Retrospective Analysis of Renfield: The Reciprocal Relationship Between Mental Illness and Vampirism

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Erika Crowley


R.M. Renfield is a character in Bram Stoker’s 1897 Dracula that has contributed to a growing body of literature that uses the term Renfield Syndrome to describe real-life clinical vampirism. Renfield, an inmate of Dr. John Steward’s lunatic asylum, has a growing obsession with immortality that leads him to consume living creatures for their life force and eventually results in him licking Dr. Steward’s blood from the ground. Renfield’s zoophagous behavior is encouraged by the vampire Count Dracula, with whom Renfield has a telepathic connection. The current work explores the character Renfield in Dracula and identifies him as an anti-vampirism archetype that has a reciprocal relationship between mental illness and vampirism because while his mental instability causes his vampirism, the exacerbation of his mental instability is also the punishment for his vampirism.

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Author Biography

Erika Crowley, OC

Erika Crowley is currently a Master’s Candidate in the Environmental and Life Sciences Program, using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to determine the structure of cytochrome b5 in the parasite Giardia lamblia. Erika also does research in clinical dermatology, specifically exploring treatment options for patients with hidradenitis suppurativa, chronic hand dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, palmoplantar pustulosis, alopecia areata, and other skin conditions. Erika completed her undergraduate Honours degree at Trent University in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, with Specialization in Health Science. Her undergraduate thesis in the Inorganic Material Science Laboratory focused on the synthesis and characterization of Santa Barbara-15 silica polymers with cross-linked enzyme aggregates to retain native properties of enzymes when in unfavourable environments. Erika has had leadership roles in several clubs, including the Trent Pre-Medical Society, Chemistry Society, and Biology Society. Other commitments include the Trent Graduate Student Association, Journal of Multidisciplinary Research at Trent, Journal of Undergraduate Studies at Trent, Symons Seminar Series, Research Ethics Committee, Biology Curriculum Committee, and quadriplegic care. In her spare time, Erika volunteers at the Salvation Army to provide a free breakfast to the Peterborough community and at the Peterborough Regional Hospital to help patients achieve cardiac rehabilitation. Erika plans to pursue a MD/PhD after her Master’s degree.