Dracula: The Shade and the Shadow: A Critical Anthology

Rating: 
4
A version of this review will appear in The Vampire's Crypt 18 (Fall 1998). The Vampire's Crypt web site is: http://members.aol.com/MLCVamp/vampcrpt.htm

Dracula: The Shade and the Shadow: A Critical Anthology, ed. Elizabeth Miller. UK: Desert Island Books, June 1998; hardcover, 240 pp.; ISBN 1-874287-10-4; 16.99 pounds. ($29.95 U.S.)

"Dr. Bloofer's" scholarly anthology collects 20 conference papers from "Dracula 97," organized into five broad categories: sources for DRACULA; the light the novel sheds on late Victorian England; analyses of the text itself; aspects of the historical Dracula; and new readings of DRACULA. Preceding these papers is an essay in which Nina Auerbach observes that "as I become increasingly saturated in DRACULA, I find it -- at least, him -- increasingly alienating. I do not want to live in a coffin; ... I do not want to be bitten by a creature who is neither human, friendly, nor communicative." So (she asks) "Why are we giving Dracula a birthday party at all?" Auerbach offers one answer: the twentieth century has in effect redeemed Dracula, changing him from a silence in the middle of his own story to a creature expert at media manipulation of all sorts.

But even writers of the century that has seen Dracula's redemption are not blind to the old creature's inhuman, threatening nature. Valerie Clemens writes of "Dracula: The Reptilian Brain at the Fin de Siecle," contrasting the novel's extensive use of modern technological devices (typewriter, phonograph, telephone, hypodermic injection, blood transfusion) with Dracula's reliance on a literally "reptilian" way of thinking. Vampires and reptiles share not only the traits of not caring for their young, lack of sexual bonds, and lack of the mammalian capacity for play, but the primitive "reptile brain's" reliance on instinct and habit. Amanda Fernbach, in "Dracula's Decadent Fetish," explicates another of DRACULA's (or Dracula's) threats: "DRACULA offers a decadent deconstruction of gender, presenting images of feminized men and masculinized women under the sign of vampirism." In "Corruption Becomes Itself Corrupt" Marion Muirhead shows Dracula as a vehicle of entropy, a Victorian-era answer to the late twentieth century phenomenon of the serial killer.

Articles on sources for DRACULA include "The German Matrix of Stoker's Dracula" by David B. Dickens and "For the Dead Travel Fast" by Diane Milburn. These two essays show opposite sides of Stoker's use of things German. Dickens portrays Van Helsing as an essentially German protagonist; Milburn, in contrast, finds Dracula a vampire of Germanic extraction representing a threateningly expansionist German empire.

Examining the text itself, Pericles Lewis, in "Epistemology of the Victorian Gothic Novel," describes how the metafiction that amounts to the book's introduction undercuts suspension of disbelief and leads the reader to doubt the reliability of the very documents that constitute the narrative. David Schmid explores a similar theme in "Is the Pen Mightier than the Sword? The Contradictory Function of Writing in Dracula." Writing is ubiquitous in the novel (necessarily, since it is told through documents rather than by an omniscient narrator), yet the vampire is overcome by his own weapons -- violence, blood, and money -- turned against him. Writing can record the struggle but ultimately has no effect on its outcome. In the perhaps misleadingly titled "Bram Stoker and the Society for Psychical Research," Stephanie ["Mihnea"] Moss looks at evidence indicating that the novel reflects Stoker's interest in and familiarity with early psychoanalytic theory.

Among the more lay-friendly articles is Bernard Davies's "Inspirations, Imitations, and In-Jokes in Stoker's Dracula." Davies reveals how Stoker gave the novel an "impish, cryptic sub-text" in the form of numerous details included for the benefit of relatives or friends, such as Van Helsing and Seward's visit to a hospital in Hampstead ... where Stoker's cousin was a hospital superintendent. These numerous digs show that (1) Stoker was not writing merely driven by an obsessive impulse born of repressed sexuality but was fully in control of his material (if tongue in cheek) and (2) DRACULA could not have been, as H. P. Lovecraft claimed, ghosted for Stoker by an American; only Stoker himself could have included such a wealth of personal detail.

In "Stoker's Banana Skins: Errors, Illogicalities and Misconceptions in Dracula," Clive Leatherdale echoes (sometimes more thoroughly, sometimes more concisely) material in his DRACULA UNEARTHED on such topics as "Vlad Dracula versus Count Dracula," Arminius Vambery, "Dracula's Guest," and DRACULA's internal inconsistencies. Elizabeth Miller's own "Filing for Divorce: Count Dracula vs. Vlad Tepes" offers convincing evidence that Stoker did not in fact *base* his vampire count on a historical character. Stoker was writing a Gothic novel, not a historical treatise; his notes, as well as the novel's careful avoidance of substantial details about the historical Dracula, demonstrate that he knew, and used, little more than the name of the Wallachian warlord.

Another historical versus fictional Dracula dichotomy underlies Radu Florescu's article "What's in a Name: Dracula or Vlad the Impaler?" His answer demonstrates that the name "Dracula" was used for Vlad III of the Basarab dynasty by both Vlad himself and his contemporaries (in several nations and languages) and defends its usage in modern times, pointing out that it has fallen out of favor with Romanians and historians solely because of its connection to Stoker's fictional character.

Although these articles are not hard reading in terms of vocabulary or style, much of the content, whether historical or literary analysis, is sufficiently technical to be intimidating and/or dull to the non-scholar. Most of the essays are short, however, which could make this volume a good introduction to scholarship for non-academic readers. For those of scholarly inclinations: All articles of course include notes and bibliography and represent a multifaceted cross-section of the type of attention DRACULA is attracting one hundred years into its publishing history.

Desert Island Books publishes a number of Dracula-related titles. You can check out their website at http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~desert/ DRACULA: THE SHADE AND THE SHADOW, as well as other Dracula Library titles published by Desert Island Books, is distributed in the U.S. and Canada by Firebird Distributing, firebirdcg@internetmci.com (Firebird Distributing, 2030 First St., Unit 5, Eureka CA 95501; 1-800-353-3575, fax is 707-444-8537).

The Mad Bibliographer
Cathy Krusberg

Fanged Films

Netherlands, 1973
Farewell / The Romantic Agony
USA, 1975

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

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