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Make up Blog

1 Jun

With his 1887 novel, Dracula, Bram Stoker takes the ancient and largely extinct figure of the “monster,” such as found in Beowulf, classical mythology, etc., and set it in an explicitly modern environment. The monster is characterized by its perversely humanoid features, isolation from a community, and parasitic lifestyle. Certainly, Dracula has all of these attributes; yet he is also possessed of atypical religious connotations that lend the novel a more traditionally Victorian moralizing tone even as it rides the coattails of Romanticism. It differs in this, too, from its notable predecessor, Frankenstein, which mainly glosses over applicable science or pseudo-science it might employ in favour of purely ontological monsterly self-examination combined with tortured artist-as-scientist mentality. Here, we have a regal, crafty old monster, pursued by sophisticates in the epicenter of modernity, London, armed at once with witch-doctor remedies, aimed at physical destruction of Monsieur Monster, and cunning innovations of the communication front, i.e., typewriters, phonographs, telegrams, and so forth. Dracula, with his 17th century sensibilities, seems something of a Luddite in comparison: old-fashioned and backwards. He is a more primal character, in this sense, engaging with the humours and the elements rather than the “science [and] human knowledge” that Seward and Van Helsing so prize, noting that to be “without such it is monstrous.”

 The religion at play here is similarly backwards and out of date; it is Catholicism that Dr. Van Helsing gets the others to reluctantly adopt, in lieu of their Church of England style commonsense that dispenses with such bizarre concepts as transubstantiation, which Dracula so clearly deals in. The near cannibalistic connotations of drinking wine that actually becomes the blood of Christ upon the blessing of the priest have long been noted, and here, Dracula’s consumption of human blood is seen as nothing less than a barbarity to be quashed. Of course, he is, undeniably, something of a superior being. He is largely immortal, capable of preserving his youth, and possessed of superhuman strength, and, like a deity, impenetrable and unknowable: he is the only major character whose psyche we are absolutely cut-off from, he never contributes the narrative by any means.

Most obviously, Dracula is repelled by the crucifix and holy water, the religious undertones become increasingly uncomfortable as we learn more about him. While we can recognize that the associations are meant to draw attention to his character as a sort of antichrist, as a monster, he elicits a certain degree of sympathy from the reader, as an ever-pursued underdog of sorts. In this, he is more Miltonic Satan than unthinking beast; he is well-mannered, aristocratic, and highly intelligent, as Jonathan Harker notes almost immediately in chapters one and two.

His perversity is derived, then, not from a pure disgust reaction that the soulless creature, all teeth and claws, might evoke. He is perverse because he takes the familiar and sacred and uses them for ends that are unfamiliar and destabilizing to the community. Furthermore, he shuns that which is increasingly of most importance, that is, the value civilization and progress that ultimately comes, more than stuffy prudishness, to define the Victorian era.

 

Sarah Higginbotham

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Blog 3

24 Apr

The novel Dracula conveys the message that modernity was not only a powerful and innovative notion that took on many forms, like telephones and the radio, but it was also a dangerous and somewhat risky endeavor to partake in for a multitude of reasons. Throughout the novel, we see characters like Dr. Seward and Arthur Holmwood reap the benefits of new media innovations like the telegram when they are both desperate to get to the root of a monster’s cause and cut all of his resources from him. We also see characters like Mina Harker and Lucy Westerna have to deal with the consequences of media technology when Count Dracula gets a hold of their letters and is able to spy on and manipulate their correspondence with those around them. All in all, I believe that Stoker makes clear that media was both a blessing and a curse when it was presented to the public in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

The novel plays on the role that media had in the late nineteenth century when it was first introduced in the form of the telegraph. Dr Seward, the more rational yet less-experienced physician compared to Van Helsing, the wiser, more open-minded one with a keen trust in the power of science, communicates entirely through the medium of the telegraph and phonograph, which is spoken by Van Helsing (263). Although these innovations have been able to provide Dracula’s readers with the mature doctor’s thoughts and experiences, once never gets a firsthand source for his depictions, with his writings going through many mediums before being written down as a text. His phonograph, however, can be argued as having more reliability in terms of accuracy due to the fact that sound holds more weight than writing. This enforces Sterne’s idea of sound being an objective quality, with Seward being able to transfer ideas more clearly through a phonograph.

Media technology also proves to be handy when Van Helsing remarks that he cannot read Mina’s shorthand, in which she retorts that she can type her observations out for him, being a former secretary, a job that was essentially made popular as a result of the media technology boom (164). In this section of the book, Stoker seems to side with Kittler, and hints on the universality of typing, putting a hierarchical order to different mediums with handwriting ranking lower than typing.

