Belletrism Versus Vampirism: Is It All about Fear?

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Even before I take you down the stream of my thoughts and explore the title, I can answer without blinking that the former is a mainstream, fashionable and Hollywood-preferred genre; hence Vampirism is so popular amongst young readers (and not so young) and all sorts of supernatural creatures follow: zombies, wizards, witches, werewolves …  just name them and the book’s selling like hot cookies or cinema tickets are sold out in advance.

Branka Cubrilo
Branka Cubrilo

Fear.

It is an unpleasant emotion and it can be caused by different beliefs e.g. there is something or someone dangerous that will cause suffering, pain or some form of threat. Fear causes one to feel anxiety and insecurity. It often results in a complete lack of positive feeling. There is a tendency to become hesitant and indecisive. Sensible or logical thinking is blurred as fear imposes limitations upon one’s potential and ability.

Fear includes such emotions as sadness, fright, dread, horror, panic, anxiety, acute stress reaction and anger. The most common fears are: fear of disease, ridicule, victimization, blood, death and dead people, ghosts, evil creatures or evil people.

There is a wide range of unpleasant symptoms caused by fear and while some people may be more aggressive, others may be paralyzed by fear. Yet, Hollywood regularly serves us with generous doses of fear through horrifying images of blood dripping off the sabre-like teeth, chopped-off heads and limps, horrifying creatures chasing panic-stricken individuals through the dark allies – all those stories based on best-selling books.

Count Dracula: Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make.

The spider spinning his web for the unwary fly. The blood is the life, Mr. Renfield.

Renfield: Why, er… yes.

Rats. Rats. Rats! Thousands! Millions of them! All red blood! All these will I give you if you will obey me.

I’m loyal to you, Master, I am your slave, I didn’t betray you! Oh, no, don’t! Don’t kill me! Let me live, please! Punish me, torture me, but let me live! I can’t die with all those lives on my conscience! All that blood on my hands!” (‘Dracula’, 1931)

What is a Belletrism?

Belles-lettres or belles lettres is a term that is used to describe a category of writing. A writer of belles-lettres is a belletrist. However, the boundaries of that category vary in different usages.

Literally, belles-lettres is a French phrase meaning “beautiful” or “fine” writing. In this sense, therefore, it includes all literary works — especially fiction, poetry, drama, or essays — valued for their aesthetic qualities and originality of style and tone. The term thus can be used to refer to literature generally. The Nuttall Encyclopedia, for example, described belles-lettres as the “department of literature which implies literary culture and belongs to the domain of art, whatever the subject may be or the special form; it includes poetry, drama and fiction,” while the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition describes it as “the more artistic and imaginative forms of literature, as poetry or romance, as opposed to more pedestrian and exact studies.”

This is a definition of Belletrism one can find in Nuttal Encyclopedia, Encyclopedia Britanica or Wikipidia.

British cinematography kept Jane Austin’s work alive for the younger generations to enjoy the art of written word translated into the art of cinema. There are a number of directorial successes with ‘Pride and Prejudice’, ‘Sense and Sensibility’, ‘Emma’ and ‘Mansfield Park’.  In 2012 Tolstoy’s ‘Anna Karenina’ was produced by the Working Title Films in association with StudioCanal.

Mr. Darcy: Miss Elizabeth. I have struggled in vain and I can bear it no longer. These past months have been a torment. I came to Rosings with the single object of seeing you… I had to see you. I have fought against my better judgment, my family’s expectations, the inferiority of your birth by rank and circumstance. All these things I am willing to put aside and ask you to end my agony.

Elizabeth Bennet: I don’t understand.

Mr. Darcy: I love you.

***

Mr. Bennet: How happy for you, Mr. Collins, to possess a talent for flattering with such… delicacy.

Elizabeth Bennet: Do these pleasing attentions proceed from the impulse of the moment, or are they the result of previous study?

Mr. Collins: They arise chiefly from what is passing of the time. And though I do sometimes amuse myself with arranging such little elegant compliments, I always wish to give them as unstudied an air as possible.

Elizabeth Bennet: Oh, believe me, no one would suspect your manners to be rehearsed.” (‘Pride and Prejudice’, 2005)

Both of above citations speak to the part of our psyche and each awakens specific feelings that we carry in our subconscious mind or in our heart. More than often the reader or the spectator (if talking about a filmed story) is deeply sympathizing with characters wishing to possess the characteristics of his/her hero. Hmm, what kind of a hero are we after in our ‘modern world’ shaped by mainstream publishing and Hollywood’s factory of carefully selected images that shape our society and new generations’ minds? A cornucopia of stories of the apocalypse, zombies, vampires and bloodsuckers offers and feeds fear as people are bombarded with and mesmerized by potential horrible outcomes.

It seems that in this marvelous ‘modern world’ of ours stories of human advancement, love, respect and high morals are simply – outdated.

But, let’s leave it to everyone’s taste – in the end people know what suits them the best.

themosaicofthebrokensoul2_LgPlease click the book cover to read more about Branka Cubrilo’s Mosaic of the Broken Soul on Amazon.

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  • Caleb Pirtle

    Fear is the key that holds almost any story together, regardless of the genre. Everyone like suspense and seeing the hero or heroine in dire straits whether the novel is mystery and thriller or romance and fantasy. The only emotions stronger than fear in life and in a story is love.

  • Branka Cubrilo

    I would disagree and agree with you Caleb at the same time. I disagree that ‘fear is the key that holds almost any story together’ as I believe that it is limited to and used time and after only in certain genre (horror in general). Love being the strongest emotion known to humans, I would agree with you on that one. Love enhances beauty and cast light on shadows (fear). When I posed the question above ‘what kind of hero we are after?’ I literally asked is it a villain, a vampire or a gentleman who inspires noble or sophisticate qualities? And suspense in any story I’d say – it is essential.

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