115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Irish Feminist Vampires of Neil Jordan's Byzantium

James R. Aubrey, Metropolitan State University of Denver

Director Neil Jordan's 2013 film Byzantium is a narrative about a mother-daughter vampire family engaged in a centuries-long struggle against an all-male "Brotherhood" of male vampires.  Although the story is set primarily in England, various kinds of cultural evidence in the film make it an Irish feminist statement.    


Neil Jordan's 2013 film Byzantium is an unconventional, neo-vampire movie.  As the narrative unfolds, the mother-daughter protagonists are revealed to be struggling not to be eliminated as the only female vampires by an otherwise exclusively male vampire "Brotherhood" that has existed since the crusades.  Although most of the story takes place in England, the vampires originate in southwest Ireland, recognizable in film locations and from historical allusions, religious language, Gaelic speech acts, traditional Irish songs, imagery from Celtic mythology, and a title that invokes a relevant Yeats poem.  Such references to Irish culture elevate the story from its source material, a British play about a young adult who thinks she is a vampire, to a quasi-mythic narrative of female empowerment by Ireland's pre-eminent film director.     

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