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The Supernatural: A Complete History

3. Early Vampires

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the figure of the vampire in English literature, focusing in particular on the various vampire-like figures in Classical, Norse, and Judaeo-Christian mythology, the scientific interest in vampires and vampirism in the late 17th century, and the classic treatments of the Romantic poets, Mary Shelley, and John Polidori in the early 19th century.

Reading List:
– Robert Southey, Thalaba the Destroyer (1801)
– Lord Byron, 'The Giaour' (1813)
– Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 'Christabel' (1816)
– Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818)
– John Keats, 'La Belle Dame sans Merci' (1819)
– John William Polidori, The Vampyre (1819)
– John Keats, 'Lamia' (1820)


In this course, Professor Nick Groom (University of Exeter) explores the history of the supernatural in English and American literature. The course begins by thinking about two of the key sources of supernatural literature, looking in the first module at the popular ballad tradition in Renaissance England, and in the second at the genre of Revenge Tragedy that flourished on the English stage in the late 16th and early 17th century. In the third and fourth modules, we turn to the figure of the vampire, looking first at the earliest vampires in Classical and Judaeo-Christian mythology, before turning in the fourth module to the vampire in Victorian England – culminating with Bram Stoker's Dracula at the end of the 19th century. After that, in the fifth and sixth modules, we think about the experience of the uncanny, first in general terms and then in relation to Oscar Wilde's 1890 novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. In the seventh module, we think about the presentation of ghosts in English literature, before moving on in the eighth and final module to think about how supernatural literature developed in America – and looking in particular at Toni Morrison's 1987 novel, Beloved.


Nick Groom is Professor of English Literature at the University of Exeter, a critically acclaimed author on subjects ranging from the history of the Union Jack to Thomas Chatterton, has edited several books and regularly appears on television, radio and at literary festivals as an authority on English Literature, the ‘Gothic’ and ‘British’ identity.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Groom, N. (2018, August 15). The Supernatural: A Complete History - Early Vampires [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Groom, N. "The Supernatural: A Complete History – Early Vampires." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,