vampire literature (book or film), the subject matter will be fascinating. For those who have not read or watched vampire stories, the book may not hold the same interest.

One explicit aim of the author is to convince Christians to be more comfortable with the vampire myth rather than avoid it. That may or may not be worth it if the author's thesis is correct - that the myth has become entirely secularised.

Christian or not, this book is a fascinating perspective worthy of the attention of anyone interested in the contemporary fascination with vampire mythology. THE VAMPIRE DEFANGED is a good introduction to the role the mythology has played, and continues to play, in society and culture.

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