Date of Graduation

5-2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (MA)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

English

Advisor

Robin A. Roberts

Committee Member

Lissette Szwydky

Second Committee Member

Robert Cochran

Keywords

Language, literature and linguistics; Social sciences; Adaptations; Gender roles; Gothic literature; Bram Stoker

Abstract

Vampire women play a culturally significant role in films and literature by revealing the extent to which deviation from Socially accepted behavior is tolerated. In this thesis, I compare the vampire women of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla to their depictions in recent adaptations. In Stoker’s Dracula, the vampire sisters are representative of the shortcomings of 19th century gender roles, especially in regard to women’s communities. In recent adaptations, the vampire sisters’ revealing clothing, promiscuity, and lack of characterization are still closely connected with villainy, and as in Stoker’s novel, the women’s violent deaths in the films are treated as punishment for their defiance of gender codes. Carmilla is more sympathetic than the vampire sisters, both in Le Fanu’s original text and in recent adaptations. In Le Fanu’s text, Carmilla is the primary antagonist, but she remains an attractive figure. Carmilla is even more humanized in recent adaptations, occasionally even being transformed into a heroic figure, while the role of the antagonist is taken on by figures who represent patriarchal control. Despite her more sympathetic characterization, Carmilla dies as brutal a death as Dracula’s vampire sisters in nearly every adaptation. Ultimately, the treatment of the vampire women in these adaptations reveals that our own culture is still largely guided by biases against women, especially lesbians, in filmmakers’ treatment of villainous and heroic women alike.

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