The Unacceptable Beauty of Erzsébet Báthory with Alex Kaschuta


February 14th, 2021

1 hr 24 mins 47 secs

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About this Episode

The Hungarian countess Erzsébet Báthory (1560-1610), allegedly one of the most prolific mass murderers ever, occupies the border zone between history and legend. She has become a part of the vampire mythology associated with Southeast Europe as well as a subject of fascination for avant-garde writers and artists and a frequent pop culture reference. Báthory emerges out of the shadowy depths of archaic magic, but also stands as a proto-modern female Faust whose commitment to her own all-consuming violent passions anticipated the visions of the Marquis de Sade. In an age of attenuated taboos, her extreme acts retain the capacity to shock us; she still hovers on the Outside of civilized life.

My guest Alex Kaschuta and I use Báthory as a starting point for discussing the paroxysms of the modern ideal of individual freedom, with some help from Sade, Camille Paglia, and the surrealist writers Valentine Penrose and Alejandra Pizarnik. We also address the tendency of recent pop culture to domesticate the terrors of Báthory's crimes, and the way that her type of Sadeian sexual depravity, often denied or downplayed, resurfaces in discussions of porn and sex robots.

Alex's writing and podcast:

Alejandra Pizarnik, "The Bloody Countess"

Valentine Penrose, The Bloody Countess: Atrocities of Erzsébet Báthory_