The Looking Glass : New Perspectives on Children's Literature, Vol 15, No 1 (2011)

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Alice's Academy

Caroline Jones, editor


Vampires Without Fangs: The Amalgamation of Genre in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga

Anne Klaus and Stefanie Krüger


Anne Klaus is employed as a research assistant at the University of Osnabrück, Germany. She is working on a doctoral thesis on saviour figures in fantasy fiction for children and young adults.

Stefanie Krüger works as an assistant professor and is a PhD student at the University of Osnabrück, Germany. While her dissertation focuses on the writings of Nathanial Hawthorne and the American Imaginary, her research interests also include Literature from the American South, Class Theories and Structures, Neo-Victorian Studies, Anglo-American Romanticism, Literature for Children and Young Adults, and Manga and Anime.


Since the publication of the first novel of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga in 2005, millions of readers all over the world, the majority of whom are teenage girls and women, have fallen for the love story of Bella and Edward. Furthered by the release of the movie adaptations of the first three volumes in 2009 and 2010, critics have started to wonder about the foundation of Twilight-mania, especially concerning the basic theme of the story, namely the vampire myth, which, throughout its literary history, is rather a reflection of “adolescent male fantasy” (Twitchell, Living 6). Still, the indisputably kitschy story of an inconspicuous teenager who falls in love with the vampire next door fascinates today’s emancipated and independent females and thus can be regarded as an essential part of the success. It would seem that the attraction derives from Meyer’s unique interweaving of different generic elements, a strategy which can be found in other late 20th- and 21st-century popular literature. Thus, for instance, the “Harry Potter books have been received with manic enthusiasm” because they, too, “uniquely combine several kinds of appeal” (O’Keefe 176), such as the mixture of public school story and fantasy. In the Twilight saga, we find a similar amalgamation of various different literary genres – fantasy fiction for young adults, vampire story, gothic romance, and Arthurian legend. It is a medley, a generic crossing that is – not least due to its focus on an active young heroine – bound to entice a primarily female readership.

Through an analysis of the figure of the vampire in literature as well as in folklore it will be observed to what extent Edward differs from the folkloric blood-sucking revenant and also from the master of all literary vampires, Dracula. Furthermore, it will be investigated how his knightly behaviour towards Bella contributes to the impression of a romantic transformation of the gothic form. Special attention will also be paid to the figure of Bella, who, on the one hand seems to be presented as the femme fragile or damsel in distress concerning her physicality, but, on the other hand, represents a figure of identification for female readers as the independent, strong-willed hero of young adult fiction. The analysis seeks to prove that the combination of these various aspects of different genres and traditions allows Meyer to create a new kind of vampire love story.

The Re-creation of the Vampire Myth in Twilight

As James B. Twitchell observes in his essay “The Vampire Myth”, the story of the blood-sucking revenant “is a cultural scenario learned early and repeated again and again through the pre-teenage years” (110). Most 21st-century children and young adults are indeed familiar with the figure of the vampire not the least through the various movie adaptations of the most popular vampire novel, Dracula by Bram Stoker. Whether it is Wes Craven’s overtly erotic and handsome Gerard Butler as a Dracula who was condemned to attack beautiful young females because he, in his mortal life as Judas, betrayed Jesus, or Francis Ford Coppola’s Gary Oldman who dramatically dies in the arms of young Mina, these modern versions often portray Dracula as a somehow sympathetic and “attractive figure – far more attractive in every sense of the word than the vampire in folklore or earlier literary versions” (Senf 2). In general, the idea of the vampire in the late 20th and early 21st centuries greatly differs from the traditional image. Even though she is not specifically writing in the tradition of vampire stories, Stephenie Meyer’s Edward Cullen is no exception to that new image. In fact, he even carries the idea of the vampire as the handsome gentleman villain, if he is a villain at all, to a new level.

As various critics have pointed out (among them Montague Summers in one of the earliest serious vampire studies, The Vampire. His Kith and Kin, from 1928) the folkloristic revenant is often depicted as a blood- or energy-sucking spirit, ghost, or monster that haunts graveyards, attacks unaware travellers or kills little children [1]. “The most startling part of the folkloric vampire is that he must first attack members of his own family” which, for Twitchell, “makes all too clear the vampire’s sexual function” (Twitchell, “Vampire” 111). The idea of the return of the dead and their incestuous sexual desire is not common only in superstition but also in the vampire literature of the 19th century. Even though we can find many similarities between Twilight and works like The Vampyre (1819), Wuthering Heights (1847), Jane Eyre (1847) and Carmilla (1872), Twitchell’s above named pre-requisite is exactly the one characteristic which Edward does not share with his famous predecessors - the lack of which adds a great deal to the series’ success among female readers.

