This post was written by Dara.
As Eloise’s teaching partner points out in the prologue, Vampire fiction (intersections between fact and fiction aside) has been around long before the current fixation, or even Stoker’s Dracula, which most of us think of as the first of vampire fiction.
The vampire craze started in the 17th century with the vampire craze of the 1720s and 30s (which included the official exhumation of suspected vampires in Serbia). The first literary work on the subject is the short German poem The Vampire written in 1748, followed by several longer poems by German authors. The first vampires in English literature appeared in the later 1700s, most notably Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic poem Christabel, written after 1797 but not published until 1816, (I had to read this in undergrad-it is quite a read!) and Joseph Sherridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla (1876), which is markedly similar to Christabel.
Miss Gwen’s fictional Convent of Orsino, published in 1806, would have fit in here, beating the true first vampire novel by a good 13 years.
Most scholars attribute the real beginning of vampire novels to The Vampyre (written in 1819 by Polidori), in which Lord Byron is the model for the undead protagonist. The novel began as part of a ghost story competition designed to pass the time on a holiday at Lake Geneva with Polidori, Lord Byron, Percy Shelley and Mary Shelley. (Mary Shelley’s Frankenstien came out of this competitions as well.) There were several other little know novels and poems, most of which were adaptations of previous works to follow, and many appearances of vampires in the popular “penny dreadfuls” of the time, but the next great work is Stoker’s Dracula, which is usually seen as the definitive description of the vampire in popular fiction moving forward. Stoker portrays vampirism as a contagious disease, rather than a supernatural power as in previous works, and this categorization has stayed with the genre into modern works.
In the 1900s, cinema ushered vampires into the science fiction genre in addition to the gothic horror novels and plays of the past. Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend (1954) ushered in the depiction of vampires as creature of horror (rather than the gothic heroes romanticized in Dracula and the like). In 1975, Stephen King and Anne Rice bring vampires back into the literary eye with Salem’s Lot and the Vampire Chronicles, and the genre has been popular ever since.
An interesting side note to this topic is that Dark Shadows, the definitive vampire TV show of the 80s, was the impetus for Lauren deciding to end the Pink Carnation series. You can check out how the two connect in her interview on Romance University.