Tag Archives: Blog 4

Vampires and economics

27 Apr

Moretti makes some interesting claims, linking Dracula and vampirism with capitalism and monopoly and juxtaposing these with Briton, free trade and morals. He uses a quote from Marx to explain that capitol is “dead labour, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more it sucks.” In other words capital is the Undead, a vampire. Dracula himself is depicted as the Other to the British in all ways possible. He is an “aristocrat,” feudal, a foreigner from the strange and backward Orient; he is also linked to monopoly the antithesis of British free trade.  Moretti links vampires to monopoly because once you are bitten you belong to Dracula “for life” with no possible way of gaining your independence (433). Moretti explains that in the book, Dracula is enacting the idea that monopoly is a foreign threat to Briton at the time, that is, 1897.

            Money with morals (or religion) is what defeats Dracula in the end. The money used for the sake of good and justice breaks the vampiric cycle (434). Here Moretti starts to differentiate the difference between eastern and western, the Victorian’s and the Other’s, sense of capital. One the one hand there is Dracula who is “not ashamed of itself” and then the Victorian capitalism that “hides its factories and stations,” in other words; Victorian’s hide their dirty laundry and pretends to be moral and different from Dracula (435).

            So far, so good. The links here do not seem preposterous, though Moretti’s argument for Dracula not being an aristocrat seems a bit odd. He remarks that Dracula lacks “conspicuous consumption” such as eating, drinking, love making, fashion and holding lavish festivities (531). I’d argue that while Dracula does not eat he does drink (blood) and he does “make love” to his victim in a coded way which is suggested by the erotic scenes of fluid transfer and penetration. His wish to colonize and take London as his own sounds much like the goals of a nobles or king, or empire for that matter. However, Moretti has to emphasize Dracula’s need for blood and thus his un-nobility in order to support his later claims.

            Moretti’s explanation of Quincy Morris, despite being rather unconvincing to me, is incredible important in understanding his claims concerning economics, foreign and British. He claims that Morris is a vampire, which we already understand to be linked with monopoly, Otherness, feudal tyranny. But to openly accuse the American as this would be to also accuse the British as the source of all these things (436). It breaks down the carefully constructed barriers between the righteous Victorians and the demonic vampires. Therefore Quincy had to be silently killed off in the end. This claim fits in very nicely with the information Moretti has previously introduced but his evidence for calling Quincy a vampire is based mostly on strategic absences, his mysterious background and a quote that mention vampire bats. I think it is a stretch but this interpretation is important for Moretti in order to show the way Victorian Britain constructs its own image and the image of others in Stoker’s Dracula.

            In this section we also an interesting view of the way media and the digestion of data are shown in this book. Moretti points out that we do not get any info from the point of view of the three outsiders, Quincy, Dracula and Van Helsing (not really true what about chapter XXIV?). English, especially typed is the most important medium for the character’s in Dracula, it allows everyone access and ultimately gives the characters the information/data (ability) to defeat Dracula. There is a really great quote on page 437 concerning the way Van Helsing’s speech is interpreted, recoded and recorded to become processed again.

Blog 4

27 Apr

     Overall, the main view on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, from literary contemporaries, is one of unprecedented authorship in reconstructing the horrors of modern day mystery, myth, and superstition via captivating literature around the subject of Dracula and his followers.

     In the first review, The Daily Mail, the author notes that while reading Dracula we tend to think of other powerfully suspenseful or horrifying literature from past legends such as Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein or Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. However, when objectively juxtaposing those books with Dracula, the reader does not noticeably receive the same physical or mental reaction, or stimulation, as they did while perusing Dracula. This is due in part to the intersecting segments of the same story, knitted together by Stoker’s genius, to form an enchanting novel that I personally could not put down once the story began. From the very beginning, detecting that the same entity was the cab driver and homeowner, the servant yet master of the castle, placed an unequivocal fascination with the Transylvanian host and his operations. What made him even more mysterious is that he never says anything directly from his own journal, logbook, or record keeping but rather expresses himself through the mediation of the main characters’ journals, logbooks, and record keeping. Also, they express in The Daily Mail that reading Dracula absorbed the reader’s daily life so much that they could no longer “pause even to light our pipes” (Review 364). I found myself cooking meals hours late because of Renfield’s abnormal condition and skipping daily exercise routines to find out if the others will ever notice Mina is getting the life sucked out of her. The author of this review highly reveres Bram Stoker’s “unmistakable literary power” and he even restricts the reading of the book for the weak nerved audience to the hours when the sun is out (Review 364).