The idea of the vampire as the evil counterpart of Jesus and as an ally of the devil is due to Christian influence which from the 16th century onwards incorporated the originally ideology-free legend into Christian, moral mythology (Pütz 16-7). The well-known remedies and charms against vampires, like garlic, sunshine (traditionally a symbol for goodness and elevation through the gods), crucifixes, and holy water are also inventions of the Christian faith. Whereas Dracula and many of his 19th-century counterparts can be easily defeated by the first light of day (beautifully staged in F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, 1922) Edward is not even tickled by a ray of sunlight and garlic can hardly cause him trouble. The Christian idea of the vampire, which also picked up the superstitious belief that the revenant returns first and foremost to end an unfinished task or to endure an existence as God’s forsaken subject for sins committed in life, set the scene for the vampire, and vampire-like figures like the gothic villain, of the 19th century. Lord Byron was one of the first who, within the Romantic interest in the dark side of man and the Gothic tradition, did not depict the revenant as a mindless or, more importantly, heartless and immoral murdering fiend. The Giaour (1813) created a tragic image of the vampire who suffers because he has to kill in order to survive. The then unconventional idea to narrate the story from the vampire’s perspective was not employed by Byron’s 19th-century fellow authors but reoccurs in the 20th and 21st centuries and adds to the image of the tragic (and thus sympathetic) torn, or Byronic, hero, which is also clearly evident in Twilight. Even though Edward, at the beginning of his vampire life, restricted his killings to murderers and criminals, he still suffers from his deeds and is always aware of the possibility that he might harm Bella if his bestial nature prevails (Twilight 231-3). His, literally, rough and strong outward appearance disguises his soft and gentlemanly nature, a necessary mask to keep harm from the humans around him and also to protect Edward’s family from exposure. His Byronic nature is certainly one aspect of Edward’s success among female readers of the 21st century as it combines two ideals of the modern man: sensibility and strength.

Edward owes many of his characteristics to literary figures of the 19th century. As Meyer admitted in several interviews, it was particularly the story of Emily Brontë’s Heathcliff and his relationship to Catherine Earnshaw in Wuthering Heights, which motivated her in the construction of Edward [2]. Even though there is no clear evidence that Heathcliff is a vampire, his demonic nature is only too visible some days before his death as Nelly Dean relates to Lockwood, “I cannot express what a terrible start I got by the momentary view! Those deep black eyes! That smile and ghastly paleness! It appeared to me, not Mr Heathcliff, but a goblin” (Brontë 273). His appearance startles her so much that she even asks herself, “Is he a ghoul or a vampire?” (Brontë 273). As Carol Senf points out, “Heathcliff’s character derives largely from a literary tradition of masculine physical and economic power” (83). His human nature may be doubted, but his character is clearly in the tradition of the gothic villain, which in many 19th-century novels replaced the often stereotyped vampire and added a more interesting facet to the evil character. The gothic villain is commonly from the upper classes or of royal blood. Even though Heathcliff’s ancestry is unknown he still holds financial power over the Earnshaw family estate. His economic power is mirrored in the lifestyle of Edward and his family, who can afford the newest cars, live in a remarkable house, wear designer outfits, and never have to worry about money. The Cullens financially certainly belong to the upper class among the vampire families and thus transfer the common class affiliation of the vampire into 21st-century classless America. [3]

Like the gothic villain, Edward’s vampire nature is independent of the restrictions which often kept the folkloric vampire at bay and showed him as a hideous and mindless monster. Edward is very beautiful, has pale, cold skin, sharp teeth and is very well mannered. He needs blood to survive, but he can also eat food even though it does not nourish him (Twilight 181). Christian symbols have no power over him and daylight does not harm him, but lets him sparkle like a crystal. Edward and the gothic villain are as far from the vampire in folklore as Anne Rice’s Louis is from the degenerate creatures he encounters in Eastern Europe. In Louis and Edward the vampire has become, for humans, a terrible fascination. Edward is an invincible force and yet he does not use his power to harm or acquire power over others as earlier literary revenants have done. He is a melancholic and a gentleman, a Byronic vampire (Twilight 300-10, New Moon 514-5) whose only interest is to protect the love of his life – a focus which certainly adds to his popularity among female readers. Edward as vampire is highly fascinating particularly because the focus of the story is not concerned with Edward being a vampire but with Edward being a romantic who happens to be a vampire. Twilight is dominated by a male protagonist whose emotional state dictates his actions which primarily culminate in wooing and protecting Bella. This primary chivalric concern is derived from another genre, which Stephenie Meyer combined with her re-created vampire myth and which is particularly aimed at female readers.