Stoker also seems to bring out the disfunctionality of handwriting when he writes of Dracula and his interference with Mina and Johnathan Harker’s letters. In one scene, Dracula is implied to have dressed up and assumed the role of a mailman and acted as a mediator for Mina’s letters that contained information on the process of slaying a vampire. With the possession of these letters, the count is not only able to read his victims’ minds and plot what he is capable of doing around their actions, but also influence their conversations and completely alter the dynamic of their correspondence. It is these choices of media that keep the presence of Count Dracula alive and well, and it is these that Stoker comments on as being less reliable than more contemporary technology.

Is Stoker commenting on new media technology as being something that blesses the late nineteenth and early twentieth century with better communication or as a dangerous and flawed method of reaching society? I feel that he uses examples for both, although I think that the novel leans more towards the benefits of technology, with examples of telegraphs and phonographs practically saving the lives of the novel’s characters.

Blog 3 Stoker’s Dracula and Sexuality

20 Apr

The undertones of Stoker’s Dracula is very sexual not only apparent in Dracula and his vampires themselves but also in the themes surrounding blood, death, and lust. The vampire superstition as a whole is a very sexy one; dealing with penetration with teeth, stakes, and the intermingling of blood, which is perhaps the most intimate one can get with another. However, looking aside from the vampire creatures and their practices aside, the reader can also find strong sexual undertones when analyzing the humans. In fact, since the whole novel is written in mediums from the human’s perspectives, the reader finds the sexuality only through the human characters.

All sorts of scenes with obvious sexuality are apparent in this book from gang rape, fellatio, pedophilia to aggressive females which were certainly looked down upon during the context of the novel. Early on in the novel, we already see three vampire women who are full of lust who attempt to seduce and almost rape Jonathon Harker. However at Dracula’s fury, they settle to feast upon a child instead. If vampires were the image of ‘evil’ then the women vampires fulfill all the characteristics for they were ‘evil’ women voluptuous, sensuous, lusty and lacked all sense of gentleness and motherhood. And if these lusty women were perfect to be portrayed as the evil vampire, then it is really no surprise that Lucy became a vampire as well. Before she dies, we see her vampiric self emerge and attempt to seduce her fiancee with a sexy voice, that surprised and, no doubt, turned the men on.She has already been portrayed as somewhat promiscuous, having three suitors at once, since the beginning of the book. During the context of this novel, Lucy’s behavior would have been considered horrid, the opposite of sweet and gentle Mina, whose sole wish was to help her husband. Almost as a punishment for being this sort of character, Stoker had Dracula transform her into a vampire very much like the weird sisters that we encounter in the beginning.

Besides the obvious scenes of sexuality, there are also undertones of sexuality in the theme of blood and death. Blood, the most intimate and personal part of a human being’s existence, is thrown around a lot in this novel. Blood transfusion, blood exchange, drinking of blood, spilling of blood, yearning for blood appear over and over again. In the case of the vampires, their tactic to obtain blood, which is necessary for their survival, is often one of seduction. In both Lucy and the weird sister’s encounters with men, they instantly become irresistible and sexual, the men are drawn to them against their will and would most likely bare their necks to them if asked. When Lucy was alive, the blood transfusions that she got from three different men, was a ridiculous amount. She in a sense became sexual with each of those men (and of course they would not have relinquished their blood to her had they not had strong sexual feelings for her anyway). When the reader finally sees her interaction with Dracula, and we must remember that Dracula needs to be invited in, another clue to her ‘wantonness’ and inevitable transformation to a lusty vampire, we see them exchanging blood. Although Dracula has already drank from her, taking not only her blood but all three men’s as well, he now offers her his blood as if it were a sexual ritual. Killing the vampires also carries a sexual undertone. When we see the men kill Vampire Lucy, we see her penetrated over and over again with a wooden stake, at the submission of the men.

The question of female sexuality is a main theme in this novel. The reader is aware that the characteristics of Lucy and the weird sisters are evil, they deserve to be punished and turned into vampires. The characteristics of sweet Mina are that of the ideal woman in that time period. The vampiric women deserved to be controlled and penetrated horribly with stakes over and over again until they are dead, or returned to their ‘gentle ideal woman’ state. The men fight furiously to protect the sweet Mina, and fight furiously to destroy lusty vampire women until they are no longer lusty. Although there are few moments of possible feminism apparent in this book, as a whole Stoker seems to be oppressing female sexuality greatly in his novel.

Ann

Sexuality in Dracula

20 Apr

Sexuality is a prevalent theme expressed throughout the novel.  Stoker uses the vampirism as a display of sexuality in Victorian times. When Harker first arrived to Dracula’s castle, his encounter with the three vampire women was a link between vampirism and sexuality. None of the sexual acts are frank and graphic, so stoker utilized the predatory habits of vampires as a connection to such lewd acts.

