Friday, 17 May 2019

Ultra-processed food causes weight gain – firm evidence at last

File 20190515 60570 1rum0h2.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Darryl Brooks/Shutterstock
Richard Hoffman, University of Hertfordshire
We know we should eat less junk food, such as crisps, industrially made pizzas and sugar-sweetened drinks, because of their high calorie content. These “ultra-processed” foods, as they are now called by nutritionists, are high in sugar and fat, but is that the only reason they cause weight gain? An important new trial from the US National Institute of Health (NIH) shows there’s a lot more at work here than calories alone.

Studies have already found an association between junk foods and weight gain, but this link has never been investigated with a randomised controlled trial (RCT), the gold standard of clinical studies.
In the NIH’s RCT, 20 adults aged about 30 were randomly assigned to either a diet of ultra-processed foods or a “control” diet of unprocessed foods, both eaten as three meals plus snacks across the day. Participants were allowed to eat as much as they wished.

After two weeks on one of the diets, they were switched to the other for a further two weeks. This type of crossover study improves the reliability of the results since each person takes part in both arms of the study. The study found that, on average, participants ate 500 calories more per day when consuming the ultra-processed diet, compared to when eating the diet of unprocessed foods. And on the ultra-processed diet, they gained weight – almost a kilogram.

Although we know that ultra-processed foods can be quite addictive, the participants reported finding the two diets equally palatable, with no awareness of having a greater appetite for the ultra-processed foods than for the unprocessed foods, despite consuming 500 calories more of them per day.
Unconscious over-consumption of ultra-processed foods is often attributed to snacking. But in this study, most of the excess calories were consumed during breakfast and lunch, not as snacks.

Slow eating, not fast food

A crucial clue as to why the ultra-processed foods caused greater calorie consumption may be that participants ate the ultra-processed meals faster and so consumed more calories per minute. This can cause excess calorie intake before the body’s signals for satiety or fullness have time to kick in.
An important satiety factor in unprocessed foods is dietary fibre. Most ultra-processed foods contain little fibre (most or all of it is lost during their manufacture) and so are easier to eat fast.
Fibre is important for satiety. Robyn Mackenzie/Shutterstock

Anticipating this, the NIH researchers equalised the fibre content of their two diets by adding a fibre supplement to the ultra-processed diet in drinks. But fibre supplements are not the same thing as fibre in unprocessed foods.

Fibre in unprocessed food is an integral part of the food’s structure – or the food matrix, as it’s called. And an intact food matrix slows down how quickly we consume calories. For instance, it takes us far longer to chew through a whole orange with its intact food matrix than it does to gulp down the equivalent calories as orange juice.

An interesting message emerging from this and other studies seems to be that to regulate calorie intake, we must retain food structure, like the natural food matrix of unprocessed foods. This obliges us to eat more slowly, allowing time for the body’s satiety mechanisms to activate before we have eaten too much. This mechanism does not operate with ultra-processed foods since the food matrix is lost during manufacture.

Finding time for a meal of unprocessed foods eaten slowly can be a real challenge for many. But the importance of seated mealtimes is an approach vigorously defended in some countries, such as France, where a succession of small courses ensures a more leisurely – and pleasurable – way of eating. And it may also be an important antidote to the weight gain caused by grabbing a quick meal of ultra-processed foods.The Conversation

Richard Hoffman, Lecturer in Nutritional Biochemistry, University of Hertfordshire
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Top 5 tips for making the most of your summer

Summer is finally here, you’ve done your exams and your assignments, it’s finally time for some sunshine, ice cream and holidays. I’m sure you can’t wait! Here are some top tips that I would recommend to make the most of your summer:

1.    Keep in contact with your friends

It sounds cliché, but you will miss your friends from university, you’ve lived with them or gone to classes with them every day for at least a year, so it can be strange going from seeing a group of people every day to not seeing them at all. So, you should certainly keep in contact with your friends from university, make sure to give them a call every now and again for a chat about how your summer holidays are going. Or if you can, meet up with your friends, even though you may be a long way away from each other, try and designate a day where you can travel to one of your friends, or chose a halfway destination which is convenient for everyone.

