The vampire Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu inherited was not the folk figure that Coleridge might have known. By the time Le Fanu had begun work on Carmilla, the vampire had become recognised by the literary world.
As one of the most popular and recognisable monsters in European and American media, vampires have a unique cultural significance. In Our Vampires, Ourselves, Nina Auerbach argues that vampires are especially compelling because of their versatility, which allows them to “shape themselves to personal and national moods”; because of this adaptability, she says, their “appeal is dramatically generational” (5).
Mary Shelley conceived her creature at the height of the literary and philosophical period called Romanticism. The forces that marked this period were the many changes that were being carried out, such as political (French and American revolutions), economic (from rural to urban economy and the beginnings of the industrial revolution), scientific (discoveries in medicine, neurology, electricity, and chemistry), and social (growing importance of education of the masses).
One of the developments in the representation of witchcraft at the end of the twentieth-century is that the portrayal of witch-hunters moves from approbation to repulsion. In part, this was due to wider cultural movements: a concern for social, gendered and racial justice, and distaste for arbitrary authority.
In an earlier article, we followed the progress of opinion from James I to the Restoration. We saw that in the course of little more than a half-century the centre of the controversy had been considerably shifted: we noted that there was a growing body of intelligent men who discredited the stories of witchcraft and were even inclined to laugh at them.