The way in which Dracula feeds is an example of how vampires mimic sexual acts. He lures people into the bedroom then pierces through women’s bodies until they bleed. This is synonymous with how men dominate and penetrate women in the bedroom during sex. Amongst the males in Victorian society, this act transforms women from being pure and innocent into corrupt creatures that ensue “wicked, burning desire” in men.

The women portrayed in the novel go against the socially constructed sexual boundaries and fears of sexual expression in Victorian society. There are two types of women in this society and they are either innocent virgins, like Lucy was before Dracula tainted her, or Mina who is considered a “whore” that threatens men with her power. Stoker uses these characters to explore women’s roles and sexuality during that time. The proper woman in Victorian Society is portrayed as one who was pure, innocent, and overall submissive to their men. The “weird sisters” were the polar opposite of what a proper women was suppose to be like. Their sexually deviant behavior is frowned upon within that society, which explains why Stoker refers to them as “weird”. Their compulsive sexuality is why stoker refers to them as “fiends” (p.42).

It is evident that Stoker lined up the proper/improper woman contrast as a way to warn society of the changing values and gender roles in Victorian society. The men in that society are not ready for a change and fear women taking on a more dominating role. Harker’s encounter with the weird sisters left him with a “deadly fear” (p.42) elucidating how women taking on different values and roles threatens their social structure. This is an issue women currently face in our society today. Women are often criticized for being sexually liberated, whereas men are praised for having multiple partners. Clearly, this has been a long going issue since Stoker’s Victorian society,

-Erica Bodden

Modern Medicine and the Human Body and Mind

20 Apr

Medicinal practices in Dracula represent the advances in science and technology that have allowed for the human body to be studied and healed. Yet these new forms of studying the body have given rise to other more vague functions of the human body. Human behavior, as understood through a psychologist perspective, sheds light on the limitations of the modern doctor to diagnose mental diseases through technologies that investigate the interiors of the human body. The technologies are no longer sufficient to cure insanity, delusion, and mania. The psychiatric doctor is forced to rely on observations and documentation to somehow find a pattern for some explanation. In the case of Renfield, Doctor Seward keeps a diary of his observations yet realizes that the only way to truly understand his patient is by diving into the consciousness of Renfield, and essentially become insane himself.

The insane Renfield is represented very creaturely; his zoophagous behavior transforms him into a mere predator. His intentions are to accumulate as much life in a single creature and eventually to transfer all that life to himself, “What he desires is to absorb as many lives as he can, and he has laid himself out to achieve it in a cumulative way.” (Stoker 61) Renfield seems to understand that he as a human is at the top of the food chain, and desires to somehow gain life from other insignificant life forms. While Doctor Seward struggles to understand the logic behind Renfield’s intentions, as an insane person Renfield lacks the logic of a so-called normal person, making any logical conclusion incompatible with the logic of the insane. As a result, Doctor Seward’s only plausible conclusion to such behavior is that “the man is an undeveloped homicidal maniac” (61), who seemingly wants to eventually kill humans and devour their human lives. However, Doctor Seward’s scientific mind does not allow the probability that Renfield’s true desire is to mimic his idol Count Dracula who similarly, takes life from humans. The inner workings of Renfield’s mind and consciousness appear as mysterious and irrational as the supernatural existence of a blood-sucking vampire. The supernatural defined as a force or entity beyond the capabilities of human or scientific understanding is closely related to the mind of Renfield and the existence of Count Dracula. Essentially, understanding the human mind transgresses logic and rational associated with science, technology, and medicine, in a sense becoming supernatural as is the case in the separate and incompatible mindsets of the scientific Doctor Seward and the insane Renfield.

The expertise of Doctor Seward has entered into the realm of the supernatural in such matters. Yet, we find in the case of Lucy, that the medical expertise of Doctor Seward and Van Helsing are capable of treating the bodily injuries caused by the supernatural. Although the mind seems to defy the capabilities of medicine, “the conceptual tools of rationality and empiricism” (Sterne) haves transformed “the human body [into] an object of knowledge” (Sterne), allowing Seward and Van Helsing to treat Lucy by listening into her body through the use of the stethoscope as well as observing her paleness, and treating her through blood transfusion. However, when Lucy is no longer functioning as a human body, rather as a supernatural blood-sucking creature, the medical expertise once again fails and Seward and Van Helsing rely on the unconventional treatment of mutilating Lucy’s body in order to destroy the demon inside her. Thus, while modern medical practices are able to treat the human body, that which constitutes the material part of the human, the supernatural—the human mind included—defies such rationale and empiricism making unconventional treatments possible.