2.    Think about getting a job

Of course, you need some relaxation time and some time to yourself but at the same time, you need to think about your future. Working over a summer, or even doing a couple of weeks work experience, can really help you stand out and give you more examples and transferrable skills to talk about in future job interviews. Try and find something in the field you study in, as that would help enhance your CV. It is also a great opportunity to meet new people and get some good contacts for the future, along with that, it can help get you out of the house. 

3.    Be Active

Don’t turn into a couch potato this summer, it is important to stay active, get out and about, do some exercise whenever you can, just make sure you leave the house. I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of wasting a weekend or even a summer staying in, watching tv and eating junk food. Unsurprisingly, that isn’t great for your health, don’t forget about staying healthy this summer, eat right and be active. Go out when you can - if you go to the gym, keep that up - if you regularly play sports, keep that up. If you’re local, head down to the Hertfordshire Sports Village, which will be open during summer, check out some of their activities on the website.

4.    Tick something off your bucket list

We’ve all got things we really want to do; we’ve all got a bucket list. Well now you’ve got this free time, why not do something from your list. It could be anything from skydiving to wanting to travel to a different country, it’s your list! Whatever it is, this summer is the ideal time to tick something off, so go do something you’ve always wanted to do! 

5.    Relax

Have some time to yourself. You’ve stressed over your exams and had long nights of writing assignments; you deserve a bit of time to relax. I wouldn’t recommend relaxing all over summer, as you may have other responsibilities or a job, so relax but don’t completely switch off. Again, you deserve this!

Max Cresswell
Internal Communications Assistant

Favourite thing about the University

MyHerts have spoken to some final year students, who are about to finish their time at the University. We wanted to find out about their favourite Herts Moments from this academic year. Here’s what they had to say:

Christian Lavelle:
“My favourite thing about the university is that there is so much to offer. From Active Students to student-led societies to help with planning for my future career. For example, after joining the creative writing society, I was able to socialise with students from other courses that I would otherwise have not met, this was really good for me as I was able to make more friends and feel part of the wider university community.”

Mansi Joshi:
Without a doubt, my favourite thing about my time at university has been the people I have met along the journey. I met one of my best friends on the first day of uni. I knew no one, we were both waiting for the same lecture and started chatting. 4 years on and we are still inseparable. I had the opportunity to get to know others in my lectures and my new flat mates, who despite being the weirdest mix of people, got along like a house on fire. It is crazy to think that had I not joined societies and met these people, I would not have embarked on the adventure of a lifetime; having the opportunity to go on exchange to Australia. During my year in Melbourne, the ‘people meeting’ continued and I made some wonderful friends for life from countries all over the world. I even got the chance to travel to some of these places and experience immersing myself into these colourful cultures as a local. Meeting new people is an inevitable part of life, but for me, university has been the perfect place to experience the highs as well as lows of friendship and building relationships. It has both taught me lessons and given me some incredible memories which will stay with me for life.”

Natasha Pensado:
“The three years that l have spent at the university have been amazing and it is difficult to pinpoint my favourite thing about university because of the various positive experiences l have had. The university has given me the opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds and make new friends and professional relationships. The experiences l had have helped me in working towards my dream career. The learning atmosphere has been positive in that my lecturers have been supportive, knowledgeable, approachable and always willing to help. The university has held networking events where l had the chance to meet people working in the legal sector such as the Crown Prosecutor for the West Midlands and they have given me great advice. The university has also provided me with great opportunities to develop my skills through extracurricular activities such as mooting and client interviewing, and l was given the opportunity to visit the major circle firm Clifford Chance in London. The university has enabled me to develop socially, personally, professionally and I have been given a strong foundation to expand my horizons.”

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Summer on My Mind

When we think of the summer time, we think of lazy days chilling out in the sun, eating ice cream or drinking with friends, without a care in the world.

But, for many of us, the summer months aren’t always that simple!

As a student, your experience of the summer will depend on lots of factors – whether you’re on placement or working, whether you have re-sits to take, and if you’re on a course that runs throughout the summer months.

