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Lee Chuan Coleen Angove IEM2201J 19 November 2012 Coming out of the closet and into the light Vampire has been used as an allegory for homoerotism with Nina Auerbach tracing the origins of vampire literature to one of the first notable works – Vampyre written by John Polidori which underlines the homoerotic bond between the writer and Lord Bryon (153). As Julia Annabel Gault (1999) explains, vampire literature has served as a form of encoding for homosexuality, in particular male homosexuality, in the 19th Century where the classical vampire literature, Dracula, was born. Just like closeted homosexuals, vampires are often afraid as „creatures of the dark‟ lurking in the dark corners of society – avoiding public‟s eye and afraid of the light – at least in the past before vampires turn into idolized sparkly creatures in the light in Twilight. This paper seeks to draw parallel between the homoerotic undertones of classical vampire literatures of various times and how it reflects the state of homosexual community in its time. This paper will analyze vampire literature across three centuries – from the 19th to the 21st Century and the classical vampire literatures used includes: Dracula and Carmilla in the 19th Century; the Anne Rice Chronicles in the 20th Century and True Blood in the 21st Century. 18th Century – „The love that dare not speak of its name‟ – Wilde, 1895 As Matt Cook (2003) explains, Victorian England in the 18th Century was repressive towards homosexuality and homosexuality was aligned with anxieties about the

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modern metropolis and regarded as a form of degeneration and decadence. When Oscar Wilde‟s first and only novel, Pictures of Dorian Grey was published, his homoerotic 100 page novel was heavily censored by 500 words1. Even under heavy censorship, reviews still called the novel „immoral‟ and that Wilde should be „prosecuted on moral grounds‟. Under such stifling writing culture for homo-centric novels, homosexual writers encode the homoerotic content behind a veil that does not betray the homoerotic possibilities among the English aristocrats (Cook 35). The period between the 1880s to 1890s was a period of great debate over homosexuality in England where the famous trial of Oscar Wilde, charged for sodomy, concluded in the 1895 where he was sentenced to two years of hard labour. It is under such times of tensions where Dracula was timely written in the 1897, two years after the trial was concluded. According to James Twitchell (1981), it is documented that Stoker frequented Wilde‟s residence and found their friendship “intriguing”. Further, Talia Schaffer describes their history as “intimate and varied” over a period of twenty years since their inception at a fraternity at Trinity College. There were also other evidences hinting towards his homosexuality – a passionate letter to Walt Whitman, an openly homosexual poet and a declaration of adoration to Sir Henry Irving in his semiautobiography Reminiscence of Henry Irving. According to Schaffer, she suggests that Dracula represents the anxiety of Bram Stoker as a closeted individual in a homophobic society stating that just like Dracula‟s victims, closeted homosexuals constantly negotiate between hiding or


Ruffles, Michael. "50 Shades of Dorian Gray." Bangkok Post. N.p., 10 Sept. 2012. Web. 18 Nov. 2012. <http://www.bangkokpost.com/print/311673/>.


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revealing their condition (Schaffer 382).These victims face the fear of repressed helplessness and anguish in suppressing their innate sexual desires (Schaffer 383). The hint of homosexuality is strongest in the imprisonment of Jonathan Harker by Dracula in the novel. In particular the scene where the vampire sisters seduced Harker: “„This man belongs to me! Beware how you meddle with him, or you‟ll have to deal with me.‟The fair girl,…, turned to answer him: „You yourself never loved; you never love!‟ On this the other women joined, … a mirthless, hard, soulless, laughter rang through the room.Then the Count turned, after looking at my (Jonathan‟s) face attentively, and said in a soft whisper: „Yes, I too can love;…‟” (Stoker 47) In this scene Dracula professes his need for Harker while the vampire sisters explained that he never needed them. This hints strongly towards Dracula‟s homoerotic desire. Further, the women laughed and made a mockery of Dracula after the accusation they made while Dracula focuses on Harker and speaks in a suggestive manner towards Harker. These homoerotic desires are often veiled by the female characters of the novel. Critics may argue against the homoerotic element of the novel by pointing out that Count Dracula only fed off women in the novel. In that Majorie Howes (1988) argues that Dracula uses feminine to displace and mediate the anxiety-causing homoerotic desire within men. The mediation role of feminine seems to be evident when Dracula proclaims, “Your girls that you all love are mine already; and through them you and others shall yet be mine” (Stoker 312 as cited in Howes, 107).While “the Blood is the life”, Dracula has fed off the 3 men‟s worth of blood through Lucy when blood transfusions of her suitors were made to her.


