Adam Ross's Reviews > The Vampire Defanged: How the Embodiment of Evil Became a Romantic Hero

The Vampire Defanged by Susannah Clements
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's review
Jul 20, 11

really liked it
bookshelves: theology, church-and-culture, literary-study
Read from July 16 to 20, 2011

This was a delightful and interesting book tracing the decline of the Vampire metaphor as a symbol of Christian sin and guilt into a secularized, glamorous, sexy romantic lead - and as you might expect, the book climaxes with an analysis of the Twilight books. Clements is a Christian, and the book put out by Brazos Press, one of the better culturally-engaged imprints of Baker Books. The strongest element of the book was that it did not offer a "Christian" excuse or defense for analyzing Vampires, but simply treats them as though they are already worthy of study. This, to my mind, is the right approach.

Clements traces the decline of the vampire villain from Dracula through the Anne Rice novels, to Buffy, then into the True Blood series and finally Twilight, chronicling the shift in metaphor, and concludes the book with two chapters, "Vampire Sinners" and "Vampire Saints," in which she briefly examines a few other films and books on the vampire. Out of these, the chapters on Dracula and the Anne Rice novels were most interesting since they give the largest possibility of deep theological reflection. Then again, her comments on the Underworld films are completely inaccurate - she claims that they downplay the traditional forms of the vampire because there is only one instance of drinking blood in the first Underworld film, but anyone paying attention will note several other moments, including the climax of the film to produce the Vam-Lycan hybrid.

The most captivating chapter, for me, was on Dracula, because it was the first close reading of the book that really convinced me Dracula is actually a profoundly Christian work of literature. She is essentially arguing that Bram Stoker took vampire myths and legends from the Transylvania area and Christianized them, and that this has forever shaped the tone of vampire literature since. Anyone who comes after Stoker is either supporting his vision or rebelling against it. It occurred to me that this is what the 8th century monk did in transcribing Beowulf - he retold the story in such a way as to actually Christianize originally pagan categories and narratives, and in so doing, actually remakes the whole of Western literature after it. Ultimately, this is subversion - retelling familiar stories with a Christian twist, and in the long term, it is what all Christian artists are called to do.
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