For those who need to remain in Hatfield over the summer, the vacation can sometimes pose a challenge, in that you may not have so many friends, and people who can support, around you. Or, if you’ve gone back home for the holidays, adjusting to living with family again after living more independently all term can feel a bit tricky too! In both scenarios, it’s important to reach out to friends and find ways of structuring your time so that you don’t end up feeling isolated and disconnected. And if you’re struggling with how you’re feeling and will be local to Hatfield, remember that Student Wellbeing remains open during the vacation.

But what about taking time out for rest, relaxation and fun?

For some, it may not be realistic to be able to take long periods of care-free holidays but try to give yourself some downtime where you can relax and recharge. If you’re the kind of person who finds it hard to give yourself a proper break, remind yourself that taking time out can give your brain an opportunity to make sense of what you have learned so far and should also allow you to feel fresher and more able to focus when you do get back to your academic studies.

And if you’re off travelling this summer, then try to enjoy the new opportunities and adventures you may face. But maybe don’t put too much pressure on yourself for every day to be awesome and perfect. Holidays can be amazing, but much like the rest of life, there may also be more difficult times. Work out in advance who you can contact if things get tough and make contingency plans in case you need to come home earlier than planned.

There are some things which none of us can control or predict - such as the “Great British weather” and (dare we mention it?) the developing political situation in the UK! But looking after ourselves, keeping in touch with friends and reaching out for support when needed, is something we can all try to work on.

Neil Boulton

Friday, 10 May 2019

Keep in the loop with happenings at Herts!

Here at the University of Hertfordshire, we have a fantastic community of students and staff from all over the world. With over 24,000 students from 134 countries, there’s a lot of events and developments happening every single day on our campuses, and it can be tricky trying to stay on top of them all!

We thought we’d give you a little round up of a few of the things that have happened here at Herts in the past few months to keep you in the loop. And because there’s nothing worse than finding out about an awesome event when it’s already been and gone, we’ll signpost you to places to stay on top of things going forward at the end of this post. Remember to let us know what you’re up to, because we love sharing your events and achievements on our social channels!

So what’s been going on?

          Varsity: Our talented Sports teams were pitted against the University of Derby, and won 15 out of 21 events to be declared overall Varsity winners! The events were attended by people from all over Herts from our mascot Stanley the Stag to Vice-Chancellor Quintin McKellar, and we were bursting with Herts pride. Go Herts! Check out the story collection on our Instagram account if you missed it.

      Speaking of Insta stories, did you know our students sometimes take over our social channels and use it to show you a day in their life? For example, Paramedic Science student Asghar Khan took over our Snapchat account and filmed his life on the night shift as a student paramedic! We've also had students doing room tours, giving advice around Clearing and loads more! 

      If you fancy getting involved with our social media, feel free to get in touch! Drop us an email at :)

Graduation: Of course, this happens every year, but did you know you can get featured on our social media channels and the interactive screens at the event by using our graduation hashtag (#hertsgrad2019)? As well as that, you can watch video footage of your own graduation after the event.

Image from the University's Instagram stories featuring an image of a smiling graduate in her robe and mortarboard hat, with a caption above saying "Congrats to all our new graduates"An image from the University's Instagram Stories, featuring an easel holding a purple stand with "Graduation launch this way" written on it

International Happiness Day: From doughnuts to dogs and everything in between, we celebrated the things that make us happy here at Herts! It was lovely getting to see what makes you smile while you study!


          Stanley the Stag explored the campus: Ever wonder what Stanley gets up to when he’s not being the hype man at our sports games?! Well, wonder no longer! Check out our Insta stories for footage when we catch him out and about!

      Societies: The Hertfordshire Students’ Union has more than 120 societies for Herts students to join, and we’ll bet you didn’t know half of them existed! Whatever your interest is, we probably have a society set up for it – from baking to big band, anime to allotments, Disney to Game of Thrones, we’ve got it all! If we are missing something, you’re welcome to create your own. You can also adopt inactive societies and breathe new life into them. Take a look at the full list of current societies here.
We’ll also give you the heads up on society events via our Instagram stories as and when we hear from them. If you’re a society member, feel free to let us know what you’re up to!

