Dr. Sam Hirst | Tor.com
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Dr. Sam Hirst

Bedfellows of the Worm: The Early History of Female Vampires

The vampire has a long history, cropping up in various forms over the course of millennia in many cultures across the world from the Philippine Manananggal to the Ukrainian Upir. This article though isn’t attempting to map all these manifestations. Rather, it’s looking at literary vampires—deliberately fictional constructs who prowl the pages of their novels with bloodthirsty aplomb and arose in British and German traditions in the eighteenth century and early nineteenth centuries. Contrary to all too popular belief, they weren’t all brooding white dudes of the straight and faintly aristocratic variety. Many of the first Gothic vampires were women. Allow me to introduce you.

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More Thrilling than Fiction: The Real Life Heroines of the Early Gothic

If you think of early Gothic women writers, your mind probably leaps to Mary Shelley. She does tend to get all of the attention: her own books, her own films, cameos in Doctor Who… you can’t help but be happy that a woman writer is getting the attention she deserves.

It’s clear why Mary Shelley’s become a Gothic pinup. You don’t get much more Goth than sex on your mother’s grave and keeping your husband’s heart in a drawer. And that’s not to mention the fact that she came up with one of the most famous Gothic novels of all time. It doesn’t hurt that she did it in a ghost story competition with Lord Byron and Percy Shelley where she showed them exactly where they could stick their monstrous egos.

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