Twilight as Knightly Romance

As already mentioned in the previous paragraph, Edward’s behaviour deviates from the typical vampire image; his rescue operations are rather evocative of knightly deliveries of damsels in distress. Bella, the “accident-prone klutz” (New Moon 12) who, with her clumsiness personates the defenceless female in need, is continuously secured by her “perpetual savior” (Twilight 144). However, Stephenie Meyer hauls the theme of knightly chivalry out of its Arthurian past and transforms it to suit her modern American surrounding. Thus, the knight’s stallion is replaced by a modern car and the knightly shining armour is substituted with Edward’s muscular, “solid” and “iron” body (Twilight 47, 243, 301).
The theme of chivalry runs as a major thread throughout Meyer’s saga. Originally, the idea of the chivalric knight developed among the feudal ruling class and replaced the concept of the warrior who fought for the sake of gain and needed no other excuse. War, which was its own justification in the Heroic Age, however, began to need a cover of morality (Morton 15). The knights had to reconcile warfare with the teachings of Christianity and had to learn to fight for honour, justice, Christendom or for their ladies. Just as this ideal of chivalry and comradeship formed family-like bonds between the medieval knights (Barber 51), Meyer’s vampire family, though not related by blood, is tied by their ethical principles and their “new philosophy” (Twilight 295) of living on their “‘vegetarian’ vampire diet” (Breaking Dawn 30).

Helen Cooper, who traces Arthurian motifs in literature from the early knightly romance onwards, detects the overall pattern that “chivalric virtues [are] not easy of attainment, and the aspiration towards achieving them in itself constitute[s] an ethical quest” (41). The same notion can be found in Meyer’s work. She presents the challenges of “[t]he vampire who wanted to be good – who ran around saving people’s lives so he wouldn’t be a monster…” (Twilight 179). Edward’s struggle to stick to his values and to be a noble vampire is intensified by his urge to prove himself worthy of his lady’s love. His courtly behaviour furthermore manifests itself in his display of perfect manners – he holds open doors for his lady, offers his jacket to keep her warm (Twilight 173), and speaks in “the gentle cadences of an earlier century” (Twilight 232) [4]. Edward’s ardent wooing of Bella with lullaby love songs is furthermore highly evocative of the medieval “Minnegesang”. Supplemented by the theme of prenuptial chastity – which corresponds with the cardinal virtue of ‘Temperantia’ – Edward’s whole demeanour contributes to what Fuchs calls the “fairy-tale feeling, a mixture of the archaic and the idealizing” (Fuchs 1-2). This somehow nostalgic presentation of a gentleman-lover who does not fall short of the Arthurian ideal of chivalry attracts the female readership rather than a male target group. By heightening Edward to a flawless hero, Meyer offers her readers the illusion of the ideal, devoted, godlike partner.

Hence, love, even more than questing or chivalry, ultimately takes centre stage in Meyer’s saga: “Love at first sight, irresistible, absolute, and lifelong, is the typical way of falling in love throughout all romantic literature” (Cooper 230-231). The notion of love at first sight can already be found in Andreas Capellanus’ 12th- century treatise De Amore. The doctrine of the immediate visual perception of the other sex was an inherent part in the medieval courtly love tradition. This pattern is also clearly traceable in the Twilightsaga. However, Meyer modulates the conception of ‘love at first sight’ to fit her vampire world – it is replaced by what could be coined ‘love at first smell’. In Edward’s metaphor, Bella is “exactly [his] brand of heroin” (Twilight 235) and he refers to the passion that overcame him when meeting the young woman for the first time:

It took everything I had not to jump up in the middle of that class full of children and – […] You must have thought I was possessed. […] To me, it was like you were some kind of demon, summoned straight from my own personal hell to ruin me. The fragrance coming off your skin… I thought it would make me deranged that first day. (Twilight 236)

Despite the lovers being presented as meant for each other, the “knight’s difficult choice between eros and other allegiances” (Fuchs 45), which according to Barbara Fuchs can be found in classic Romance literature, is mirrored in Edward’s endangering his family’s secret by falling in love with Bella. As he points out, he is “breaking all the rules” (Twilight 174). His attempt to part with Bella in New Moon is evocative of the main narrative strategy of romance novels: the postponement of the union between the lovers (Fuchs 125 f.).  However, “the pull of romance towards concluding happiness” (Cooper 81) dominates in Meyer’s saga, which privileges destined love over all worldly problems.