Autism Awareness Week: We had a series of events, including Senior Lecturer Lynn Bhania from the School of Education talking about what autism is, the debate club discussing if autism is a disability, and a screening of Rain Man, which depicts an autistic character. As well as this, we shared facts and tips to raise awareness of autism, how it affects people and how you can help autistic friends and colleagues.

 So what are you waiting for? We’re here for you and we’d love you to jump in and get involved!
 Head on over to @universityofhertfordshire on Instagram and join the community today.

Rhianna Campbell
Social Media Executive
University of Hertfordshire

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Prepare for your summer holidays with the Campus Pharmacy

Are you heading off to anywhere nice on holiday this summer? It’s important to ensure you’re fully prepared for your adventure and what lies ahead, including making sure you’re up to date with your travel vaccines. Don’t overlook how important they can be, they can be life savers sometimes! The campus pharmacy shares how they can help you prepare for your summer holiday adventures.

Learn about your destination country. Travel vaccines can vary by destination, so even if you’ve recently been abroad and had vaccines, you may need different ones for your new destination. In some countries, just an ice cube in a cocktail can make you need to run to the bathroom 20 times a day, sweat through a fever, have bad cramps and suffer from serious fluid loss. Not the most ideal way to spend your summer holiday, is it?

Make sure to get vaccinated in plenty of time, it is recommended to get vaccinated at least 4 to 6 weeks before you travel. This gives enough time for the vaccines to start working, so you’re protected while you’re travelling. Some vaccines require more than 1 dose, so remember to leave enough time to get the multiple doses you may need.

If you are someone who suffers with chronic illnesses but you’re still planning to travel abroad, make sure you’re in the know about your illness. The Campus Pharmacy can help provide some general information for you to help you prepare for your trip.

Along with this, the Campus Pharmacy can provide a range of medicines and products available to purchase to both prevent and treat minor ailments whilst abroad. Some examples of minor ailments are colds, coughs, earaches, hay fever or a sore throat. 

The Campus Pharmacy can supply administration of all travel vaccines except for Yellow Fever. They can even supply malaria prophylaxis without a prescription. So, with all these right at your front door, why not head down and make sure you’re vaccinated correctly for any summer holidays you have planned. You can call them on 01707 284054 or pop in to the Campus Pharmacy in Hutton Hub, College Lane, to book an appointment and find out which vaccinations you may need along with prices. They are open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm (9-4 on Fridays).

Dipali Yajnik
Superintendent Pharmacist

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Ever wondered why we give chocolate eggs at Easter?

Easter comes around every year, and treats us to a lovely long weekend full of chocolate eggs, hot cross buns and hopefully sunshine – but have you ever stopped to wonder where these traditions come from?

We caught up with Dr Ceri Houlbrook, Programme Leader for MA Folklore Studies and Researcher in Folklore in History to see where these seasonal staples come from, and when they date back to.

Why chocolate eggs?

For most of those who celebrate Easter, let’s admit it; food plays a big role! This is likely largely due to the culture of fasting or abstinence around Lent, which leads up to Easter.

In the UK, Easter is synonymous with Easter eggs, but these weren’t always chocolate-based. In the past, they took the form of hard-boiled eggs that had been decorated, painted or dyed. They would be given as gifts as symbols of new life and resurrection after the 40-day period of Lent. 

Those who were wealthier purchased artificial eggs containing gifts, and by the late 19th century, chocolate eggs had begun to appear, originating in France and Germany. The first English chocolate egg was sold by Fry’s in 1873, with Cadbury’s following up two years later. Fast forward to today and the UK market sells over £220 million worth of Easter eggs a year. That’s a lot of chocolate!

The practice of hiding and hunting for Easter eggs possibly dates as far back as the 16th century in Germany, when men would hide eggs for women and children to find as part of the Easter festivities. Over in Britain, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert popularised the custom by hiding painted eggs for their children to find on Maundy Thursday.

What about hot cross buns?

