Seven Indispensable Works of Vampire Literature
A list that includes works that every vampire lover should know.
The vampire —symbol of darkness, death, elegance and eroticism— is a cultural product that sprouted from legends and folk tales and then spread to the sphere of literature, where its attractiveness has been created and reinvented for over two centuries.
The first examples of literary characters with vampiresque elements —its sort of predecessors— are prior to the 19th century, the booming era for this type of tales. And almost all of them have a profoundly romantic touch ––these are men and women who return from the death in search of their beloved. A beautiful example is Goethe’s poem, “The Bride of Corinth” (1797).
Some English romantic poets contributed to the creation of the literary figure that would later be called a vampire. In Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “Christabel” (1979), the heroine is seduced by Geraldine, a supernatural, vampiresque female; Lord Byron’s poem “The Giaour”(1813) is another good example, for it features beings condemned to live from the blood of others. It was in this context that the great classics of vampire literature were born.
Below we share a list of the fundamental works of this subgenre. A small taste on how the obsession for death, the supernatural and the darkness of Victorian England (and European gothic literature in general) was decanted in this unique character.
“Der Vampir” (1748), a poem by German author Heinrich August Ossenfelder, one of the first literary texts that touched upon the theme of the vampire.
“Thalaba the destroyer” (1797), a poem by Robert Southey is the first mention of a vampire in English literature.
“The Vampyre” (1819), a short story by John Polidori, whose main character, the noble vampire Lord Ruthven, is based, according to many experts, on English poet Lord Byron.
“The Skeleton Count or the Vampire Mistress” (1828), a short story by Elizabeth Caroline Gray, the first vampire work to be published by a woman.
The serial novel Varney the Vampire (1847) by Thomas Preskett Prest and James Malcolm Rymer is a Victorian horror story published in the format known as the penny dreadful.
Carmilla, a novel by Sheridan Le Fanu (1872), was one of Bram Stoker’s main influences to write Dracula, and a provocative work for it had a homosexual protagonist during an era of strong sexual repression.
Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897), a masterpiece of the genre that set the foundations for the figure of the vampire as we know it today.
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