With her modern variation of the Arthurian tradition, Meyer proves Fred Botting’s proclamation in his Gothic Romanced that “[r]omance is an undead genre” (Botting 1). Although the echoes of her borrowings are often muted to some degree, the knightly theme still forms the underlying tenor of her four books. Thus, once again it becomes obvious that “despite recurrent efforts somehow to leave it behind, modernity continues to engage with romance, alternately embracing and rejecting it as a privileged mode of access to an idealized past, a vehicle for nostalgia, magic, and the imagination” (Fuchs 100).

Features of Young Adults’ Fiction in Twilight

One reason for the popularity of the Twilight saga among teenagers is its distinctive employment of the tropes of young adults’ fiction. It is, however, noteworthy that these features all revolve around the female protagonist. Meyer’s focus on Bella’s perspective, the presentation of an immediate female adolescent voice, further contributes to the fact that teenage girls and young women especially relate to the main protagonist. Nonetheless, the whole concept of the novel obviously also appeals to a male readership and the presentation of an adolescent character offers identification points for teenage boys as well.

Bella Swan, the average and inconspicuous girl who so far has never found her niche within society and does not relate well to people her age (Twilight 9), embodies the “new kid in school” motif commonly found not only in realistic teenage fiction but also in late 20th and early 21st century teenage high school movies such as Sara Sugerman’s Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (2004) or Ed Decter’s The New Guy (2002). Just as these popular movies feature the difficulty of new pupils fitting into an existing school culture, “[c]rucial establishing scenes for both fictional school stories and school memoirs deal with the departure from home and parents, the first trip to the new school, and the arrival in a scary new place” (Manners Smith 80). Although the school story is fundamentally a British phenomenon, the focus has shifted from depicting boarding schools towards state-funded day schools – most evidently observable in the huge success of Walt Disney’s blockbusters High School Musical and Hannah Montana, both of which are set in American high schools.

Very soon, however, Meyer deviates from depicting the problems and challenges of transition that Bella’s relocation poses for her and focuses on the young heroine’s encounter with the vampire Edward. From here on, the fantastic and the real collide. Although the action is never displaced into a secluded secondary world but remains in the primary environment of the American small town Forks, Washington, the instant Bella entangles herself in the lives of the Cullens and thereby the vampire world, the story breaks new ground and henceforth employs the characteristics of fantasy.

Bella’s development throughout the four books is undoubtedly evocative of famous fantasy heroes, such as Harry Potter or Christopher Paolini’s Eragon. Just as M. Katherine Grimes describes Harry Potter as insignificant “Everyboy and Everyman” (Grimes 122) in the beginning, Bella seems to lack any signs of being special or chosen. Like other heroes from young adults’ fiction, however, she develops and matures in the course of the story. A significant parallel to popular stories for young adults is Bella’s choice of friends and fellows. Not only does she deviate from her human classmates by getting in touch with vampires, she also defies the vampires’ antipathies against their rivals, the Quileute werewolves, by maintaining her friendship with Jacob Black and his family. By letting Bella choose outsiders and initial foes as friends, the author reveals her protagonist’s positive virtues and makes explicit the importance of impartiality and candour. This is additionally stressed by the fact that without these companions the final salvation of the Cullens and their way of life, would not have been successful.

Being sent out on a quest and having to leave home constitutes a further major factor for the protagonists’ progress in young adults’ fiction:

The most important condition is the physical dislocation and the removal, temporary or permanent, of parental protection, allowing the child protagonist to have the freedom to explore the world and test the boundaries of independence. The child may be placed in a number of extraordinary situations [… which] empower the fictional child. (Nikolajeva 129)

At the beginning of the series, Bella is transplanted from her life with her mother in Phoenix to the world of her dad in Forks. She has to adjust not only to a new parental authority figure but also to the new surroundings, a new school environment, and a new set of friends. After meeting Edward and falling in love with him, Bella is confronted with drastic choices concerning which path of life to take. She ultimately sacrifices her normal life in order to become a vampire herself and eventually demarcates from her parental ties (Breaking Dawn 73). By presenting Bella’s choices and her coming-of-age, Meyer joins the classic rite de passage literature, addressing especially a target group of the same age that faces similar adolescent problems.