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The use of women as mediator allows homoerotic desires to be played upon in such conservative times. It is interesting to note that both Wilde and Stoker both courted after Stoker‟s wife, but it is Stoker who won the hand of his wife in the end. Further Howes also explains that the prevalent conception of the Victorian society is modeled after heterosexual relationships where homosexual attractions are perceived as “misplaced feminine desires” among the lesser men (Howes 105). Hence, one of the central fears that reflect the anxiety of the society is that even the most overtly manly male may have inherent feminine desires – ultimately undermining his manhood and being emasculated (Howes 106). In the novel, Lucy‟s uninhabited sexuality after she became a vampire was vehemently suppressed by Arthur while Mina was excluded from the group of men. In this regard, efforts made by the men to silence the feminine reflect the attempts to suppress what they fear of their innate feminine natures (Howes 112). The use of the feminine to mediate the homoerotic nature of the novel and to represent men‟s fear of their innate feminine natures reflect the attitudes and perception of the Victorian Society towards homosexuality where it is referred to as the „love that dare not speaks its name‟. Jonathan‟s escape from Dracula‟s castle was a critical event of the novel that was left omitted – only to be filled with accounts of „terrible shock‟ which rendered Jonathan “only a wreck of himself” and drove him to “rave of dreadful things” to the nun who nursed him whom made a vow of secrecy never to disclose what had happened (Stoker 113). Howes argues that the omission constitutes of a repression of the homoerotic desire of Harker. The omission also allows the readers to fill in the gap with their own imagination – as Stoker once mentioned, “No one has power to stop the workings of imagination, not even the individual whose sensoria afford its source.” (Craft 482 as cited in Howes 112).

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While male homoeroticism needs to be carefully crafted in Dracula, with Bram Stoker dancing on the dangerously the fine line between a work that is socially accepted and one that is relegated as „immoral‟, another vampire literature Carmilla blatantly plays on lesbian themes in the novel. Carmilla featured strong homoerotic lesbian themes. The play on homoeroticism differs greatly from Dracula. While Dracula attempted to mediate and veil the homoerotic theme of the novel, Carmila blatantly portrays the attraction between Carmilla and the protagonist. There were frequent and direct mentions of their romance and intimate physical contact such as in one of the scenes: “Sometimes after an hour of apathy, my strange and beautiful companion would take my hand and hold it with a fond pressure, renewed again and again; blushing softly, gazing in my face with languid and burning eyes, ... It was like the ardour of a lover; it embarrassed me; it was hateful and yet overpowering; and with gloating eyes she drew me to her, and her hot lips travelled along my cheek in kisses; and she would whisper, almost in sobs, "You are mine, you shall be mine, and you and I are one forever”. “ (Carmilla, Chapter 4). Compared to The Pictures of Dorian Grey Carmilla did not face any censorship nor public outcries against it. The novel was able to be portrayed so because lesbian themes do not portray as big a threat to the masculinity of the society. Even in modernity, Katy Perry may get away with her song “I kissed a girl” (not to mention singing “You‟re Gay” with distain) but the same may not hold true should a male singer decides to sing „I kissed a dude and I liked it‟. This is not to say that lesbianism is condoned by the Victorian society and as William Veeder explains, Carmilla also serves as an allegory for the repression of duality between

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heterosexuality and lesbianism (198). It is a tale that focuses not just on how the protagonist succumbs to her lesbian tendencies, but more of how the protagonist succeeds in coming to terms of her true nature (Veeder 199). 20th Century – Forming of the homosexual identity The classical vampire literature of the 20th Century is represented by Anne Rice‟s Chronicles. As George Haggerty points out, the chronicles represent our culture‟s secret desire and fear towards homosexuality (6). The society is beginning to explore unauthorized desires beyond conventional heterosexual norms and the homosexuality as an identity is being formed. The 20th Century was a period where the ground works of gay rights were laid and significant advances were achieved. Significant events included the Stonewall Riots which took place in 1969 where LGBT activism took off since, the removal of homosexuality as a psychiatric pathology by the American Psychiatric Association in the 1973 and the decriminalizing of homosexual acts in the 1980 in the UK and in the 2003 in US2. Compared to the 19th Century where the Elaine Showalter points out that the Victorian society held cherished belief in masculinity and the certain behavioral standards for men that amounted „almost to religious faith‟ (8), the 20th Century seeks to offer a different version of masculinity. As Haggerty explains, the elegant, powerful and thoughtful Lestat of the novel offers an alternative version of masculinity. He reflects the hopes in the nineties represent – that masculinity can survive the emasculation – that there is an alternative form of masculinity that could be accepted and even desired, by the society (Haggerty 7). In the Chronicles, the homoerotic vampires, Lestat, Armand, Louis (portrayed by some of the sexiest men

Head, Tom. "The American Gay Rights Movement." N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2012. <http://civilliberty.about.com/od/gendersexuality/tp/History-Gay-Rights-Movement.htm>.


