This page reflects a discontinued section from my lectures in the history of eroticism, and is thus an approach to vampires slanted particularly towards their function as an erotic symbol. Primary texts outlined below offer a guide to students who were approaching essays on this topic.


Nina Auerbach (1995) Our Vampires, Ourselves. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Fred Botting (1996). Chapter 7. “Gothic Returns in the 1890s”, the section on vampires. London: Routledge.

Italo Calvino (1982) “Definitions of Territories: Eroticism” in The Literature Machine. London: Secker and Warburg.

Angela Carter (1979) “Polemical Preface” to The Sadeian Woman: An Exercise in Cultural History. London: Virago.

Joan Gordon and Veronica Hollinger (1997) Blood Read: The Vampire as Metaphor in Contemporary Culture. Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press. Various articles on different vampire texts, many of them film/contemporary.

Rosemary Jackson (1981) Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion. London: Methuen. Especially chapters 2 and 4.

Talia Schaffer (1994) “A Wilde Desire Took Me: the homoerotic history of Dracula”, ELH 61(2), 381-425. On JSTOR.

Rhonda V. Wilcox (2002) “‘Every Night I Save You’: Buffy, Spike, Sex and Redemption.” Slayage 5 (2.1), May 2002. You may well find other interesting Buffy and Angel articles on Slayage, see here for the archive.


This is a fairly random selection of classic and recent vampire texts in literature and film, with particular reference to their use of the vampire symbol for erotic expression of one sort or another.

Gothic and Victorian texts

Bram Stoker, Dracula. Absolutely the novel of Victorian sexual repression, seduction and corruption. Stoker defined the image of the mesmerising aristocratic vampire; his corrupt and eroticised women are particularly interesting.

Polidori, “The Vampyre”; James Malcom Rymer, “Varney, the Vampyre”. Lesser-known accounts of the classic Victorian gentlemanly vampire.

Sheridan LeFanu, “Carmilla”. Lesbian undertones (or overtones) to this tale of an innocent girl seduced by a female aristocratic vampire. Now with added giant black cats and obvious anagrams.

Poetry: Keats, “La Belle Dame Sans Merci”. The seductress faerie woman who sucks the life from her hapless lovers. Big on imagery and atmosphere.

Coleridge, “Christabel.” Strange lady taken into aristocratic castle, seduces daughter of the house. Or not. Incomplete, fragmentary and very weird.

A useful collection, if you can find a copy, is Christopher Frayling’s Vampyres: Lord Byron to Count Dracula.

20th and 21st century texts

Poppy Z. Brite, Lost Souls. Pretty, lost, ambivalent goth-boys eat each other. Good on adolescent angst and eroticism; high on blood.

Angela Carter, “The Lady of the House of Love” from The Bloody Chamber. Feminist fairy-tale rewrite reimagining the Sleeping Beauty as a vampire figure. Luscious, textured, witty.

Suzy McKee Charnas, The Vampire Tapestry. Vampire as restrained, urbane anthropology professor. An interesting and influential reworking of the myth; in erotic terms, a powerful exploration of restraint.

Neil Gaiman, “Snow, Glass, Apples”. Short story with Snow White as vampire; explicitly erotic elements. (There’s an online version at

Charlaine Harris, the Sookie Stackhouse series (the True Blood TV series is based on these). Interesting in that the world allows vampires to exist openly, and renders their erotic charge completely explicit. Slightly more restrained and less corrupt than the series.

Tanith Lee, “Red as Blood”, the title story to her fairytale collection Red as Blood; Snow White re-written as a vampire femme fatale (what’s with the recurrence of this motif?). Dark, sexy and inverted.

Robin McKinley, Sunshine. Original and unusual semi-post-apocalyptic imagining of a world where vampires are taken for granted; the human/vampire relationship at the heart of the story has some interesting symbolic coding. Warning: heroine is a baker, this book will make you hungry.

Stephanie Meyer, the Twilight series. A ridiculously popular vampire series given that it’s really badly written, and that its gender politics are so problematical. Meyer uses the erotic content of the vampire myth mostly in negative, as part of her abstinence polemic.

Tim Powers, The Stress of Her Regard. Romantic poets, vampires and nephilim, with vampire as poetic muse. A brilliant book.

Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum. Very funny, very acute debunking of the vampire mythology, with lots of parody of its erotic elements.

Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat, et al. Pulp erotic horror. Somewhat overstated, but highly influential in the development of the vampire as sympathetic and attractive figure, and frequently very sexy.

Mercedes Lackey, Children of the Night. Wiccan investigator meets various vampires, psychic and classic. Notable in that the sexy French blood-sucking man is the good guy; on the other hand, the psychic vampires are truly nasty.

