Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Year in: Vampires

Part VI

By the spring, things were getting out of hand. Vampires started showing up in my non-vampire reading, always bringing with them a whiff of foreign places—from Emily Brontë’s dark little visitor to the Earnshaws, to Walter Pater’s travels among the relics of the Italian Renaissance, to James Merrill’s account of a dinner party full of vaguely European guests. I took each new sighting as a sign that I was on the path of something grave and monstrous.

But it should have been clear that my thinking had become corrupted when vampires began to infiltrate texts that featured no vampires before I picked them up. I came across a copy of Derrida’s The Gift of Death, which I had been meaning to read ever since it was assigned to me in a college class years earlier, and got through the first ten pages or so. Here is an excerpt from my notes:

The movement to the Christian secret of responsibility, the self that responds, is not a full break with the pre-Christian demonic secret. Rather, it is a secret that rises on the back of the old mystery, “repressing what remains its foundation” (p. 7). The vampire is a demon who inverts this position, feeding on the subverted subject of Christian responsibility. Thus the vampire embodies that “infinite alterity” that “regards without being seen,” while at the same time distorting it. Divorced from the passage of time, he gains an exterior position to history, and feels no obligation to respond to the Other, who is trapped in history’s flow. Thus the vampire inverts his relation to the history of Christian responsibility and the pre-Christian demonic mystery, or rather inverts within himself the relationship between…

It continues in this vein for a frightening length.

[to be continued]

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