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TWILIGHT OF THE VAMPIRES: HISTORY AND THE MYTH OF THE UNDEAD Matthew Kratter University ofCalifornia Berkeley "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster." (Nietzsche, Beyond Good andEvil, IV, 146) One ofthe most satisfying parts ofan extended engagement with the mimetic theory is the bird's-eye view of history that it affords one—that magnificently coherent panorama which stretches from proto-hominids through the Passion to post-culture and the Apocalypse. The sheer scope of Girard's historical vision is also, admittedly, one ofthe more controversial aspects of his theory. As early as Violence and the Sacred (French, 1972; English trans., 1977), in a conscious revolt against the anti-Hegelian and anti-systematic temper of the times, Girard implied a historical telos for human culture that consists ofthe gradual replacement of sacrificial by non-sacrificial paradigms and praxes. With the publication of Things Hidden Since the Foundation ofthe World (1978; 1987) and The Scapegoat (1982; 1986), however, Girard appeared to step beyond the pale of polite (read, secularist) academic discourse by explicitly identifying the Christian Paraclete as the divine dynamo behind the historical process: "The Spirit is working in history to reveal what Jesus has already revealed, the mechanism ofthe scapegoat, the genesis of all mythology, the nonexistence of all gods of violence" (Scapegoat 207). More recently, in an essay on Satan (literally, "the accuser"), the contrasting role of the Paraclete (literally, "the lawyer for the defense") as a defender ofvictims is again emphasized: Matthew Kratter31 It is possible to read the history, first of the Christianized West, then ofthe Westernized planet, our modern history, as ... a process of vindication and rehabilitation of more and more persecuted victims. New hidden victims of society are continuously being brought to light; the consensus against them always dissolves after a while. First it was slaves, then the lower classes, then people ofdifferent ethnic and religious backgrounds. Today the victimization of ethnic groups, of women, ofhandicapped people, ofthe very young and the very old, is coming to light. (GirardReader 208) Mostrecently, Girard's view ofhistory has become, ifanything, more unified, as (following Raymund Schwager) he has begun to emphasize the continuity between the sacrificial and the non-sacrificial (without, of course, trying to elide their differences). At a recent AAR/SBL conference in San Francisco (22 November 1997), Girard discussed the Eucharist as a recapitulation ofthe religious history of mankind, in which all previous forms of sacrifice are present (from cannibalism and "other-sacrifice" to the other end of the spectrum and "self-sacrifice"). Or phrased somewhat differently, the redemptive effects ofthe Passion radiate backwards and forwards in time— what Giuseppe Fornari implies when he refers to Christianity's "capacity to redeem the whole history ofman, summing up and surpassing all its sacrificial forms" (187). It may well prove that "Sacrifice" (with a capital "S") is the single most important and comprehensive word that we possess to describe our history. The central contention ofthis essay is that the phenomenon ofthe vampire offers itself as a privileged site for exploring this work of the Paraclete in history. The very processes of "bringing to light" and "exhuming victims," described by Girard above, are certainly metaphors appropriate to the twilit world ofthe vampire, in which the undead are always being dug up or exposed to die light. IfI maintain that, this late in the twentieth century, we are living in the "twilight ofthe vampires," the allusion to Wagner's Götterdämmerung and Nietzsche's Götzen-dämmerung is not accidental. The ambiguity ofthe German verb dämmern (which can mean "to grow dark" or "to grow light") captures all the paradoxes that surround the mythologizing, demythologizing, and remythologizing of the traditional figure ofthe vampire. I will explore these paradoxes in five successive moments (in the most archaic and traditional form taken by the vampire, then in a medieval persecution text, a late-Victorian novel, a German Expressionist film, and finally a series of 32Twilight ofthe Vampires contemporary popular novels) in order to demonstrate the various metamorphoses undergone by the vampire throughout a history which may be viewed as overseen by the Paraclete—and by a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1930-1200
Print ISSN
1075-7201
Pages
pp. 30-45
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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