Despite her initial insignificance, Bella proves to display character traits which mark her as unique and extraordinary, namely her resistance to vampire powers that affect her mind, such as Edward’s mind-reading or Jane’s pain infliction, skills that are adopted and intensified after her transformation into a vampire. Like Eragon’s changing into an elf, Bella’s metamorphosis into a vampire illustrates not only an inward but also an outward ripening, a growing-up-process from teenager to adult that is also manifested in her final motherhood.

Finally, Bella’s final act of salvation of her new vampire family from an apparently more powerful enemy is a familiar motif of young adults’ fantasy literature. In the archaic battle between good and evil, determination and the courageous willingness to self sacrifice in order to save the beloved ones are the two main character traits of the majority of fantasy heroes, traits that also become manifest in Bella’s behaviour. In many fantasy stories, the confrontation of the hero with the evil and the defeat of the latter is the culmination of the stories. Nevertheless, the major emphasis of fantasy fiction for children and young adults lies on the heroes’ quests. The same holds for Meyer’s saga as the relatively short battle sequence at the close of the fourth book underlines. Meyer’s main focus is not so much on the final trial of power between the two enemy parties as on her heroine’s inner test of strength in the course of her maturation from an insignificant teenager into a self-confident lover, wife and mother. Meyer casts the spotlight on her female protagonist’s internal struggles with themes like outward appearance, virginity, marriage and child rearing.

The Vampire or the Primary Love Object

The incorporation of elements of young adult’s fantasy fiction and their concentration in Bella’s character is one important aspect, which differentiates the Twilight saga from many other vampire stories. As the above paragraph suggests, telling the story from a female perspective already creates a direct level of identification for female readers, however, we must not forget that before Twilight there had been other vampire stories that were narrated from a female perspective and that are not highly cherished among female readers in the 21st century. One example would be Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, which is told by young Laura who shares similar circumstances of life with Bella. Both are of a delicate nature, live with their father in a secluded area, and encounter a vampire. Still, the differences between them are considerable. Laura and Carmilla, the vampire, “are defined primarily by their physiology rather than by their intelligence or emotions” (Senf 53). They thus directly respond to a tradition of female characters which are but too common in vampire fiction throughout the centuries. On the one hand, female victims in vampire stories, like Laura or Lucy Westenra in Stoker’s Dracula, are depicted either as helpless females who cannot but surrender to temptation, or as overtly erotic seductresses who are too willing to be bitten. On the other hand, “[F]emale vampires in conventional fictions (and poetry) are terrifying, abject creatures whose voracious sexuality is a product of male transfer of what is both desired and feared. Onto the figure of the female vampire is loaded all the fear and loathing of libidinous enactment” (Wisker 170).  Whichever part the female takes, her entire being is based on sexuality and her destiny is ultimately destruction. As Twitchell argues, novels like Carmilla and Dracula “introduced what has become a dominant theme in twentieth-century vampire lore – the vampire as the ‘love-them-and-destroy-them’ adolescent male fantasy” (Twitchell, Living Dead 6). It is undeniable that Bella, too, fulfills the role of the victim, but the difference from other female characters lies in Meyer’s employment of her heroine’s sexuality and her physical relation to the male vampire.

The traditional male interpretation of the final encounter between vampire and victim understands the vampire as “inseminating his victim with evil. A rape scene is played out through the gauze of fantasy […] the young male audience especially witnesses the older man defile the virgin (for indeed to this audience the mother is, to them at least, virginal [5]), while at the same time imagining themselves to be that powerful man” (Twitchell, “Vampire Myth” 112). Domination marks the male-oriented interpretation of vampire stories. Thus arises the question of why a female audience should respond to a story which usually depicts the female protagonist as a helpless victim who is raped and ultimately destroyed. Twitchell finds a very unconvincing answer to this question in “The Vampire Myth” by using Sigmund Freud’s argumentation in “The Taboo of Virginity”:

