Smarty Pants Podcast

Bite Club

Why the 17th-century vampire still haunts us today

By Stephanie Bastek | October 22, 2021
Alvaro Tapia/Flickr
Alvaro Tapia/Flickr

You may have heard of them before: those pale creatures with suspiciously sharp canines that sleep in coffins during the day, hunt people at night, and occasionally transform into bats. Stories of bloodsucking monsters have haunted humanity for hundreds, even thousands of years—but the modern vampire was arguably born when Enlightenment rationality met Eastern European folklore. That’s Nick Groom’s argument: he’s known as the Prof of Goth, and he makes the case that vampires rose from the grave at the same time that philosophy, theology, forensic medicine, and literature were beginning to question what it meant to be human. Why have vampires lingered in the imagination for hundreds of years? Nick Groom joins us on the podcast to open some coffins for answers. This episode originally aired in 2018.

Go beyond the episode:

  • Nick Groom’s The Vampire: A New History
  • The London Library reported that it located some of the dog-eared books Bram Stoker used during the seven years he researched Dracula
  • Watch the trailer for The Hunger (1983), in which David Bowie and Susan Sarandon both suffer the love of an immortal vampire
  • We are also fond of Only Lovers Left Alive (2014), in which a glamorous Tilda Swinton and a depressed Tom Hiddleston puzzle out their place in modern society
  • Here’s a montage of all the bite scenes from Christopher Lee’s classic turn in Dracula (1958)
  • And, of course, there’s always Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1996–2003), which inspired Slayage, a peer-reviewed journal from the Whedon Studies Association

Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.

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