Monday, February 28, 2011

Vienna conference papers to be published

I briefly dealt with Niels' coverage of the 2009 Vienna conference, Vampirismus und magia posthuma im Diskurs der Habsburgermonarchie im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert, in the previous entry. Here's a bit more info.

Niels mentioned in a recent blog entry that he'd 'read a proof of [his] paper for the proceedings of the 2009 conference on vampirism and magia posthuma in Vienna, so the book should be on its way within a not too distant future'. He attended the conference and discussed the papers read there.

Here's a (pdf) list of abstracts for the papers presented at the conference. Karin Barton's 'The Habsburg flea: notes on the cultural and literary history of an insect vampire' provided me with the lead for chasing the elusive, early mentions of nosferatu, even if its reference was rather offhand, as attested by her abstract:
By the time the Der Floh (The Flea, 1869-1919) started publishing its political and anticlerical satires in Vienna, the miniature vampire of the insect world that gave its name to this publication had already established a significant role in satirical and pornographic writings. This paper provides a brief survey of flea-literature in the Holy Roman Empire, starting with the late medieval and pseudo-Ovidian Carmen de pulice which combines the motifs of sex and death with vampiric overtones, to the prominent Renaissance trope of the war between fleas and their allegedly preferred hosts, women. The mock epic of the Strassburg satirist and Rabelais-translator Johann Fischart, Flöh Hatz, Weiber Tratz (Flea Hunt, Womens’ Defiance 1573/77) marks the apex of the trope in German literature. Fischart’s work contains a remarkable comparison of three blood meals from the perspective of a flea narrator: the flea’s natural and legitimate theft of blood, the Christian Eucharist, and the quasi-cannibalistic ingestion of a flea filled with fresh human blood by a coarse butcher-maid turned flea-slayer, with the latter being unfavorably linked to the infamous 15th century Walachian ruler »Traculam«. Fischart’s Flea Hunt will be discussed as the locus classicus of the polysemic presentation of the flea – as insect, man, devil – one encounters from the early modern period to the 19th century in a variety of writings and genres in which the realistic and ubiquitous bloodsucker appears as a literary forerunner and comical side-kick of the vampire.
Will her paper make the cut in the upcoming published proceedings? We'll wait and see.

I'm certainly looking forward to the book's publication (even if I won't be able to read it), because it's not often conferences focus on the folkloric/historical angle of the vampire. At least, in English language proceedings. Instead, they tend to concentrate on the vampire's appearance in fictional literature and film.

This is echoed in publications derived from such conferences, the primary examples being James Craig Holte's The fantastic vampire (2002) and Peter Day's Vampires: myths and metaphors of enduring evil (2006). I suspect this is because of the relative paucity of non-English sources consulted in vampire history research. I might come under fire for this, but most of the good stuff seems to be in German.

I mean, seriously, have a read through Niels' coverage of the subjects discussed there and see if you can find anything comparable in English with that level of depth (not including Barber, Perkowski, McClelland or Keysworth). Sigh. It's very frustrating. German publishers, if you can read this, start publishing translations in English, please!

Unearthing Nosferatu

Emily Gerard (1849-1905) is generally considered to be the first author to use the term nosferatu. I examined a source allgedly pre-dating her own, but found it wanting. However, what I didn't tell you, is that I actually knew of an earlier source, pre-dating Gerard's usage by 20 years.

I was saving the info for a special purpose. Maybe a book, maybe a journal article. But with my recent membership into the Canadian branch of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula, I found the perfect outlet for my finding: their newsletter. Here's my article for your reading pleasure. Click on the image to read it in higher resolution.

Source: Anthony Hogg, 'Vindicating Gerard', The Borgo Post, Winter 2011, p. 3.

Incidentally, my article's inclusion in The Borgo Post marks a significant milestone in my 'career' as a vampirologist: this is the first vampire-related article I've submitted for a print publication. Ever. It even scored an addendum by the Society's president, Elizabeth Miller, who, as you guys would probably be aware by now, is an author I hold in high regard. Quite an honour.

I've gotta admit though, it was a bit nerve-wracking waiting for the article to be published. You see, The Borgo Post is a quarterly newsletter. That's a long time between publication. I had to keep my fingers crossed that no-one else would make the 'discovery' in the meantime, as I wanted it to be an 'exclusive'. I would occasionally check Google to see if it'd appear elsewhere. It was a long wait between my original submission to the newsletter's editor ('Submission for The Borgo Post', Tuesday, 2 November 2010 8:18:32 AM)‏ till the newsletter's arrival on February 2nd. Thankfully, it went off without a hitch.