Easter saccharine feasting isn’t limited to eggs. Hot cross buns are another staple treat, deriving from the Christian tradition of placing a consecrated wafer together with a crucifix in the sepulchre of a church on Good Friday as the embodiment of Christ. During the 18th and 19th centuries, many people in England adapted this custom by baking bread or biscuits marked with a cross – and thus the hot cross bun was born.
However, the hot cross bun was not just for eating. Because of the cross it bore, it was believed to have magical powers. These sweet, slightly spiced treats were said to never go mouldy, to have medicinal qualities, and to prevent shipwreck if taken to sea. They were also believed to protect a house from evil and fire, which is why people hung them in their homes or doorways. There’s evidence of people leaving their protective hot cross buns hanging all year round, to be replaced every Easter by a new one.

So next time you walk down the seasonal aisle of a supermarket, crack open an Easter egg, or slather butter on a toasted hot cross bun, do so smug in the knowledge that you have a good few years of history and folklore behind you!

If you’d like to find out more about the course Ceri teaches on, MA Folklore, check out this link:

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Top tips for revising and improving assignments through Studynet

It’s that time of year when revising for exams and writing your assignments is a priority. With this in mind, here are 5 top tips on how to make the most out of Studynet during this critical time. 

1. Did you know that you can search and access past exam papers?

If you have exams that are coming up, you can check to see if the past exam papers are available, and if they are, you are able to access them from the university’s online library. Searching for them is really easy and you can use them as a revision tool. The video below takes you through the steps on how you can access them:

2. Check your reading lists:

Your reading list may have been introduced to you at the start of the module. If you haven’t looked at this for a while, then it might be a good time to look over which resources your tutor has suggested as a starting point before revising or doing your assignment. Check the video below on how to subject search on the online library:

3. Access your previous feedback:

As recent alumni from this university, I will be the first to put my hands up and say that I did not always read my assignment feedback properly. Yes, I may have had a quick scan through it, however, I know I should have looked at it more carefully. With hindsight, if I had read through my feedback, I could have learnt lessons much earlier and achieved higher. 

If you read your feedback carefully over a few different assignments, you will probably notice some common themes. For example, you might be struggling with referencing. If you can pick up on these areas for improvement before the next assignment, you will be able to make changes and progress. It’s worth taking a little time now to find out what you can improve upon and address them, before you start your next assignment. 
Below is a video on how to access your feedback:

If referencing is an area of improvement, then read on for our next tip!

4. Use the library cite tool:

If you are using resources from the online library, did you know that it has a cite tool? This will give you the option to choose a referencing style and give you the citation. You can then copy and paste this citation into your list of references. However, you may need to edit the reference according to your school’s referencing style guide. But it’s a great starting point and does most of the hard work for you. See the video below on how to use this tool:

5. Check through earlier units on your module site:

And lastly, this might sound obvious, however, it might be worth going through the earlier units on your module site. Your tutor may have added new material since you last looked at them. You may also find useful materials and resources to revise from or that will help you with your assignment. 

Remember, there are lots of resources and people out there to help you through your study and revision period. If you want to talk to someone for any additional help, get in contact with your tutor or look at out for drop in sessions in the LRCs.

Lucy Bamwo and Samantha Clarkson
Studynet Training Coordinators

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Make the most of your LRCs and tips for exam success

With coursework and exams on your mind here’s some important information from your Library and Computing Services team about working in the LRCs, skills sessions and useful tips to help you succeed.

Tips for exam success
Going through past exam papers is a great way to revise. If past exam papers are available, you will find them:
EITHER from your module's Online Library or Teaching Resources
OR type your module name or code + “exam paper” in Library Search

Ebooks about exam revision can offer some very helpful (and calming!) guidance. Just type "study skills" exams into Library Search and select Library Catalogue.

Take a look at this StudyNet page for more Tips for exam success.

Revise and get support in the LRCs
Book yourself into a half hour LinkUP session where library experts will offer you help and tips for exam success, including tools to help with revision and practical ideas for effective study. 
  • College Lane LRC - Tuesday 30 April 12.00 – 12.30 LG1, Lower Ground floor
  • De Havilland LRC - Thursday 02 May 12.00 – 12.30 L218, Top floor 

Sign up via the booking page.

