Phantasmagoria Research–Why Polidori?

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    • #22225 Reply

      Hi. This is a question that I think Roberta would be best able to answer, although I really would like to hear anyone’s thoughts.

      I’m a master’s student in English Literature, and for my master’s thesis I’m looking at the way the dual plot of Phantasmagoria draws on both 20th century and 19th century themes and motifs. I decided to do this research after doing some work in my undergrad on King’s Quest, where I examined the representation of women, and I had so much fun doing literary-style analysis of games that I intend to found my career as a scholar on this challenging and largely untapped field.

      So the question that’s been keeping me up nights and driving me to the library is this: Why Polidori? Adrienne finds a book in the tower room that was a gift from Carno to Malcolm; it’s “The Vampyre” by John Polidori. It’s such an obscure story that I wouldn’t have believed it was real if I hadn’t just read it for a class a few months before playing the game. I see the inclusion of this book as an invitation to engage in deeper analysis of the game–after all, its function in the plot could have been served by pretty much anything, so there must be a reason beyond basic gameplay to make this book such a key object. I have several hypotheses, but although all of them lead to fruitful analysis of the game, not one of them explains why the book has to be Polidori’s story and not something else.

      So…why specifically Polidori’s “The Vampyre”?

      I really appreciate any answers. Thanks!

    • #22226 Reply

      Good question.  After reading your post, I went to Amazon and looked up the book The Vampyre by Polidori.  I used the “Look Inside” feature to peruse and on page 11 of the book I found a reference to a “German work” titled Phantasmagoriana.

      According to these articles:
      Phantasmagoriana, inspired Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, and Polidori to write their own horror tales.  Shelley created Frankenstein and Polidori created The Vampyre.  So is the signficance in the reference/name?  The fact that a German horror tale title Phantasmagoriana was the inspiration for 2 of the most recognizable stories in all of horror history?

      I would love to be able to find a translated copy of Phantasmagoriana somewhere.  I cannot find anything using Google though.

    • #22227 Reply

      Ah, so you found the Fantasmagoriana too? Yes, I came across that two days ago in an article I was reading about Polidori (“Dr. Polidori and the Genesis of Frankenstein” by James Rieger). Rieger suggests that there is only one extant copy of this book in the US, and that in the Library of Congress. Rieger says that Fantasmagoriana is “described by the only scholar who claims to have read it as ‘a poor sort of book'” (466).

      And this is a exciting connection, too–but, then, if this were the whole story, why Polidori and not Mary Shelley, who is the one who gives the account of Fantasmagoriana? After all, Frankenstein is a much better known book, and also has themes that resonate with the game (as well as an interesting layered narrative structure, as Phantasmagoria has in a different way). My strongest hypothesis so far centers on the relationship between the Byronic Lord Ruthven and Aubrey (who is generally taken to represent Polidori). I suspect that the presence of this book means we’re to read Carno as a Byronic figure, parallel to Ruthven, but this hypothesis needs a lot of refinement still.

      These are interesting articles you found; they present a very different perspective than the ones I’d been digging up in literary journals, even though the basic sources and details are the same. Thank you!

    • #22228 Reply

      Are you still around?  Can I contact you thru email?  I wanted to ask you about writing.

      I can be reached at pb (dot) bergeron (at) gmail (dot) com

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