     In the San Francisco Chronicle Review of Dracula, the author notes that Stoker’s novel is one of a kind because of his “originality… [and] treatment of Dracula,” and creativity in exploring with literary form through several media. He continues to say that other author’s who have attempted to make Dracula their own by personalizing him, or her, have not lived up to the paragon of parasitic mystery that Stoker has created in his original. This has implications that no matter how great the remake is, it will never be better than the original. We can look at modern remakes such as Twilight the movie and book series, or Johny Depp’s yet to be released movie Dark Shadows, as Dracula reconstructs, but nothing approaches the intrapersonal feelings of uneasiness, discomfort, and skepticism Stoker raises about the entire realm of the “Un-Dead” in his novel. Specifically, the scene of Dracula commandeering the natural forces, Lucy’s murder, Renfield’s murder, the three vampire sisters, and Dracula’s murder, all raise adequate questions about the nature of vampires; Stoker cleverly lays out the answers as the novel progresses. However, there is an element of predictability simply from all the reconstructions and recent cultural fascination with vampires but one can perceptibly see why such a novel had a profound impact on those who chose to read it during the 19th and 20th centuries. A man like Dracula has never before been created, wrote about, or perceived in the way Stoker depicts him as.

     One problem, I agree with, that the Spectator initiates with Dracula is that the “up-to-dateness of the book…hardly fits in with the mediaeval methods which…secure the victory for Count Dracula’s foes” because of all the technology Stoker uses throughout the book (Review 365). Alongside of that, the protagonists of the story do not even kill Dracula the way Dr. Van Helsing prescribed. Instead of a steak through the heart or cutting off the head, they simply slice his throat and stab him in the chest, which apparently does the job considering he disintegrates into dust. However, we cannot reprimand Stoker for minor inconsistencies in the novel nor admonish him for mixing modern and medieval elements because, one, the world was entering a new technological era that ultimately was reflected in the literary arena and two, its a fictional novel. Stoker did a great job in his composition and i really enjoyed the book to say the least. 

Blog 4: Kittler, “Dracula’s Legacy” and Sexuality

27 Apr

            Freidrich Kittler’s “Dracula’s Legacy” discusses  how women have been implemented as active participants in the discourse of language and psychoanalysis. “It is not the signified, rather the signifier which one hears” (Kittler 51). In this sense Kittler seems to be approaching the issue of the different ways in which we as subjects receive sound as emanations from the individual signifier, and not as signified objects of “sound.” It is hard to describe sound without also including its origin, and in this case it is professor Lacan who is giving the lecture. Therefore, his words are not mere data, but they are pure forms emanating from him to the subject. This is significant because Kittler suggests that this experience of the signifier was previously unattainable to women.

            Now that women have an equal opportunity to sit in on lectures given by professors such as Lacan, he may address the subjects “ladies and gentlemen” as a socially cohesive group. “What the master speaks off-the-cuff—and that means to and about women—is received only by women” (51). This points to the previous lack of universality amongst the academic environment. Since the implementation of women in the university, and academia, professors now have a direct correlation to them, and what is said “off-the-cuff” by professors will resonate particularly with women, being that they have the proper experience, knowledge, etc. to understand the meaning of these comments. This is contributory to the entire “discourse” in that it creates a cycle of socially cohesive information, it is not entirely directed to, and received, by men alone. As participators, women,  “with their own ears…hear discourses concerning the secrets of their desires. Hearing that even they have a connection to the signifier called phallus (at least in its anatomically miniature form), simply because they are no longer, as they had been for an entire century before fundamentally barred from all academic discourse”(51). The physical aspect of being present in the lecture hall elevated the degree to which women had been severed from the academic environment, establishing a direct link between subject and signifier in such discourses as psychoanalytic studies and subject material of various other sorts.