His thesis simply put is that the adolescent female, denied her primary love object (father/brother), must settle for a husband who can at best mimic her original choice. Adding to this disappointment is the fact that her defloration is an initiation of considerable complexity and of some inevitable disappointment. For sex that is supposed to be pleasurable, the initial act is painful; this act is supposed to be performed by a man who can give ease, yet often awkwardness results. Ideally sex should be with a primary love object, but the taboo of incest is so universally strong that compromise and disillusion result. (114)

Even though Twitchell believes that Freud’s thesis may answer the initial question, he falls into the same patterns employed by earlier critics. Freud’s theory is first and foremost another male interpretation of the vampire myth, which sees the vampire as a surrogate father who deflowers the virginal victim in an incestuous rape scene. But Edward is not the father or surrogate father; he is the primary love object. The young vampire certainly takes up the role of protector in Bella’s life, but because of Bella’s construction as the female, young-adult heroine he does not do so as a substitute for her father but as the knight in shining armour whose only purpose is to protect and woo his lady. Bella, like Catherine in Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, is, as Carol Senf points out in The Vampire in Nineteenth-Century English Literature, a new kind of female victim and female vampire, “[a]ssertive, strong, intelligent, and independent, she clearly wants to control her own life although that desire often brings her into conflict with those who wield authority within her society” (Senf 83). Against the fears of her father and the warnings of the Quileute werewolves, Bella keeps up her relationship with Edward. Her “defloration” is not an act of destruction but a consequence of her own free choice and, what is more, it takes place before she is finally turned into a vampire, which actually is a rescue and not a damnation. Bella’s delicate nature is not her ruin, as it is for so many other female characters, but a reflection of her disposition for becoming a vampire and thus ultimately for the fulfilment of her destiny. As a vampire, she clearly embodies a new trend in late 20th- and early 21st-century vampire literature: the un-dead state is not a punishment for sins committed in life but a very attractive “parallel lifestyle” (Hughes 148-9). Jancovitch argues that “the pleasure offered by the [vampire] genre is based on the process of narrative closure in which the horrifying monster is destroyed or contained” and the “original order is re-established” (qtd. in Wisker 168). Twilight does not kill the monster but elevates it to an ideal of female desire. A new order is established which clears the way for fascinating, never-ending romantic opportunities.

Conclusion

Edward is very far from the folkloric blood-sucking revenant, but even further from old man Dracula. He is, rather, modelled, in parts, on the vampire-image prevalent throughout the 19th century, which is that of the gothic villain (Pütz 78). What is more, Edward’s perpetual rescue operations are evocative of knightly deliveries of damsels in distress; his courtly behaviour, his chivalry, his ardent wooing of Bella with lullaby love songs and the theme of prenuptial chastity lead to a romantic transformation of the gothic tradition. Stephenie Meyer’s saga, thus, is further proof for Botting’s observation that “[g]othicking the romance and romancing the gothic manifest attempts to revitalise tired genres” (Botting 22).

Stephenie Meyer creates a fairy-tale gothic romance with a vampire as the primary, very attractive, love object and an independent, active female heroine who, on the one hand, is still the fragile damsel in distress and, on the other hand, embodies the “new kid in school” motif common in young adults’ literature of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Bella befriends supernatural creatures, is confronted with difficult choices, sacrifices her normal life, and ultimately undergoes an inward and outward ripening, a maturation most significantly seen in her final metamorphosis. Through the use of Bella’s perspective and the combination of mysterious gothic, jolts of serious menace, happy versions of teenage normality, and nostalgic romance, Meyer draws away the focus from the traditional “malicious-vampire-versus-helpless-victim” relationship towards the interiority of the active female agent and thus distances the story from the traditionally male-generated vampire myth which reduces the female character to either victim or femme fatale.


Notes

1. Compare also Pütz 14-15.

2. It should be mentioned here that Meyer often explicitly stated that she did not read any vampire literature in particular to create the Twilight saga. The two novels she frequently refers to as an influence are Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. However, this analysis makes clear that, consciously or unconsciously on the author’s part, the characters in Meyer’s novels bear markers of traditional vampire figures.

3. As Hans Brittnacher asserts that 70% of all literary vampires are aristocrats and 20% show the vampire as a member of the elevated classes. In “classless” societies like America vampires often have highly prestigious jobs like architect or physician, just like Carlisle Cullen (Brittnacher 130).

4. As Stephenie Meyer declares on her official website, she borrowed her hero’s first name from Charlotte Brontë and Jane Austen (cp. Meyer, ‘The Story Behind Twilight’) and thus creates an indubitable association of medieval romance with 19th century etiquette.

