Making its first appearance in English literature in Robert Southey’s poem “Thalaba the Destroyer” (1797), the vampire developed into one of the most prominent Gothic villains in the nineteenth century, leading to one of the most well-known literary figures of all time: Count Dracula. In this seminar, we will explore novels, novellas and short stories that belong to the genre of vampire fiction. We will start with John Polidori’s “The Vampyre” (1819), which is often considered a progenitor of the genre. We will then examine Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla (1872), before spending a couple of sessions with Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897). Towards the end of the semester, we will then look at a couple of short stories featuring vampires.


In many of the texts we will be looking at, homoerotic feelings surface and we will explore how the vampire as a literary figure was used in order to express same-sex desire and homoerotic panic. Furthermore, we will examine how masculinity and femininity were being defined in the Victorian society with its strict binary division of gender and how vampire fiction functioned to erode these ideas. We will also discuss why vampire fiction is commonly regarded as a subgenre of the Gothic and why the vampire as a literary figure also served as an outlet for anxieties about degeneration and the decay of the British Empire.