Reshaping the archetype : mythmaking and matriarchy in Anne Rice's Vampire chronicles

Hobbs, Michelle (1996) Reshaping the archetype : mythmaking and matriarchy in Anne Rice's Vampire chronicles. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

Since its birth in the nineteenth century, the vampire has been a prominent figure in English prose literature. John Polidori, J. Sheridan Le Fanu, and Bram Stoker adapted and reshaped the creature of legend into the archetypal character we see today in popular literature and films. These authors began a literary tradition through which the vampire became far more than the mindless, animated corpse of folklore. It served as a symbol of evil, predation, aberrant sexuality, and abusive power - a corruptive force which parasitically drains the innocent victim of life and soul, and which, consequently, must be destroyed by human society. -- The twentieth century has seen a resurgence of interest in the classic monster. In particular, in The Vampire Chronicles, Anne Rice has adopted and transformed the nineteenth century fiend into a "vehicle for introspective examination of the human condition" (Skrip 3). Even though Rice creates a new vampire mythology, it is nonetheless rooted in the tradition established in the nineteenth century. She rejects many of the traditions, and reforms the cold-hearted killer into a sympathetic character with a conscience. Rice's vampires explore complex issues such as the nature of morality, the need for community, the aesthetic principle, and the equality of the sexes. -- In the first three novels of The Vampire Chronicles, namely Interview With the Vampire (1976), The Vampire Lestat (1985), and The Queen of the Damned (1988), Rice explores the vampire's quest for knowledge and identity. The result is the progressive development of a mythology of vampirism in which oppositions are blurred. The concepts of good and evil, male and female, heterosexual and homosexual, vampire and god, death and life, become malleable, reflecting her vision of a society in which ethical behaviour depends upon replacing the patriarchal and religious absolutism of the nineteenth century with relativism. -- While nineteenth century literature presented a vehicle for asserting patriarchal standards of social behaviour, depicting women as subservient, self-sacrificing victims or sexual deviants, Rice liberates women from restrictive, male-imposed roles. Commencing her mythology in Interview With the Vampire, Rice assaults traditional views of women as infantilized objects of exchange between men. She reacts against nineteenth century patriarchal and religious absolutism and creates instead strong female and male characters who struggle against the established ideologies. The mythology becomes more intricate and matrilineal as the series progresses, and in The Queen of the Damned, Rice realizes her vision of gender equity by reconstructing vampirism as a matriarchy. Patriarchal structures deemed effective by nineteenth century writers because they restore order by suppressing the monstrous female become defective structures in Interview With the Vampire because they create the monstrous female by repressing her. Finally, these structures are subsumed by matriarchal structures in The Queen of the Damned by liberating the feminine. Rice constructs an ethical system which encourages individuals to search for the goodness within rather than relying upon gender divisions or abstract ideologies, be they social, political, or religious.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/5453
Item ID: 5453
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves [112]-114.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > English Language and Literature
Date: 1996
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Rice, Anne, 1941---Vampire chronicles; Vampires in literature

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