The Vampire: Reflections upon Seeing “Let the Right One In”

A quintessentially modern myth — despite its apparent antiquity.

The vampire represents a seductive atavism [atavus L forefather]: history (of a particularly timeless kind: the ancient), blood (but without rootedness — or a parody of it, e.g., sleeping in shallow native soil), desire (but without procreation, or as co-dependent, or as parasitic), etc. Powers old and new (or ancient, but strangely modern): familiars, telepathy, flight, powers of transformation, fascination and regeneration . . .

It is modern, then, in its location of such seductive attributes in the past: the exotic past, i.e. the past as another country (where they do things differently [L. P. Hartley, The Go-Between 1]), another version of the dualism of Ricoeur’s hermeneuticists of suspicion: Marx, Nietzsche and Freud; the weighty past (that reveals that we have never been modern [Bruno Latour]), i.e. the tropes of historicism, diachronic and synchronic: evolution, historism and contextualism, coincidence and correspondence.

It is a Taijitu yin yang — or yang-yin — thing: out of the wuji (the empty circle of timeless quiescence) comes the essential modern fiction — the simple dialectic of dark and light, old and new, self and other (see “Wuji to Wanwu“).

Baglione’s Eros and Anteros is emblematic of this dialectic:


Anteros, amor virtutis, alium Cupidinem superans [Sacred Love versus Profane Love], Giovanni Baglione (1602–1603), a.k.a. Eros and Anteros.

Genevieve Warwick reads it according to Alciati’s emblem:

Nemesis, who vanquishes all, painted the winged enemy of winged Love, bow against bow, and fire against fire, that he might suffer what he made others suffer; and this once-bold boy, still carrying his arrows, now cries in misery. Three times he spits, and in the deep of his bosom (what a wonder!) fire is burned by fire. Love consumes the mad passions of Love. (Alciati, “Anteros, amor virtutis, alium Cupidinem superans” [emblem 72], Emblemata [1984, 250]—from the Greek Anthology, quoted in Genevieve Warwick, Caravaggio: Realism, Rebellion, Reception [U Delaware P, 2006] 62)

I prefer to think that here we see modernity — young Hermes armed and winged — with Eros and Anteros at his feet. He feigns to strike at Eros, while Anteros hides behind his legs. He is Freud psukhopompos or Nietzsche kunikos.

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