Scott Westerfeld, Parasite Positive (published in the US as Peeps). Vampirism as virus; this is intelligent, amusing and makes useful points about promiscuity which are probably a good thing in the context of its young-adult readership. Will also teach you more than you ever thought you wanted to know about parasitology.

Other sf/fantasy writers who play with vampire motifs include Storm Constantine, Brian Stableford, Dan Simmons, etc. See extensive bibliography in the back of Blood Read, cited above.

Film and TV

Again, a fairly random selection:

Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922). The classic silent/black and white vampire film, featuring the gnomish and taloned kind of vampire. Creepy.

Dracula (1931) with Bela Lugosi, the ultimate Dracula.

Herzog’s Nosferatu (1978). A remake of Murnau’s film, with Klaus Kinski; atmospheric and very sexually charged.

The Hunger (1982). A truly weird little movie, but then, David Bowie… Immortal vampire woman keeps immortal but aged zombie lovers in boxes in the attic. Notable for the explicit eroticisation of the blood as life symbolism, the total absence of fangs, and a very, very cool opening sequence featuring Bauhaus singing “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”. Hooray for goth in-jokes. Also interesting lesbian vampire scene, to music from “Lakme”.

Schumacher’s The Lost Boys (1987). Rock music and pretty vampire teen boys in leather. Kiefer Sutherland. Some fun play with the rock=sex=vampirism trope.

Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). A vivid visual realisation of Stoker’s novel, with emphasis on vampire both as seducer and as beast. The corruption of the female characters is particularly interesting.

Annie Lennox’s music video for “Love Song for a Vampire” (1992). The song was recorded for Coppola’s film, and uses interesting victim/vampire imagery mixed with images from the film.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), and the TV series (1997-2003), and the spin-off series Angel (1999-2004). Vampire as bumpy-featured back-alley rapist, mostly. More interesting are Buffy’s relationships with various vampires (Angel, Spike) for their symbolic figuration of the sex=transgression idea. The episode with Dracula (Season 3 opener, IIRC), also plays with seduction motifs.

Neil Jordan’s Interview with the Vampire (1994). Sumptuous and richly textured film based on Anne Rice’s rather schlocky novel; very strong play with vampirism as sexuality/seduction/obsession, though. A sensuous film.

Blade (1998). Black-clad techno vampires in serious body-armour. Vampire recouped both as hero, with big guns, and as suave corporate villain. A fascinating Oedipal scenario, but not much overt play with erotic motifs. I haven’t seen Blade II, or Trinity, but by all accounts they’re more of the same.

John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998). This movie has no truck with seduction – very violent and bloody film, with a male-bonding buddy-feel which creates some interesting homoerotic subtexts to the vampire slaying.

Ultraviolet (1998). The British TV series, not the terrible American film. An amazingly suspenseful, deliberate, atmospheric and intelligent take on vampires in a modern investigative setting, notable for the fact that it features neither fangs nor the word “vampire”.

Shadow of the Vampire (2000). Odd little film, built around the filming of Murneau’s Nosferatu: German impressionist director as psychic vampire? A strong thread of sexual obsession, however.

Dracula 2000 (2000). Wes Craven presents, but doesn’t direct. Not a bad little B-movie: intelligent and self-aware use of the vampire mythology, interestingly filmed, and with a great deal of focus on seduction, the erotic of the bite, and the obsessive intimacy of the vampire’s desire for the chosen female victim. Freaky, intense dream-sequences.

Underworld (2004, plus sequels). Vampires versus werewolves! The cultured and urbane vampires are contrasted with the bestial werewolves, but there are no good guys here. This was interesting for its notion of inhumanity as genetics (and therefore reproduction/sex), and a forbidden erotic relationship at the heart of the conflict.

Van Helsing (2004). Stoker’s hero as vigilante. Dreadful film – big, loud, glossy, badly plotted, mediocre special effects, and possibly the most horrifyingly toothy vampires in film history… (their jaws unhinge like snakes). I really like the dance sequence with the mirror, but there’s not a lot of seduction in this movie, it’s too loud.

True Blood, (2008-present). TV series. Vampires are Out, and everyone wants to have sex with them! Including, of course, being bitten. Interestingly explicit take on the eroticism subtext, rather a charged, corrupt Louisiana vibe.

Twilight (2009), and sequels: the glittery teen cinema version of the glittery teen books. Remarkably faithful to the books in that, teen frenzy over the stars notwithstanding, their treatment of the vampire as erotic symbol is mostly about denial of sexuality.

The Vampire Diaries (2010-present): extremely pretty vampire boys and girls do small-town angst. This is actually better than you might expect, and plays some fun games with the violence/eroticism poles, particularly in the character of Damon.

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