sâmbătă, 15 noiembrie 2008

Dracula Criticism

University of Konstanz, Germany

Winter semester: 2008-2009

The Vampire in British and American Fiction

Lecturer: Claudia Rapp


Topic: Sexuality and Gender Roles in Bram Stoker´s Dracula (1897)

Literature: Dracula. The Vampire and the Critics- edited by Margaret L. Carter, UMI Research Press, 1988

The Monster in the Bedroom: Sexual Symbolism in Bram Stoker´s Dracula- Christopher Bentley

  • like any other Victorian novelist, Stoker avoids any overt treatment of the sexuality of his characters

  • models of chastity: the relationship between Jonathan Harker and Mina Murray, the repressed sexual elements are never revealed, much less discussed, therefore Jonathan Harker feels attracted towards the immediate sexual gratification offered by the three women

  • Ernest Jones: blood=semen, in the case of erotic nightdreams, the object of sexual desire is a beautiful night creature

  • vampirism as a normal heterosexual activity: the most visible vampires in the novel attack only members of the other sex (the female vampires attempt to make Harker their prey, Dracula attacks Mina Harker and Lucy Westenra)

  • incestous relationship between Dracula and the three women (vampires are endowed with a sexual freedom which is totally different from the sexuality of the non-vampiric characters): „You yourself never loved; you never love“/ „Yes, I too can love; you yourselves can tell it from the past“

  • the sequence of blood transfusions symbolizes sexual intercourse, Lucy Westenra, weakened by Dracula´s nocturnal attacks receives blood transfusions (loss of blood=emission of semen, cf. Ernest Jones) from Arthur Holmwood, John Seward, Dr. Van Helsing and Quincey Morris

  • Dracula forcing Mina to drink his blood- enforced fellatio, blood=semen

  • Jonathan being stained by Mina´s blood, menstrual blood, Dracula has caused the „unclean“ flow of blood, that is he has forced her to undergo sexual intercourse with him (Chapter 21)

  • sexual implications in the destruction of vampires: Lucy´s fiance, Arthur, drives a hardened and sharply pointed wooden stake through her heart, releasing her from the „undead“ state into true death

  • sexual revenge involved in killing Dracula, the decapitation of the vampire is similar to castration, a sexual threat was eradicated, Van Helsing refers to Dracula´s death using terms like „sterilize“, implying that he entertains a castration fantasy based on fear and envy of the vampire´s powerful sexuality

  • Dracula´s wooden coffins filled with earth=substitutes for womb

  • le droit de seigneur- involved in Count Dracula´s choice of victims (beautiful young women)

Fictional Conventions and Sexuality in Dracula- Carrol L. Fry

  • the description of Lucy Westenra and Mina Harker is lacking any physical detail

  • center-margin discourse: with the vampire´s bite there come the alienation from the rest of mankind, eventually the female victims transformed into vampires will die a painful death (vampire´s bite= social depravity)

  • the description of female vampires underscores their sexuality, and the words „voluptous“ and „wanton“ appear repeatedly in these contexts, words that would never be used in describing a pure woman. Clearly, Lucy has fallen, but in the end she is saved from herself in rather conventional fashion. Her death and the smile of bliss on her face as she passes satisfy the reader´s desire for a happy ending to her story and fulfill his expections (Dr. Seward´s) regarding the fate proper to a fallen woman

  • when the attacker/the vampire is destroyed, all the physical traces of a vampiric attack inflicted on victims are gone

Suddenly Sexual Women in Bram Stoker´s Dracula- Phyllis A. Roth

  • male friendship: Jonathan Harker is relieved to be saved from the women by Dracula

  • Dracula´s interest in Jonathan is clear in only one case: when Jonathan cuts his fingers and is bleeding, even then Dracula manages to control himself and shows no interest any longer, when Dracula arrives in England, he never goes after Jonathan

  • GENDER ROLES: the scenes of vampire sexuality are described from the male perspective, with the females as the active assailants,only the acts of phallic aggression, the killings, involve the males in active roles

  • the mother-figure: the fair haired vampire woman, Jonathan as a son/child

  • Jonathan, the son, disobeys Dracula´s, his father´s, warning that he should remain in his room

  • unconscious drive for male actions in the novel: the desire to destroy the threatening mother, she who threatens by being desirable

  • good father/bad father: Van Helsing versus Dracula, the good father helps his sons to eliminate the threat posed by the „mother“

  • multiple dichotomies are used in the novel: the dark woman vs. the fair woman, the fallen vs. the idealized

  • good men as monsters (men as sexually abusive): Mina´s assertion that „the world seems full of good men-even if there are minsters in it“

  • Richardson: Freud stated that „morbid dread always signifies repressed sexual wishes“

  • Lucy is spiritualized, only when she becomes a vampire, she is allowed to be „voluptous“

  • Dracula- father-figure of huge potency

  • a strong split between the sexual vampire family and the asexual Van Helsing group

  • Dracula-breastfeeding, reverse gender role

Paul Sava


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