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From the novels of Anne Rice to The Lost Boys, from The Terminator to cyberpunk science fiction, vampires and cyborgs have become strikingly visible figures within American popular culture, especially youth culture. In Consuming Youth, Rob Latham explains why, showing how fiction, film, and other media deploy these ambiguous monsters to embody and work through the implications of a capitalist system in which youth both consume and are consumed.
Inspired by Marx's use of the cyborg vampire as a metaphor for the objectification of physical labor in the factory, Latham shows how contemporary images of vampires and cyborgs illuminate the contradictory processes of empowerment and exploitation that characterize the youth-consumer system. While the vampire is a voracious consumer driven by a hunger for perpetual youth, the cyborg has incorporated the machineries of consumption into its own flesh. Powerful fusions of technology and desire, these paired images symbolize the forms of labor and leisure that American society has staked out for contemporary youth.
A startling look at youth in our time, Consuming Youth will interest anyone concerned with film, television, and popular culture.
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Rob Latham is an associate professor of English and American studies at the University of Iowa. He is coeditor of the journal Science Fiction Studies and of Modes of the Fantastic, a collection of essays on fantastic fiction and film.Review:
“The value Latham’s study provides . . . lies in his resolutely rational voice in a field that often provokes hysteria, and his insistence on placing these over-theorized . . . icons of popular culture in a social and economic context. . . . Vampires and cyborgs, the undead and the human machine, are not as far apart as their temporal locations in Gothic past and Science Fiction future might indicate. They share the same logic: figures who consume, serially offered up for our eager consumption.” (Catherine Spooner MLR)
“Consuming Youth is a near-encyclopedic work. Latham’s nuanced readings connect vampires, with their associations of exploitation, blood-sucking, and undead existence, to cyborgs, who like vampires deconstruct the normal behaviors of the autonomous subject through the joining of human and machine. This important book will make a valuable contribution to cultural studies, contemporary literary theory, and neo-Marxist criticism in general.” (N. Katherine Hayles, author of How We Became Posthuman)
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