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The new­-old vampire. The horrible and the Nachzehrer [Undead] figure in “Vampirismus” by E. T. A. Hoffmann

  • Cieśliński, Szymon
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2014
Repozytorium Uniwersytetu Łódzkiego (University of Lodz Repository)


E. T. A. Hoffmann is one of the most famous representatives of early German horror literature. He has been both, inspired by its predecessors, as well as having influenced the work of many of his successors, and hence the development of the whole genre. The present article examines a story by E. T. A. Hoffmann, “Vampirismus” from the collection of short stories “Serapions Brüder” (1819–1821). Emphases are, on the one hand, on the mechanisms that cause readers’ fear and uncertainty and, on the other hand, the peculiarity of the vampire or Nachzehrer figure and their function in the story. Firstly, it will be shown that the vampire depicted in the work is not actually a vampire. We find here a ghoul; that is a demon from Arab culture. However, the ghoul has more to do with the monster outlined by Antoine Galland in his translation of the “One Thousand and One Nights” than with traditional folk beliefs. Secondly, the author comes to the conclusion that Hoffmann has functionalized the Horrible. This element does not work by itself, but serves the author as the background of the action. And he is using this background to let the characters reveal all their weaknesses and dark sides. The violation of the order ruling in the world as it is represented engages the reader and at the same time raises his fear. The resulting excited feelings and general alienation are further reinforced for the figure of the Nachzehrer that occurs instead of a formerly innocent, graceful girl. The emergence of the supernatural – the final confirmation of the breach of order – is responsible for the effect just described.

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