[Lindsay Dearinger received her M.A. in English in 2011 and is currently an Adjunct Instructor at the
. Her research interests include
Anglo-Jewish authors of the nineteenth century, as well as representations of
vampires and animals in literature. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in English.] University of Central
“Great Scott! Is this a game?”
In most vampire narratives, vampires must engage in play to distract, divert, or mislead humans for the purposes of self-preservation. Vampire stories also incorporate play as it relates to games and rules. Vampires and humans alike must play by sets of rules, and the rules depend upon the game being played. To analyze the use of play in vampire narratives, I look to the earliest English language vampire-as-genre stories: Varney the Vampire; or, the Feast of Blood, the prototype for vampire stories since its appearance in the 1840s, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, perhaps the most famous vampire narrative. Relying on Derrida’s conceptualization of play, this essay examines play as it relates to the structure of the texts and the characters’ relationships to the rules of the vampire game in order to determine subversion of the “serious vampire” archetype.
Derrida’s Concept of Play and Decentralization
My analysis of play in Dracula and Varney requires an explication of Derrida’s notion of play and the decentralization of conceptuality. In “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences,” Derrida relates the history of the concept of structure; he considers structure in terms of before and after a rupture, or the interruption of classical thought with the onset of structuralism. Derrida explains that, before the rupture, structure has been “neutralized or reduced, and this by a process of giving it a center or of referring it to a point of presence, a fixed origin” (278). The center, which “grounds” the structure, limits play.