Friday, July 3, 2009

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:

Sacred Love versus [defeating] 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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