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Bram Stoker and the History of the Vampire’s Reflection

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The Picture Gallery, Founders Building

Royal Holloway, University of London

Egham

TW20 0EX

United Kingdom

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Join us to view the figure of the vampire through the looking glass of the victorian age with Dr Sam George, convenor of the Open Graves, Open Minds research project (University of Hertfordshire).

The evening will include a question and answers session with Sam and be followed by a wine reception.

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Everyone. The event is free but there are limited numbers.

About the event

Why don’t vampires cast reflections? Who invited vampires into the UK academy? This paper will seek to answer such questions whilst introducing audiences to the Open, Graves, Open Minds project.


Abstract: In developing this research I was struck by the irony of creatures with no reflection becoming such a pervasive reflection of modern culture. My paper has developed directly out of this meditation on the vampire’s reflection or shadow. Bram Stoker’s Dracula famously ‘throws no shadow’ though he has long been associated with darkness and shade. Shadows are inextricably linked to superstitions about vampires but they are equally associated with myths around the origins of art, and with broader notions of reflection and reproduction, as I will show. In the eighteenth century, it was the shadow of the face, not the face itself that was the soul’s true reflection, according to Lavatar’s theory of physiognomy. In the nineteenth century, Stoker showed the soulless vampire to be ‘an unmirrorable image’, a creature virtually beyond representation, assuming multiple forms. Without his mirror image, Dracula becomes ‘physiognomy’s true vanishing point’, a profoundly unsettling figure. I will uncover the origins of the non-reflection motif and interrogate the vampire’s complex relationship to this optical phenomenon. I focus, to begin with, on Stoker’s handwritten notes for Dracula where the vampire’s lack of a reflection or shadow is first located and where this conceit is extended to include its image in photography and painting. I conclude by suggesting that the vampire still refuses to show a likeness of its own; yet, holding a glass up to ourselves, it perpetually mirrors modern culture.

The event will take place in our beautiful victorian picture gallery.

About the speaker


Dr Sam George is Senior Lecturer in Literature at the University of Hertfordshire. She is the convenor of the Open Graves, Open Minds research project. She is a frequent commentator on the vampire; her interviews have appeared in newspapers including The Guardian, The Times, The Independent and The Wall Street Journal. She recently recorded ‘The Forum’ on Dracula alongside Dacre Stoker (great grand nephew of Bram) for the BBC World Service. She is the co-editor of Open Graves, Open Minds: Vampires and the Undead from the Enlightenment to the Present Day (Manchester University Press, 2013) and an edition of Gothic Studies on vampires 15.1 (2013) with Dr Bill Hughes. She has contributed to volumes on Victorian gothic, Romanian folklore, teaching vampire fiction etc. Elsewhere she has published widely on the interface between literature and science. She is currently working on ‘Books of Blood’, a touring exhibition in collaboration with the Wellcome Institute, and completing a monograph on the cultural history of the shadow. She teaches a vampire studies MA (conceived in 2010) and courses in YA gothic fictions. In the Company of Wolves: Sociality, Animality and Subjectivity- Werewolves, Shapeshifters and Feral Humans (the second book to be developed from the popular Open Graves, Open Minds project) will be published by Manchester University Press in 2018).

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The Picture Gallery, Founders Building

Royal Holloway, University of London

Egham

TW20 0EX

United Kingdom

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