-Andres Garcia

Blog 3: Sexuality of Women in Dracula

20 Apr

 

 

In Dracula, Stoker explores the role of women in society and how it relates to their sexuality. In the novel he uses the characters of Lucy and Mina as examples of the Victorian ideal of a proper woman, and uses the “weird sisters” as an example of women who are as bold as to ignore cultural boundaries of sexuality and societal constraints. This contrast reveals overall trends in the attitudes of Victorian society as to what a woman should be as a member of society, and a sexual being. 

 

Lucy and Mina are portrayed as moral and appropriate women of society, for the most part. They are submissive (sexually and otherwise), models of purity, and dedicated to their men. They seem content with their place, and Mina is even suspicious of the ideas of the “new woman” writers, suggesting that their ideas of minimizing sexual inequality are outlandish (87). Lucy and Mina are portrayed as virtuous, and proper women for their time, fitting into the rigid social structure of the Victorian Era. 

 

Stoker contrasts these models of purity and obedience with the sexually aggressive and bizzare characters of the “weird sisters” in Dracula’s home. This contrast portrays them as the polar opposite of Lucy and Mina. Also, they are used as an example of what women could be if fully sexually liberated in society. The sisters are portrayed as overtly sexual, aggressive, and “fiends” (43). Through this comparison, Stoker warns society of the bizzare fate of women that he imagines could take place if Victorian values are rejected. When Harker first sees the women, he looks on them with “ some longing and at the same time some deadly fear” (42). This reveals Man’s fear of the sexually liberated woman. In the Victorian period, Men had a tremendous amount of social power over women that directly affected how they lived their sexual lives. Women were expected to either be a virginal model of purity, or a dedicated and obedient wife. The weird sisters, free from the sexual constraints of normal society, are used as examples of what a sexually liberated woman would be. This portrayal certainly demonizes them, making them less than human. When Harker beholds this, he is sexually enticed, but fearful of the power held by these women.

 

Furthermore, the weird sisters are portrayed as fiend-like and insatiable. The contrast between the model Victorian woman, and the weird sisters reveal what Victorian standards and advice would say about the sexual liberation of women: The liberated woman would be an insatiable sexual animal, if not controlled. The liberated woman would not be able to handle the power and responsibility that society held over them at the time. Essentially, an uncontrolled woman would be a sexual feind, animal-like and lacking virtue. 

 

Overall, this contrast reveals the horribly offensive attitudes that the Victorian age subjected women to. The power held over them by men kept them in their place, and Men feared any change in this social order. It is funny to see how far society has come, and how ridiculous these views seem to the majority of society today.

-Andrew Crockett

 

Dracula Eroticism: Blog 3

20 Apr

Sexual undertones are a common trend throughout this novel. Blood implies sexual desires and longing and vampires actively act on this. The transfusion and exchange of blood is a representation of eroticism. The desire and taking of blood is also an act of dominance, as it supplies strength and nourishment to the consumer. Blood symbolizes a communicative medium connecting characters and signifying sexual innuendos in Stoker’s Dracula.

Information of strength, sexual desire, and love are transmitted through the blood medium to the consumer. Dracula gains the strength of four men when he sucks Lucy’s blood. Lucy receives strength from her donors, as well as a sense of affection, for their love and sexual longing for her is delivered through the blood transfusions. Right before Lucy’s death, she calls on Art, “Oh, my love, I am so glad you have come! Kiss me!” (146). Luckily, Van Helsing stops this potentially fatal situation. Lucy’s vampire self longs and craves for a taste of her lovers blood. This is representative of the sexual passion that she feels for her husband, Art.

One of the first erotic situations arises during Harker’s stay at Dracula’s castle. While resting in his room, he was visited by three beautiful female vampires who cast a sort of spell over him. These vampires exude eroticism, amplifying the lust between Harker and them, “I felt in my heart, a wicked, burning desire that they would kiss me with those red lips” (42). Blood is the medium that creates this perceived passion between Harker and the vampires. They lust for his blood and his heart/ blood desires their affection.

The Count soon interjects, and asserts his dominance over the female vampires and Harker, “How dare you cast eyes on him when I have forbidden it? This man belongs to me!” (43). Dracula sees Harker as his and only his. He claims an ownership over him and exudes a sort of lustfulness, for at any moment Dracula has the power to drain Harker of blood and strength.

Another prominent example of blood as a medium occurs during Lucy’s struggle. Lucy’s strength weakens as she is continually drained of blood from Count Dracula. Her three suitors/ lovers come to her short- lived rescue through transfusion of their blood to her body. The passion that these men feel for Lucy is evident, “that poor pretty creature that we all love has had put into her veins within that time the blood of four strong men” (138). The action of transferring their blood into her body is a way of expressing their love and deepest desires to intimately be with Lucy. Blood is the medium in which these men exhibit their sexual longing and love. The transference of blood heavily implies an erotic connection between those involved in the exchange.

Morgan Beard