Austen fans get their fangs into vampire romance

The popularity of Jane Austen will never die – a trait that has Flinders University literature academic Associate Professor Eric Parisot noting Austen’s appeal among a new generation of readers to include 21st century vampire fans.

Associate Professor Parisot, Associate Professor in English at Flinders University, has released a new book – Jane Austen and Vampires: Love, Sex and Immortality in the New Millennium – that considers 19th century author Jane Austen’s relation to the Gothic genre and investigates the literary convergence of Jane Austen and vampires in Austen fan fiction.

“It’s a curious crossover, and I’ve been interested in analysing how the emergence of the new vampire fascination in fiction is facilitating this literary convergence with fans of Jane Austen,” says Associate Professor Parisot.

Hiss book asks how the shifting cultural values of Austen and the vampire have aligned, and what their connection might mean for their respective contemporary legacies.

He notes that in addition to recent period dramas that have rekindled widespread popularity of Austen’s work – from Autumn de Wilde’s Emma (2020), to the BBC’s Sanditon (2020-) and Netflix’s adaptation of Persuasion (2022) – there is also the runaway success of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight (2005) and Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009).

“It means that two of the largest literary cults of the new millennium have merged: the cults of Austen and the vampire,” says Associate Professor Parisot.

Fanfic adaptations of Austen’s novels as vampire romance and adventure have abounded in the past decade. Novels such as Wayne Josephson’s Emma and the Vampires reimagine Austen’s heroines as vampire slayers, violently navigating their way through the pitfalls of courtship and the monsters – of both the human and supernatural variety – they encounter along the way. Others have more erotic leanings, giving Mr Darcy’s a perfect alibi for his smug haughtiness – casting him as a vampire.

“The deep-seated literary roots of the vampire as a sexual fiend, struggling against cultural erasure, evidently cannot be erased entirely. Here, it remains a threat to the fantasy of idyllic endless love.”

Through his examination of this literature, Associate Professor Parisot also makes a case for attentive reading of “low brow” fiction written by Austen fans. He says this provides meaningful insight from Austen fans about their tensions and anxieties surrounding contemporary notions of love, sex, femininity and the value of Austen’s modern currency.

“With these modern books offering close readings of Austen’s vampire-slaying heroines, vampiric retellings of Pride and Prejudice, and even the transformation of Austen herself into a vampire, my analysis reveals the Austen-vampire mashups as messy, complex entanglements that creatively and self-reflexively interrogate modern fantasies of vampire romance,” says Associate Professor Parisot.

“It’s a trend being driven by fans. Fan fiction adaptations of Austen’s novels as vampire adventure and romance have abounded in the past decade. And as fun, playful, and downright silly some of them might be, they do strike upon some important truths about Austen’s fiction and legacy.

“By its unique intersection of Jane Austen with the vampire, the Gothic, fan culture and popular romance, my Jane Austen and Vampires book adds a new chapter to the history of Austen’s reception, for fans, students and scholars alike.”

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