Find your space
Many of you will be studying in the LRCs, open 24/7 to suit whenever you want to work. Silent and quiet study areas, group study, cafe study…just choose what's best for you! It will be busy, so do please respect others #beconsiderate

Staff will be monitoring noise levels during this busy time – if you feel people around you are behaving inappropriately please talk to a member of LRC staff or talk to Security.

And do please remember to take frequent breaks!

Belinda Mobbs
Communications Officer, Library and Computer Services

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Achieving your goals without seeking perfection

That which you so desperately seek can become an unhealthy fantasy in your mind. Not eating, not sleeping; you overwork yourself to meet the demands expected of you, or that you expect of yourself. Often these standards you wish to reach, are like a mirage in a desert. Once you walk to the glistening lake you saw at a distance, it vanishes, and a new mirage appears. You then remain dissatisfied. This is was perfectionism looks like – a mirage in the desert.
Pushing yourself to work hard and reach a goal is not bad. But it is the unhealthy expectation to be “the best”, “better than others” or that you “have to” be “perfect” that has a negative impact on you in two ways:

1.     It creates pressure and stress.
Too much stress creates unhealthy levels of stress hormones, it can affect your sleep, your diet and ultimately your immune system and health.

2.     Mental paralysis. 
Expecting yourself to reach a high standard can create excessive fear. This excessive fear of not reaching your desired goal can prevent you from performing all together. When this happens, you find yourself within a self-fulfilling prophecy, where you do not reach your desired goal at all.  

Best way to move forward:
Remember that being “the best” or being “perfect” is like a mirage in a desert. It does not exist. Remind yourself often, when you feel the pressure rising that you will do your best. Focus instead on learning the material you have in front of you, rather than being focused on the result. The more you do this, the better you will perform, the more relaxed you will be and the more effective you will ultimately work. In this way, you set yourself up for reaching your desired goal without seeking perfection.  

Chaitanya Pankhania
Deputy Head of Student Wellbeing

Monday, 8 April 2019

Vampire's rebirth: from monstrous undead creature to sexy and romantic Byronic seducer in one ghost story

File 20190329 71006 1y0070f.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
The Nightmare by John Henry Fuseli. Detroit Institute of Arts
Sam George, University of Hertfordshire
Victorian physician John Polidori took the vampire out of the forests of eastern Europe, gave him an aristocratic lineage and placed him into the drawing rooms of Romantic-era England. His tale The Vampyre, published 200 years ago – on April 1 1819, was the first sustained fictional treatment of the vampire and completely recast the folklore and mythology on which it drew. The vampire figure abandoned its peasant roots and left its calling card in polite society in London.
The story emerged out of the same storytelling contest at the Villa Diodati that gave birth to that other archetype of the Gothic heritage, Frankenstein’s monster. Present at this gathering were Polidori (then Byron’s physician) as well as Mary Godwin, the author of Frankenstein, Claire Clairmont, Mary’s stepsister, Mary’s soon-to-be husband Percy Shelley, and – crucially – Lord Byron.

Read more: Fantasmagoriana: the German book of ghost stories that inspired Frankenstein

Byron’s contribution to the contest was an inconclusive fragment about a mysterious man, Augustus Darvell, characterised by “a cureless disquiet”. Polidori took this fragment and turned it into the sensational tale of the vampire Lord Ruthven, preying on the vulnerable women of society.
John William Polidori, by F.G. Gainsford. National Portrait Gallery

After its magazine debut the story was published in book form and went through seven English printings in 1819 alone. It was adapted for the stage the following year by melodramatic playwright James Robinson Planché, one of a growing number of vampire theatricals inspired by Polidori, such as those by Charles Nodier and others.

It was then expanded into a two-volume French novel by Cyprien Bérard, Lord Ruthwen ou les vampires. By 1830 it had been translated into German, Italian, Spanish, and Swedish.
Despite all these imitations and adaptations, “Poor Polidori”, as Mary Shelley liked to call him, has all but been forgotten and his lively tale has often been dismissed as a crude narrative, written under the influence of a greater, more subtle talent, Byron. And yet it was Polidori not Byron who succeeded in founding the entire modern tradition of vampire fiction.

