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

Slavic Female Vampires as Sexual Avengers

Tatjana Aleksic, University of Michigan

I explore the  figure of the Slavic female vampire/succuba through a psychoanalytical reading that traces its origins in the primeval fear and tabooization of female sexuality. I read  She-Butterfly (1974) and The Sacred Place, by the Serbian director Djordje Kadijević, and the Russian film Viy (1967), made after Nikolai Gogol. The films interrogate the problematic image of the female seductress, and pose important questions about gender relations, masculinity and social order.

Proposal: 

Popular culture has provided a translation of the vampiric figure into an extremely productive metaphor: the vampire has been interpreted as a predatory figure, symbolic of capitalism, colonialism, or any given relationship of economic or historical exploitation and draining of human potential and resources. More recent, not infrequently campy iterations have seen the vampire turn gallant, sexy, or in line with the politically correct idiom, signify the discriminated underdog (True Blood), that no longer terrorizes the majority of the population, but is in fact its persecuted victim.

However, long before the fascination with vampires current in contemporary popular culture, Serbian and other Slavic cultures had recorded many close encounters with undead creatures, some of which resemble and have definitely inspired and informed the figure of the modern vampire. In this presentation I will discuss sexual vampirism in the ancient Slavic figure of the female witch that seduces and «tortures» men at night, as explored in three films: She-Butterfly (1974) and The Sacred Place, both by the Serbian director Djordje Kadijević, and the Russian film Viy (1967), made after Nikolai Gogol's eponymous story. Based on the figure of the female seductress, monster or succuba, the witch in all three texts operates as a seductress-avenger, whose attacks against men at night raise the question of sexual violence sanctified by religion and marriage, as well as a quintessential issue of familial and social injustice against women. I explore this female vampiric figure through a psychoanalytical reading that traces its origins in the primeval fear and tabooization of female sexuality. My claim is that the film directors ultimately interrogate and overturn the widely accepted problematic image and pose important questions about gender relations, masculinity and social order. 

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