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of its time in the firm adaption of the novel – Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Antonio Banderas) offers different alternatives to masculinity. None of these homoerotic vampires are considered to be effeminate and are described as being suave, elegant and powerful. The Chronicles makes direct play on the new homosexual lifestyle. Interview with the Vampire starts out in modern day San Francisco – the „rainbow capital‟ of the US where Louis picks up the reporter, referred to as the „boy‟, after they have met in a bar – a direct play on homosexual seduction (Haggerty 5). To make obvious the perceived sexual roles between Lestat and Louis, Lestat said to Louis just after his conversion “Now, I'm getting into the coffin, and you will get in on top of me if you know what's good for you. “. Throughout the Chronicles, there are also a plethora of same-sex companionships that Lestat had with Magnus, Nicholas and his longtime companion Louis which he says he fell “fatally in love with”, but which subsequently dumbed him for Armand. The Chronicles portrayal of relationships reflects the different dynamics of homosexual relationships between differing homosexual personalities. This is in contrast to the view of the 18th Century where homosexual relationships were understood in a heterosexual framework, the idea that these men must have within them an innate feminine desire (Howes 105). Further the „adoption‟ of Claudia by Lestat to rekindle his relationship with Louis, which Lestat calls it “one happy family”, makes direct reference to the emergence of same-sex parents nearing the end of 20th Century as an alternative family unit. In Interview with the Vampire, the Theatre of the Vampires resembles the gay discos of the seventies that is described as „fascinating, thrilling, and deadly‟ (Haggerty 7). In Lestat, Nicholas the playwright of the Theatre of the Vampires exclaims “We will make a mockery of all things sacred. We will lead them to ever greater vulgarity and

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profanity. We will astonish. We will beguile. But above all, we will thrive on their gold as well as their blood and in their midst we will grow strong” (Lestat 265). Haggerty explains that this defiant speech, reminiscent of the politics of the gay revolution, highlights that culture can be threatened by the secret it hides within it. Such repression against the „secret‟ of the society is countered by the early rationale of the gay liberation in the 19th Century where gay liberation. While gay rights were pursued in the 20th Century, the question of whether homosexuality was a lifestyle choice became a topic of contention – whether it is nature or nurture. The American Psychiatric Association has held their professional view that sexuality, and in particular homosexuality, was not a matter of choice since 19753. An issue of choice was repeated highlighted in Interview with the Vampire. As Lestat often laments about „the choice he never had‟, it reflects the situation where homosexuals do not have the choice to choose their sexuality and the lifestyle that comes with their sexuality. In so doing, Lestat downgrades the role of his responsibility in abstaining from the lifestyle he is living by merely stating that it is his true nature. In the novel, Lestat coaxes Louis to feed on human blood: "Then do what it is in your nature to do. God kills indiscriminately and so shall we, for no creatures under God are as we are, none so like Him, as ourselves." (Rice 179). This declaration by Lestat reflects the society in an important and fiercely debated basis of homosexuality against religious condemnation – that is if homosexuality is not a choice, that it is God given, then surely homosexuality is the nature of these men and not a sin. Further the novel also tells the story of Louis succumbing to his true nature despite his earlier attempts to stay off human blood guided by his original moral compass.

"Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality." American Psychological Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2012. <http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/sexual-orientation.aspx>.


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21st Century – seeking common civil rights and assimilation into mainstream society If the 11 countries legalizing same-sex marriage and a dozens more recognizing same-sex union is a clear indication of the progress made for gay rights, this shows that there is increasing acceptance of the homosexuals within the society in the 21st Century. The challenge that the homosexual community faces now is the fight for common civil rights and assimilation and acceptance by the mainstream society in other states and country that have yet to follow suit. The hit vampire series True Blood serves as an allegory for gay rights with striking resemblance using phrases such as “God hates Fangs” and “Coming out of the Coffin” (Season 1 Episode 1, 2008). The increasing acceptance towards homosexuality has also allowed the series to air homoerotic content with little need to dance around the topic and beat around the bush. From the near kiss between the Armand and Louis in the film Interview with the Vampire, the sex scene between Eric and Talbot (Season 3 episode 8, 2010) in True Blood certainly is much bolder. True Blood certainly far exceeds subtle homoerotic-undertones and dive provocative graphics of gay sex. Conclusion From the transition of the use of femininity in Dracula to veil the homoerotic elements of the novel and the direct but subtle play on homoerotism in Anne Rice‟s Chronicles, vampire literature are becoming bolder in their play on homoerotism. However with the acceptance from an increasingly liberal society, vampire literature may have lost its purpose to serve and encode homoerotic themes as homosexuality and homoerotic content can now stand on its own – a classic example being Brokeback Mountain. Vampire literature was once touted by Stephen King‟s 1981 hypothesis (in Danse Macabre) as the “ulitimate zipless fuck”. In my opinion the “zipless fuck”


