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Semiotic Study of Vampires and Vampire Lore
Individual Assignment for Semiotics
Payel Basu Roll No: 113B
A semiotic study of vampires and vampire lore, with an eye on the different cultural implications that arise through the ages.
mysterious nobleman. Almost self explanatory. Marxists considered Dracula as an allegory for capitalism. hence the connotation that he should be feared. The present day vampire narrative resembles a sort of parallel alternative universe to human existence. In this case blood IS life. their apparent adverseness to . Initial representation of vampires was quite crude. They can be warded off by the cross and holy water. Day signifies light. We are capable of performing semiosis and representation to demonstrate the knowledge in which we come to understand the world. somehow. to the elusive. (WriteWork. They aim for the neck. Starting off with the despicable creature that lurks in the night and feeds off peasants. say a lion. women’s subjugation to empowerment. Vampires have also gone through the whole gamut of representation. The vampire was shown to sleep in a coffin. i. The imagery used here is that of a predator. it is through the same process that the world becomes familiar with the culture in which we inhabit. This was depicted by the vampire going for the kill by biting the victim’s neck. Rising from the dead. The symbolic rising from coffin connoted the vampire rising from death. and conversely. These stories have imbued familial structures. Signifying his predator-like instincts. and increase vitality. This connotation has actually been around for centuries. Using Saussure’s model to analyse this. Similarly. The vampire also went straight for the neck. making the vampire a vehicle for the oppositional of the era. resurrected from the dead.A semiotic study of vampires and vampire lore. an accepted ancient social view point. Night signifies opposite of day. Vampires feed on blood. for the jugular.e. This denotes that blood or drinking blood would prolong life. to now. hence denoting that the person laid inside was dead. It signified death. The field of semiotics exists because of the realization that society has a desire to create and produce signs because it serves as an important aspect and purpose to life. or a tiger or even a Rottweiler going for the kill. The vampire was portrayed as a predator. emotional depth and hierarchies and interpersonal conflicts into the previous dark hued world of the vampire. God is Light. The semiotic analysis of vampires has changed along with changes in society. They are creatures of the night and cannot come out during the day. Denoting that he went for the kill. a coffin was a place where you placed the dead. being un-dead was unnatural hence leading to the final understating that the vampire was unnatural and a thing to be feared. Replete with ‘human’ behaviour and morality.e. i. 2003) The vampire is one of the most popular and widely recognised myth/folklore of modern times. the glittering teenager. At various times the vampire has been thought to symbolise everything from gay acceptance to homophobia. Vampires cannot enter churches. As per Christian beliefs. Vampire stories have also always had strong religious undertones. Blood is signified as the giver of life. he was un-dead.
vampire bites were always viewed as ‘attacks’ making them akin to rape. ‘Christian’ religious artefacts do. This denotes a harem which signifies that no ‘one’ vampire bride had precedence over the other. but the Christian value of love. This is similar theme has been used. and it is love in the end that makes the wheels turn. The image of a vampire unable to enter a mosque. This. This is also something whose connotation comes across in the vampire movies. and as a result of being vampires. Vampires have always connected with the sexual. who did not give in to temptation. these object all signify God. or a temple or a synagogue are yet to be seen. in his essay ‘Post/modern Dracula: from Victorian themes to postmodern praxis’ says. and have traced vampiric lineage all the way to Egypt during the time of the Pharaohs. John S.churches. a semiotic analysis can be made likening the vampire bite to phallic penetration. Ancient Greeks and Hebrews. “Coppola inverts Stoker’s horror story and turns it into a love story. The significance that they are evil creatures. And those who did not live by this strict moral code were considered ‘fallen’. where Dracula’s (or the main male character’s) female ‘brides’ are all shown as seductresses. again signifying that no one bride was the mistress of the castle. and anything blessed by God is physically agonising to them. denoting that in the end the Lord had a hand to play in striking them down and hence. it is the appearance of daylight.” Another interesting angle to using the vampire narrative as a tool in Christian hegemony is that ‘holy’ ground is never the deterrent to the vampire. holy water or anything that denotes God. despite the fact that modern day vampire narratives are