From Upyr' to Vampire: The Slavic Vampire Myth in Russian Literature

Download files
Access & Terms of Use
open access
Copyright: Townsend, Dorian Aleksandra
The Slavic vampire myth traces back to pre-Orthodox folk belief, serving both as an explanation of death and as the physical embodiment of the tragedies exacted on the community. The symbol’s broad ability to personify tragic events created a versatile system of imagery that transcended its folkloric derivations into the realm of Russian literature, becoming a constant literary device from eighteenth century to post-Soviet fiction. The vampire’s literary usage arose during and after the reign of Catherine the Great and continued into each politically turbulent time that followed. The authors examined in this thesis, Afanasiev, Gogol, Bulgakov, and Lukyanenko, each depicted the issues and internal turmoil experienced in Russia during their respective times. By employing the common mythos of the vampire, the issues suggested within the literature are presented indirectly to the readers giving literary life to pressing societal dilemmas. The purpose of this thesis is to ascertain the vampire’s function within Russian literary societal criticism by first identifying the shifts in imagery in the selected Russian vampiric works, then examining how the shifts relate to the societal changes of the different time periods. The four authors were chosen to represent four distinct periods that proceed from one another to illustrate the continued relevance of this symbolism to literary societal commentary. In order to do this, this thesis employs the methods of Greenblatt and Berdyaev, developing a means of studying the vampiric works through a societal dialectic. Each author is examined, utilizing Greenblatt’s theoretical principle of an “intelligible network of signs.” By concentrating on the “minor feature” of the vampire myth in these works, the “singular, specific, and individual” of the vampiric symbolism within each work reveals a cultural matrix, exposing the mythological, religious, political, philosophical, and societal connotations of the vampire, both in its depictive qualities and in its transitioning role within the works. In order to comprehend the cultural matrix of the network of signs, Berdyaev’s Dostoevskian dialectic was employed as a template, adapting the structure from Berdyaev’s dialectic of theological ideas to a societal dialectic. The originality of this thesis lies in its exposure of the vampire myth as a persistent form of societal symbolism in Russian literature and its discovery of the dialectical nature of the vampire myth. This thesis hopes to serve as a model for future studies of folkloric symbolism in Russian literature.
Persistent link to this record
Link to Publisher Version
Link to Open Access Version
Additional Link
Townsend, Dorian Aleksandra
Fortescue, Stephen
Conference Proceedings Editor(s)
Other Contributor(s)
Corporate/Industry Contributor(s)
Publication Year
Resource Type
Degree Type
PhD Doctorate
download whole.pdf 1.66 MB Adobe Portable Document Format
Related dataset(s)