            “Everything that the Herr professors have told the Herr students about mankind and nature, spirit and alma mater, becomes ridiculous as soon as women are allowed to sit in the lecture hall. To women the master reveals very different things”(51). Kittler exposes the nature of classic academia as being proud of “mankind” and its relation to “nature,” man’s “spirit” and “alma mater” as conventions to be tested by the introduction of women to the academic scene. These elements are rendered “ridiculous” once women “infiltrate” these male dominated institutions. It is as if  women entered a sacred fraternity, which was never meant to happen in the eyes of men, and all the ancient male ideals of life and its secrets were exposed to the denied and suppressed intellect of women.  As women became more included in academic institutions “the discourse of psychoanalysis,” as Kittler states, began to “[run] through two parallel-switched feedback loops, one feminine and one mechanical” (52). As Lacan’s daughter provided a sense of the female perspective on these psychoanalytic discourses, her husband provided the “mechanical:” “a discourse, brought back by the daughter and turned into text by the daughter’s husband, circumvents certain dangers” (52). This circumventing of “certain dangers” seems to be referencing the now important aspect of the ever expanding and necessary elevation of sexual equality, and how psychoanalysis is codependent on input from women as equally as men.  Kittler insists that the “two parallel-switched feedback loops—the word of the daughter and the transcription of the daughter’s husband—create a discourse that never stops inscribing itself” (52). This immortalization of Lacan’s speech is possible because of his own daughter’s recapitulation and subsequent documentation. She, as Mina, acts as the mediator between Lacan’s lecture to the document, which is sent back to the lecturer, and so forth (Moebius Loop). The technology of such sound recording, or any of the mechanical improvements to lesser forms of documentation only solidified the present sense that man and machine seem to be converging: “from now on you are, and to a far greater extent than you can imagine, subjects of gadgets or instruments…which will become elements of your being” (53). Being the subject of the “gadget” itself is flipped upside-down in Stoker’s novel Dracula, where Mina Murray (or Harker) becomes the recording “gadget” herself by organically documenting the movements of Dracula through a telepathic connection. This plays on the idea that in the future much more direct forms of documentation of information will be discovered and improve upon mediation to give a more immediate experience of the “master” or signifier.

            Kittler expands that the “master” or professor “reveals” very different things to women, because they not only hear different things in the discourse of subjects, but also because certain topics are directly addressed to the perspective of women. Kittler claims that “it is therefore not surprising that precisely in place of this feminine myth [Don Juan], a feminine pair of lips [Lacan’s daughter] acts as a tape recorder” (51). Much like his own documentarian, Lacan’s daughter “makes certain that an intact Moebius loop known as text is produced from the ventriloquism of the master” (52). She is his own personal secretary in a sense, much like Mina Harker is to Jonathan in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. “Mina Murray, who, with the weapons of a new age:” “weapons” of technology (63). Kittler relates technology as a weapon for women because it diminishes the importance of learning certain male practices of journalism excluded to wome. In Mina’s case, the typewriter documents Jonathan’s journey, and becomes a weapon and elevates her importance in the novel because she is the most reliable source of data. Mina “practices her typing and stenography arduously, in order to do one day “what the lady journalists do” (63). Mina as a journalist, who are known to “defer, re-work, and augment speeches and texts, in whatever form they appear” gives Mina a special power in Stoker’s novel: she mediates information and data, and creates a uniform narrative by which the other characters base their beliefs and actions upon. She is the pivotal character who unites the characters with Dracula himself in a cohesive discourse. Her organizing skill of “steno-typing” relays the larger importance of women as being “proficient in both stenography and typing” which was ultimately responsible for the “House of Commons and Bundestage,” and many other institutions to keep from literally  “fall[ing] apart”(63). Mina’s role as a journalist, steno-typist, and overall mediator of data flow is what allows Stoker’s novel to create any sort of discourse over Dracula and reveals that women played a pivotal role in the revolutionary sweep of mediation and data recording.

