Stories Bathed in Blood: Báthory Erzsábeth, Carmilla, and the Conflict Between the European East and West

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Virág Varga Sunnie Rucker-Chang


By Virág Varga, German Studies, Anthropology, Archaeology (Social Complexity), Biological Sciences

Advisor: Sunnie Rucker-Chang

Presentation ID: Room 425_2

Abstract: The literary vampires of 19th Century Western Europe represented perceived threats to Western civilization, embodying themes of female sexuality and the increasing influence of Eastern Europe on the global stage. As vampires of this literary era generally succumbed to the forces of righteousness at the conclusions to their stories, they provided an avenue through which these perceived threats could be defeated in a physical sense. One of the most influential works from this tradition is Sheridan Lefanu's Carmilla (1872). Following Graham (2016), I interpret Carmilla as an adaptation of the myth of the Blood Countess B�thory Erzs�beth. A powerful Hungarian noblewoman who lived in the late 1500's, B�thory was accused and imprisoned on charges of vampirism. However, Lefanu presents the titular Carmilla as Austrian, not Hungarian. Here, I interpret the depiction of a Hungarian figure as Austrian as both an erasure of Hungarian identity, as well as a deliberate association of Austria with the dangerous East during a time of steadily rising tensions between France and the German-speaking world. In this way, Lefanu's Carmilla partakes in a longstanding tradition demarcating the cultural boundaries between East and West in Europe, and in so doing, erases Hungary from both of these contexts.


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Podium Presentation -- Room 425 -- Taft Award Recipients