Peasant to patrician

The vampire prior to this had been a blood-gorged, animalistic monster of the Slavic peasantry. In his study of the origins of Vampire lore, Vampires, Burials and Death, American scholar Paul Barber described the traditional image of the undead bloodsucker thus:
with long fingernails and a stubbly beard […] his face ruddy and swollen. He would wear informal attire — a linen shroud – and would look for all the world like a dishevelled peasant.
Polidori transformed the East European peasant vampire of old into a pale-faced, dead-eyed, licentious English aristocrat. This deceiving, dashing and cursed creature was in possession of “irresistible powers of seduction”, haunting the drawing rooms of Western society undetected. In the hands of Polidori, under the influence of Byron, vampires transitioned from dishevelled peasants into alluring, seductive aristocrats in the 19th century.
George Gordon Noel Byron, 6th Baron Byron by Richard Westall. National Portrait Gallery

This elevation in social status is not all. Polidori’s The Vampyre is responsible for a number of groundbreaking innovations. He established links to the aristocracy – where there had never before been an urban vampire, let alone one as educated and high in social rank. He also introduced the notion of the vampire as sexual predator, showing his readers, for the first time, the vampire as rake or libertine – a real “lady killer”. As he wrote in his novella:
The guardians hastened to protect Miss Aubrey; but when they arrived, it was too late. Lord Ruthven had disappeared and Aubrey’s sister had glutted the thirst of a VAMPYRE!

Mad and bad

Lord Ruthven is a satirical portrait of Byron as a seducer of women in polite society. “Mad, bad, and dangerous to know” – as the aristocratic writer Lady Caroline Lamb described the lover who had spurned her. This is the image we have of the vampire. Lamb cast Byron as the dark and duplicitous Gothic seducer, Lord Ruthven in her 1816 novel Glenarvon. In turn, Polidori took the name Lord Ruthven in order to create the first literary vampire.

Lord Ruthven spawned a series of saturnine or demonic lovers in turn, from the Brontës’ Mr Rochester to the more sexy incarnations of Dracula and the contemporary paranormal romances of mortal women seduced by brooding bad and dangerous vampires.
Edward Cullen, the vampire from the Twilight novels, as played by Robert Pattison. Goldcrest Pictures

Polidori’s vampire, despite being something of a blank canvas, is sexualised and mesmeric, providing a template not only for Count Dracula but for the “Byronic hero” that features in Gothic romance from pre-Victorian times down to present-day paranormal romances such as Twilight. Edward Cullen – played by Robert Pattison, continuing the tradition of British actors playing vampires from Christopher Lee to Gary Oldman – is a reproduction of this earlier archetype. He’s something of a consumerist fantasy – as expensive as diamonds, marble or crystal:
His skin white […] literally sparkled, like thousands of tiny diamonds were embedded in the surface. He lay perfectly still in the grass, his shirt open over his sculptured incandescent chest, his scintillating arms bare […] a perfect statue carved in some unknown stone, smooth like marble, glittering like crystal.
Cullen’s aristocratic charm and anachronistic way of speaking (“I endeavoured to secure your hand” he tells Bella) indicate he is a relic of earlier models of vampiric masculinity, further evidence of the long-reaching legacy of Polidori’s vampire.

As Catherine Spooner, Professor of Gothic Literature at Lancaster University, has argued in a collection of essays about Vampires – Open Graves, Open Minds: Representations of Vampires and the Undead which I co-edited in 2012: “Over a period of about 200 years vampires have changed from the grotty living corpses of folklore to witty, sexy, super achievers.”
Polidori died in London in August 1821, weighed down by depression and gambling debts. It is said that he committed suicide by means of cyanide but that, to protect his family’s name, the coroner gave a verdict of death by natural causes. Sadly he wasn’t to know the fame his creation would achieve as the star of hundreds of books, plays and films – and millions of nightmares.The Conversation
Sam George, Senior Lecturer in Literature, University of Hertfordshire

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