-Adam Shelley

Gender and Sexuality in Kittler’s essay on Dracula

27 Apr

By Susan Reid

Kittler does not really discuss male gender and sexuality, but always relates gender and sexuality to the women in the book, Lucy and Mina. He is mainly concerned with how Lucy and Mina fit or don’t fit Victorian gender roles for women. I want to relate Count Dracula’s penetration into London to the propriety of British women being in danger, and to interpret the mutual blood-sucking scene between Mina and Dracula to be a rape scene. I will examine White female sexuality within the context of the colonizer/colonized relationship and the general paranoia of White men over their White women being “infected”.(By a foreigner or a vampire)

By picking out the beginning of #4 that Kittler writes about, the paragraph at the end of 62 and beginning of 63, that “Western Democracy would fall helplessly into the hands of the discourse of the master, if there were not young women in Exeter who could ultimately destroy this discourse with the technology.” Kittler goes on to say that women controlled the technology by which things were recorded and modern media (typewriters, telegrams, phonographs…) and if Dracula made victims of the women, then the media that they controlled would also fall victim to Dracula. Mina is one of the women who had access to the media, and Kittler’s argument is similar to saying that Dracula can penetrate England’s sovereignty as an outsider/foreigner if he can get in through the women. In that same paragraph, Mina is referred to as “Harker’s fiancée,… who, with the weapons of a new age, undermines the very possibility of a discourse of the master.” (63). Not only is Mina defined in relation to her husband, (evidence of patriarchy, that women were not seen as capable of existing alone in that time period, but rather as a sort of extension of man) but she is capable of defining a “discourse network” because she compiled all of the information for the book. She essentially holds the narrative together by standardizing all of the forms of information to a typewriter. Her actions of transforming one type of media (for example, newspaper articles, or handwritten letters) to a typewritten manuscript/anthology of everyone’s experiences help them to defeat Dracula.

Now, I don’t exactly have a source for this next paragraph but I read it somewhere and was hoping to quote it, but can’t find the document on my computer. But along the lines of imperialist and colonialist discourse, and in contribution to the gender roles of Victorian England, the reason why white men are so nervous about outsiders is because they feel the need to protect their women from sexual predators (i.e. any non-white man) and their women are supposed to be the epitome of femininity and British propriety. It casts white females of needing protection, and white males as “protectors”. Because white femininity helps to define the Occident, it is also the most vulnerable in terms of being corrupted by outsiders. Not only does this mold of White women help portray Mina as the White heroine, but it helps to define the Orient/foreigners/outsiders by emphasizing their tendencies of being hypersexual, not able to control sexual urges, predatory towards weaker beings, and so on and so forth. Dracula is constructed as “Other” in various ways, but his forcing Mina to suck his blood  is the greatest intrusion into the household which all of the main characters reside, the climax of his intrustion into England, intrusion of her body, and destruction of her female sexual morale. She has been infected, and during this scene the language used to describe Dracula (“a wild beast”, his “devilish passion” pg 247 of Dracula) resembles the rhetoric used to describe the colonial subjects/”savages” of Africa. What’s more is the White man (Jonathan) is right there when this happens, yet is completely void of agency to stop it. When the foreign other intrudes on his wife’s sexual purity/propriety, Jonathan’s power as White/colonizer/hero is completely undermined and he is helpless to protect her.

Blog 4: Stoker, Kittler, Moretti

25 Apr

Due Friday, April 27, by 5 p.m.:

Last Names R-Z: write a blog! Please tag your posting “Blog 4.”

Last Names I-Q: respond to one of last week’s blogs. Please post blog replies by commenting on the posting (not as new blog posts).

Feel free to use this blog to challenge/question Moretti or Kittler’s claims or methods, which are of course highly controversial and in some ways (usefully?) reductive. Make sure it is clear that you understand the arguments/methods prior to poking holes in them, and, as always, make sure to bring specific passages from the novel to bear on your claims.