At this point, you might be wondering why exactly I chose to chase this pre-Gerard lead in the first place. What was the inspiration behind it. Well, I'm gonna lay a couple more exclusives on you, dear readers. Stuff you won't find in that article. As it happens, I chased the lead after I read Niels' coverage of the Vampirismus und magia posthuma im Diskurs der Habsburgermonarchie im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert conference. A certain passage stood out to me:
Karin Barton, associate professor at Laurier University in Canada, is particularly interested in insects and their role in cultural history and literature, currently with emphasis on the flea. She presented a paper on The Habsburg Flea: Notes on the Cultural and Literary History of an Insect Vampire with numerous examples of how the flea has been presented in various media, including some that related it to vampires. Remarkably, she presented a source from 1866 that mentions the word 'nosferatu', a term otherwise usually perceived as constructed by Emily Gerard in her Transsylvanian [sic] Superstitions from 1885!
My eyes lit up when I saw that, too. Like many people in the field, I was also under the impression that the word's original appearance was in Gerard's article. Niels didn't list Barton's 1866 source, so I decided to find it myself. It really was as simple as typing "nosferatu" into Google Books. Not much legwork involved there. But I certainly hit paydirt, because the source I found pre-dates Barton's by a year.

Now, this is where I share my other exclusive with you. Being mindful that Barton's article hasn't yet seen publication, with no mention (to my knowledge) if it's gonna be included in the conference's upcoming anthology, I bet I could tell you what her source was. Something else I didn't mention in 'Vindicating Gerard': Wilehem Schmidt's 1865 article, 'Das Jahr und seine Tage in Meinung und Brauch der Rumänen Siebenbürgens' was expanded into a book of the same 1866.

Here's something I just discovered while writing this blog entry: at the time I wrote the newsletter article, the journal Schmidt had written for was no longer available on Google Books. (apart from the Danish version Neils kindly drew my attention to). But now, it's back up.

And there you have it, folks. The earliest known appearance of nosferatu in written form. I'm more than happy to be corrected on that, of course, but that's the earliest mention I've been able to come across thus far. If you know of an older source, feel free to send me along your source.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

One for the Dracula Scholars

I've heard rumblings about plans for an 'event' to commemorate the centennial passing of Bram Stoker at 'Hull University', so I decided to do some sleuthing to find out what was going on.

And by 'sleuthing', I of course mean 'Google searching'. Turns out the University of Hull is gonna be holding 'a three-day international conference'. The event's called Bram Stoker and Gothic Transformations. It'll be hosted at the Hull Campus of the University and in Whitby in April 2012. Has that whet your whistle? Then let's delve a little further. Here's its theme:
The conference is interested in the iconic significance of Stoker’s vampire novel and seeks to reappraise Stoker’s work within its fin-de-siècle cultural climate. It is also interested in exploring the broader context of the changing nature of Gothic productions from the late eighteenth century to the present. Using Dracula as a key point in the evolution of the genre, it seeks to explore the novel’s Gothic predecessors and influences, and the manner in which Stoker’s work renewed the Gothic for future generations.
They're accepting papers, if you wanna take part. Send an abstract of 250-300 words for a 20 minute paper to Dr Catherine Wynne (her e-mail addy's on the site). You've got till 1 May 2011 to submit. There are 20 topics on the site to choose from, but they appear to be flexible on this, so long as it caters to the conference's theme. Have fun!

Things That Make You Go 'Whaaa?'

I've come across one of the most bizarre vampire stories I've ever read. It concerns a 13th century Scottish castle, animal carcasses and...the late King of Pop. Best of all, it's recounted as a true story.

The story concerns 'ghosthunter' Tom Robertson's investigation into strange phenomena around Lochmaben, Dumfriesshire. Here's an extract:
Ghosthunter: Adventures In The Afterlife recounts his most challenging cases but perhaps the most intriguing involves the story he tells today of a Borders vampire with a bizarre connection to the Prince of Pop, Michael Jackson.

He says: "Little surprises me, and even less scares me. But an investigation late on in my career did, on both counts.

"The twists and turns left me speechless and the conclusion came straight out of Hollywood.
And it only gets stranger from there. You can find his book here. Speaking of strange, while Googling about for this article, I came across several sites keen on depicting Michael, himself, as a vampire. There's a Facebook group, a blogger who wonders whether Jackson was a psychic vampire, and, of course, various pictorial representations. Like this one:

Before Jackson's passing, Auto Loan Daily covered the sale of Jackson's custom Bentley limo, noting, 'Apparently Michael Jackson went through a vampire period, because the limo looks like a modern interpretation of Count Dracula’s carriage.' To be honest, it's the fans who worry me more than this prospect.
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