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Vampire Defanged, The: How the Embodiment of Evil Became a Romantic Hero Paperback – April 1, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

It's indisputable that vampires are au courant in America, but according to Clements, an associate professor at Regent University, they ain't what they used to be. In this astute survey, she argues that Christian theology, once essential to understanding the vampire, has been lost through decades of change in vampire characterization, effectively de-fanging the vampire of meaningful theological bite. Clements begins with the iconic monster Dracula, a repulsive creature who represented the power of sin and evil in the Christian metanarrative. Moving through such subsequent incarnations as the vampires of Anne Rice, Joss Whedon (in Buffy and Angel), and Charlaine Harris (the Sookie Stackhouse mysteries on which True Blood is based), Clements chronicles a gradual secularization and social acceptance of vampires. By the time Stephenie Meyer stops hearts with Edward Cullen, the vampire is no longer a grotesque cautionary tale of humanity gone wrong but the apotheosis of humanity, a beautiful angel who stands above humankind. Clements writes well and persuasively as she argues that "vampires are more than just monsters to us," demonstrating that now, as ever, the vampire represents our darkest anxieties and most ardent desires. (Mar.)
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From the Back Cover

The Vampire Myth from Dracula to the Twilight Saga

Vampires first entered the pop culture arena with Bram Stoker's 1897 novel, Dracula. Today, vampires are everywhere. From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to the Twilight Saga to HBO's True Blood series, pop culture can't get enough of the vampire phenomenon.

Bringing her literary expertise to this timely subject, Susannah Clements reveals the roots of the vampire myth and shows how it was originally immersed in Christian values and symbolism. Over time, however, vampires have been "defanged" as their spiritual significance has waned, and what was once the embodiment of evil has turned into a teen idol and the ultimate romantic hero. Clements offers a close reading of selected vampire texts, explaining how this transformation occurred and discerning between the variety of vampire stories presented in movies, TV shows, and novels. Her probing engagement of the vampire metaphor helps readers make Christian sense of this popular obsession.

"This book is so entertaining that you might almost miss how good the theology is. Give this book to anyone you know who loves vampire stories. They will not only thank you but they will also find spiritual depths they never knew existed."--Stephen H. Webb, professor of religion and philosophy, Wabash College

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Brazos Press (April 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587432897
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587432897
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #123,806 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Kevin L. Nenstiel TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 3, 2011
Format: Paperback
Susannah Clements attributes vampires' recent domestication to a diminishment of sin and atonement as themes in Anglo-American culture. Not that we've lost our sense of right and wrong, she says, but that we now attribute ethics to different sources, or sometimes to none at all. And she believes re-introducing Christian metaphysics to literature could restore vampires' prior dignity and terror, and literary culture's role as social conscience.

Clements' explicitly Christian literary approach considers vampires, not through hip lenses of sex or sociology, but instead as expressions of public ethics and virtue. This outlook is clearly slanted and partial, as you'd expect, but it also traces an arc: as society has become more secular, vampires have become tame. This rare but necessary angle on myth opens up avenues of discourse that have gone untrodden recently.

Though Clements considers several different vampire stories, she focuses mainly on just five. Starting with Bram Stoker's rigid pietism, she progresses onto Anne Rice's more inquisitive, intellectually ambitions vampire treatment; the Buffyverse's moral equivalency; Sookie Stackhouse's compartmentalized humanism; and Stephanie Meyer's moral vacuity. Her approach is tough, and sometimes strident, but consistently insightful.

And, despite her Christianity, Clements doesn't play favorites. Though she clearly sees something admirable in Stoker's piety, she actually appears warmest toward Anne Rice. Though her Lestat and other vampires flirt with sacrilege, Clements seems to admire their willingness to ask questions, even if their answers are sometimes contradictory. Clements' conservative, socially engaged theology never overpowers her resolute literary aims.

This book isn't for everyone.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Matt McHugh on August 5, 2011
Format: Paperback
In this book, Susannah Clements traces the evolution of the vampire in popular culture by focusing on five particular incarnations: Stoker's original novel, the works of Anne Rice, TV's 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer', Charlaine Harris' books and the 'True Blood' series derived from them, and Stephanie Meyer's 'Twilight' saga. While those are reasonable pulse points for considering modern vampire fiction, it represents a fairly narrow slice of vampire mythology as a whole, something I found unsatisfying from time to time. Still, that focus allows Clements to delve deeply into each of her chosen topics, making this book especially enjoyable for fans, or detractors, of those five versions of vampire lore.

The central thesis -- and that word doubly applies as Ms. Clements' tone is decidedly academic -- of the book is that the progression of the vampire from evil creature to romantic hero coincides with its secularization. Stoker's Dracula is a demon countered only by the overt weapons of Christianity. Meyer's Edward Cullen is an angelic teen-dream with a vaguely naughty desire to drink blood. Certainly anybody might look at those poles and wonder what the hell happened over a century. Clements convincingly argues that the gradual removal of religion from vampire stories facilitated that change, and in that I think she's spot on. While Ms. Clements finds elements to appreciate in some of her subjects (she's obviously a huge Buffy geek... Twilight, not so much), mostly she laments the erosion of the Christian worldview from vampire stories. Therein you have the agenda of the book that, depending on your worldview, you will find either refreshing or intrusive.

As a point of disclosure, Ms.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By John W. Morehead on July 24, 2011
Format: Paperback
When I first heard that Brazos Press, an evangelical publisher, had produced a volume looking at vampires in literature and film, I was very skeptical. Evangelicals have been less than receptive to this phenomenon, tending to lump vampires in with "occultism" and evil, rather than as pop culture figures for social and theological reflection. Thankfully, I discovered my fears were ill founded after reading The Vampire Defanged: How the Embodiment of Evil Became a Romantic Hero (Brazos Press, 2011) by Susannah Clements. Clements has written a volume that provides a sound analysis of the fictional vampire from a Christian spiritual perspective, and in ways that should be helpful not only to Christians, but to others who want to understand facts of the vampire tradition that have waned with the rise of secularism and late modernity/postmodernity.

The Vampire Defanged approaches the fictional vampire with an eye toward recapturing the creature as an object of theological reflection. With this perspective in mind, Clements looks at various depictions of the vampire over the course of history, and documents how the Christian tradition has been influential in shaping the theological elements of the vampire, and how this has changed as the vampire developed in changing cultural contexts. Clemens begins her analysis with a look at Bram Stoker's Dracula, and then moves to the work of Anne Rice, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sookie Stackhouse of Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire Mysteries, and Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series. Along the way Clements notes a shift from a vampire mythology with strong roots in the Christian tradition and theological explorations or implications, to more contemporary postmodern depictions with interests in guilt, existential angst, sex, and romance.
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