Jill Lepore: Death, Sex and Vampires

Jill Lepore is professor of American history at Harvard and the author of “The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death.”

[On the upcoming film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter]

...Ever since Dracula was published in 1897, and for a long time after that, when it was difficult to find much to read about sex, reading about vampires was a way to read about sex without having to check titles like “The Big Book of Porn” out of the library....

Every vampire story has its day or, I guess, its night. But there’s a longer history here, too. In the 18th century, when Barnabas Collins and Lestat became vampires, the shape and length of life were different. So was death. When Abraham Lincoln was born, the average age of the United States population was 16, and life expectancy was under 40. Two centuries later, the average American can expect to live to nearly 80. Living longer hasn’t made dying any easier; arguably, it’s made it harder.

Dread of death, not love of sex, is why the dead keep rising. And no Lincoln can defeat that, not even Babe.

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