exploring the realms of vampire history. This went with the socially accepted puritan view point of ‘being faithful’. However. women should be demure and not put themselves in a position where or act in a way that attracted undue male attention. Working with this angle. In the end. in order to establish the central theme that universal love. It is always holy ‘Christian’ ground. or apparently blessed by God. In the olden days. Bak. and the act of biting the victim is an act of phallic penetration. Romans. ostracized by society. and hence ruled over the house and the hearts of their husbands. However. the cross or the stake that does in these vile creatures of the night. Thus vampire fangs denote a phallic symbol. Religious artefacts don’t prove fatal to the vampire. “we all know that 'a thing is a phallic symbol if it's longer than it’s wide”. even though the concepts of vampires have existed for millennia with demonic entities considered the precursor to the modern vampire seen in ancient cultures ranging from Mesopotamians. but with a twist in modern day movies. or the favourite of the male vampire. Another point to note is that the main male vampire always had number of vampire brides. as time progressed. not hate is what will ultimately save humanity from evil. the cross. . the Christian undercurrents remain. As per Daniel Chandler in his article ‘Semiotics for Beginners’. vampire fangs have a phallic connotation. The modern day vampire stories are mostly all converted to love stories. the final connotation that in the Church lies the salvation of man. did not tempt other men. For instance. These stories also go a long way in propagating the influence and power of the church. vampires and the connotations attached also evolved. unlike the good Christian women in the house. The idea that all religions are equal. and other religions may also play a deterrent role never comes up. The champion here is not the Christian Church.
The concept of vampire bites as a source of pleasure. This is symbolic of the rise in women’s empowerment. the guilt. Vampires. post the sexual revolution and women’s empowerment. The cusp of adolescence and your body changing. there is also a semiotic reasoning to the sudden popularity of vampire genre in main stream media. filled with angst and anger. This concept is portrayed by image of ‘human’’s who willingly let themselves be bitten by vampires. . or Stephan Salvatore. The modern humanisation of the vampire shows the emotional changes the vampire goes through during transformation.” The answer. wherein the AIDS virus is transmitted to the ‘victim’. Similarly. the angst. connoting the rise of the status of women in society. This could be interpreted to denote that the ‘victim’ was subjected to a foreign matter that changed his/her physiology. Further connoting that vampirism is a communicable disease. This denotes that the human made a free choice about his/her pleasure which in turn connotes sexual liberation. or the use of an infected syringe. coming of age. This underlying logic behind this can be concluded by drawing up parallels between the vampiric lifestyle and the AIDS infliction course. and the family next door. the losing of control of the body due to ‘blood-lust’. young adult oriented media. The ‘turn’ing process consists of the original vampire’s blood being ingested or consumed or simply inserted/injected into the body of the human or ‘victim’ that is to be converted into a vampire. signifying that the vampire bite is pleasurable. the rage. in the case of AIDS. quite simply put. Not just girls who swoon over Edward Cullen. The target audience for vampire flicks are teenagers. and their lifestyle were recently also considered to signify AIDS. A recent and significant development in vampire narrative is the appearance of the strong and sometimes central female vampire character. heartthrobs. It is a well known part of the modern day vampire narrative that to become a vampire or to be ‘turned’ you do not have to be killed by a vampire. and human-vampire relationships. The vampire genre was gaining popularity since the time of Interview with a Vampire. are themes that are gaining popularity in main stream media.In modern society. and the fact that there is nothing to be done to stop it is paralleled to the transformation of the vampire. it is through sexual intercourse with an infected person. This juncture in life signals the start of formation of darker impulses. both the ‘human’ society we exist in and the vampiric society that evolves simultaneously. These parallels are what fuel the feeling of relate-ability and hence the popularity of the vampire in today’s main stream. vampire bites are not always viewed or portrayed as attacks. or threatening to change. is teenagers. almost the identical portrayal of the modern day teenager as he ‘turns’ from a child to a teenager to an adult. On a lighter note. Broadcast journalist Miranda Shafer wrote “Vampires used to lurk on the fringes of pop culture: but these days they are heroes.
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