Reading the Vegetarian Vampire
AuthorDungan, Sophie Alexandra
AffiliationSchool of Culture and Communication
Document TypeMasters Research thesis
Access StatusThis item is embargoed and will be available on 2023-03-16.
© 2020 Sophie Alexandra Dungan
The vampire of folklore, like its offspring in cinematic and literary productions and popular culture, is an undead creature of the night who drinks, by preference, human blood to survive. Not only is the vampire’s lust for human blood the source of their evil, it also informs the threat they pose: they want to feed on women, men and children. It is surprising therefore to find, in the first decade of the twenty-first century, the emergence in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight (2005) of the so-called ‘vegetarian’ vampire, who abstains from consuming human blood. The so-called ‘vegetarian’ vampire chooses to slake its thirst with animal or synthetic blood and/or to access human blood in ways that do not harm the human from which it is drawn. With this major revision of the vampire’s long-standing hunger as its primary focus, this thesis traces the rise of the vegetarian vampire in popular culture, while also exploring the changing significance of this creature’s diet, as seen in recent works of vampire television and literature: The Twilight Saga (2005-8), The Vampire Diaries (2009-17) and True Blood (2008-14), and the novels on which the second and third works are based: L.J Smith’s The Vampire Diaries (1991-3) and Charlaine Harris’ The Southern Vampire Mysteries (2001-13). It also considers Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire (1976) and Joss Whedon’s television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1998-2003). I argue that, since the early years of the twenty-first century, the vegetarian or human-blood abstinent vampire has developed primarily in response to notions of environmental conservation, sustainability and greater ethical responsibility and care for other species—notions that reflects concerns raised by the Anthropocene, the geological age now upon us, which calls for creative ways of reimaging our interactions with nonhuman and inhuman species. In vampire fiction, these notions are most clearly evident in the vampire’s changing diet, which is to say on whom or what and how the vampire feeds. Adopting a theoretical position that is informed in large part by the modern practice, politics and ideologies of vegetarianism, I trace some of the ways in which contemporary vampire fiction explores the relationship between species and, in so doing, echoes the concerns and anxieties promoted by the Anthropocene. This thesis thus provides an original contribution to knowledge in three key areas. First, it provides an in-depth genre study of the history and development of the animal-blood diet in vampire fiction (still critically underacknowledged), which to the best of my knowledge has not previously been attempted in one over-arching study of this length, while also outlining how important the broader role of diet is to the genre. Second, it offers a new critical perspective by reading the vampire’s changing diet through a vegetarian lens. And third, by charting contemporary portrayals of vampiric consumption as a response to the Anthropocene, the thesis elucidates some of the ways that vampires in contemporary literature and television reflect growing concerns regarding how humans should live in our geological age.
KeywordsVegetarian; Vampire; The Twilight Saga; Anthropocene; Animal-blood diet; Sustainability
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