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represented vampire literature as an avenue where homoerotic content could be expressed without repression or obligations. While the need to indulge the “zipless fuck” within vampire literature has become less required, since one could write homoerotic content freely now, the quality of vampire literature seems to have taken a dive with Twilight as many critics would say. Even so, Marche (2009) offers a tongue-in-cheek homophilic interpretation of the Bella‟s attraction to Edward: “She (Bella) is attracted to him because he is strange, beautiful, and seemingly repulsed by her. These exact scenarios happened several times in my high school between straight girls and gay guys who either hadn‟t figured out they were gay or were still in the closet. Twilight‟s fantasy is that the gorgeous gay guy can be your boyfriend, and for the slightly awkward teenage girls who consume the books and the movies, that‟s the clincher. Vampire fiction for young women is the equivalent of lesbian porn for men.” To back her claim, Marche presents a poll where 37% of the female respondents could see themselves falling in love with gay men, 25% thinking that they are sexy and 54% thinking that male/male pairings are “hot, unattainable and a fantasy”. While Edward represents that gorgeous face that women sought after, Jacob‟s muscular build represents the body that women lust over – both of which are physical attributes that can often be found among the image-conscious gay men. If the fear of the light by vampires represent the fear of facing the public and being forced to remain in the closet, the sparkly vampire that Edward is under light represents the society‟s acceptance and even adoration towards homosexuals and allow them to now step out of their closets and embrace the light out of their closets. But it is perhaps the „dark ones‟ that we seek and hide from, the ones that we find


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both repulsive and attractive at the same time, are the ones that will always remain as the vampires that have stolen our hearts. (2984 words)


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Works Cited Auerbach, Nina. Our Vampires, Ourselves. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995. Web. Ball, Alan. (Producer). (2008). True Blood: Strange Love [EVE]. US: HBO Stoker, Bram. Dracula. UK: Archibald Constable And Company, 1897. Print. Cook, Matt. "'A New City of Friends': London and Homosexuality in the 1990s." History Workshop Journal. 2003:33-58. Print. Gault, Julia Annabel. Bloodlust: Homoeroticism and Homophobia in Nineteenth Century Vampire Narratives. NZ: University Of Aucklan, 1999. Web. Haggerty, George E. "Anne Rice and the Queering of Culture." Novel: A Forum on Fiction 32.1 (2012): 5-18. Howes, Majorie. "The Mediation of the Feminine: Bisexuality, Homoerotic Desire, and Self-Expression in Bram Stoker's Dracula." Texas Studies in Literature and Language 30.1 (1988): 104-119 Marche, Stephen. "What's Really Going on with All These Vampires?" Esquire. N.p., 13 Oct. 2009. Web. 18 Nov. 2012. <http://www.esquire.com/features/thousand-words-on-culture/vampires-gaymen-1109>. Rice, Anne. Interview with the Vampire. US: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976. Print. Rice, Anne. The Vampire Lestat. US: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985. Print.


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Schaffer, Talia. ""A Wilde Desire Took Me": the Homoerotic History of Dracula." ELH 1994: 381-425. Print. Sheridan Le Fanu. "Chapter 4." Carmilla. N.p.: Ireland, Kessinger Publishing 1872. N. page. Showalter, Elaine. Sexual Anarchy: Gender and Culture at the Fin de Siècle. New York: Penguin, 1990. Print. Stoker, Bram. Dracula. UK: Archibald Constable And Company, 1897. Print. Tucker, Raelle. (Producer). (2010). True Blood Night on the Sun [DVD]. US: HBO. Twitchell, James. The Living Dead: A Study of the Vampire in Romantic Literature. USA: Duke University Press, 1981. Web. Veeder, William. "Carmilla: the Arts of Repression." Texas Studies in Literature and Language 1980: 197-223. Print.


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