5. Twitchell, like Wisker and other critics, supports the idea that a male audience interprets the female vampire as the abject mother. “Seen as potential castrator, she appears as dangerously powerful, sexually voracious and engulfing, equated with the powerful, fecund Mother who has the power to procreate but cannot let the child be itself, cannot let go” (Wisker 170).

 

Works Cited

Barber, Richard. The Reign of Chivalry. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2005. Print.

Botting, Fred. Gothic Romanced. Consumption, Gender and Technology in Contemporary Fictions. London: Routledge, 2008. Print.

Brittnacher, Hans Richard. Ästhetik des Horrors. Frankfurt am Main: suhrkamp, 1994. Print.

Brontë, Emily. Wuthering Heights. (1847). London: Penguin, 1994. Print.

Byron, George Gordon. “The Gioaur – A Fragment of a Turkish Tale”. 1813. Lord Byron. The Complete Poetical Works. Vol. III. Ed. Jerome J. McGann. Oxford: Clarendon, 1981. Print.

Capellanus, Andreas. 1186-1190. The Art of Courtly Love. New York: Columbia UP, 1964. Print.

Cooper, Helen. The English Romance in Time. Transforming motifs from Geoffrey of Monmouth to the death of Shakespeare. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. Print.

Fuchs, Barbara. Romance. In The New Critical Idiom Series. New York: Routledge, 2004. Print.

Grimes, Katherine M. “Harry Potter. Fairy Tale Prince, Real Boy, and Archetypal Hero.” The Ivory Tower and Harry Potter: Perspectives on a Literary Phenomenon. Ed. Lana A. Whited. Columbia: U of Missouri P, 2002. 89- 122. Print.

Hughes, William. “Fictional Vampires in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries.” A Companion to the Gothic. Ed. David Punter. Oxford: Blackwell, 2000. 143-54. Print.

Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan. Carmilla. 1872. Rockville, MD: Wildside Press, 2006. Print.

Manners Smith, Karen. “Harry Potter’s Schooldays. J.K. Rowling and the British Boarding School Novel.” Reading Harry Potter. Critical Essays. Ed. Giselle Liza Anatol. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003. 69-87.  Print.

Meyer, Stephenie. New Moon. 2006.London: Atom, 2007. Print.

---. Breaking Dawn. London: Atom, 2008. Print.

---. “The Story Behind Twilight.” stepheniemeyer.  Web. 7 Sept. 2009.

---. Twilight. 2005. London: Atom, 2007. Print.

Morton, A. L. The Matter of Britain. Essays in a Living Culture. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1966. Print.

Nikolajeva, Maria. “Harry Potter – A Return to the Romantic Hero.” Harry Potter’s World. Multidisciplinary Critical Perspectives. Ed. Elizabeth  E. Heilman.New York: RoutledgeFalmer, 2003. 125-40. Print.

O’Keefe, Deborah. Readers in Wonderland. The Liberating Worlds of Fantasy Fiction. From Dorothy to Harry Potter. New York: Continuum, 2003. Print.

Paolini, Christopher. Eldest. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. Print.

Pütz, Susanne. Vampire und ihre Opfer. Der Blutsauger als literarische Figur. Bielefeld: Aisthesis Verlag, 1992. Print.

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. London: Bloomsbury, 1997. Print.

Senf, Carol. The Vampire in Nineteenth-Century English Literature. Bowling Green State UP, 1988. Print.

Stoker, Bram. Dracula. 1897. London: Penguin, 2007. Print.

Summers, Montague. The Vampire – His Kith and Kin. London: Kegan Paul, 1928. Print.

Twitchell, James. “The Vampire Myth”. Dracula. The Vampire and the Critics. Ed. Margaret L. Carter. Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1988. 109-16. Print.

----. The Living Dead – A Study of the Vampire in Romantic Literature. Durham, N.C.: Duke UP,1981. Print.

Wisker, Gina. “Love Bites: Contemporary Women’s Vampire Fictions.” A Companion to the Gothic. Ed. David Punter. Oxford: Blackwell, 2000. 167-79. Print.

 

Anne Klaus and Stefanie Krüger


Volume 15, Issue 1, The Looking Glass Jan/Feb 2011

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"Vampires Without Fangs: The Amalgamation of Genre in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga" ©Anne Klaus and Stefanire Kruugert, 2011.

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The Looking Glass: new perspectives on children's literature

ISBN 1551-5680