All right, because I love you all so much I read some more bits of academia on Dracula so that you all don’t have to.
I’ve got some brief notes/summaries on two articles below. Be warned: Both of these article writers have zero chill.
“Back to the Basics: Re-Examining Stoker’s Sources for Dracula” by Elizabeth Miller (1999)
This woman is extremely concerned about how often books and media about Dracula treat erroneous speculation as facts. She’s determined to debunk all of the fake facts she sees, except she’s so convinced that they’re drivel that she doesn’t go very comprehensively into her evidence.
1. She says Bram Stoker hadn’t heard about Elizabeth Bathory and Dracula is NOT based on a female vampire (187). I hadn’t heard of Elizabeth Bathory, either, so this didn’t mean much to me. But she’s known as the Blood Countess and honestly sounds like a pretty killer lady.
2. She says Castle Dracula is completely fictional and folks need to stop “locating” it. Stoker describes it in the Borgo Pass, but there is no castle there (188-9). The ruins of Vlad the Impaler’s castle weren’t discovered until 1972, in the Arges Valley. Bran Castle “certainly looks the part” (189); I’ve heard the most about that one.
3. She says Vlad the Impaler should not be synonymous with Dracula. We have little evidence that Bram Stoker knew much about Vlad; we know he liked the name “Dracula” because it’s Wallachian for “Devil” but it was used to describe any bloodthirsty homicidal ruler, not just Vlad.
4. She says that Arminius Vambery , a Hungarian traveler and writer is not one of Bram Stoker’s sources. We know they dined together once, but otherwise there is no evidence that Stoker learned anything from him. I hadn’t heard of this guy, either.
5. She says that we have no evidence that Stoker read up on Vlad much, even though he went to the British Museum where some stuff on Vlad was. Also the wood-cut of Vlad really does not match the description of Dracula. What I find interesting is that a lot of the stuff we know about Vlad was researched and discovered after people decided that Dracula was based on him, and long after Stoker’s time.
6. She points out that impalement, one of Vlad the Impaler’s favorite things, isn’t mentioned at all in Dracula. Even though staking is sort of a different form of impalement, wouldn’t Stoker have mentioned it if he had known about it?
7. She says George Stoker (Bram’s brother) is not a viable source for Vlad the Impaler. His book about his travels mentions nothing about Vlad, vampires, or Transylvania.
Basically Miller has a lot of feelings about cultural myths that have sprung up around Bram Stoker’s inspirations.
“Dracula: The Unseen Face in the Mirror” by Carol A. Senf (1979)
This writer is really upset about the treatment of vampires in Dracula. I’m pretty sure she would have Van Helsing and Co. up on charges for murder and species endangerment if she could. I’m not going to go through her whole argument, but instead just mention a few of her more interesting points and observations.
- Senf observes that most people expect Dracula to be set at the castle or somewhere equally scary or dramatic, but it’s set in Bram’s “modern day” London, essentially, and told via “authentic” documents, rather than leaning into myth or fantasy (161). The supposed authors of the documents doubt themselves and what they think they saw very often.
- Senf thinks the characters are “two-dimensional” (162) and all have the same style/ opinions. I disagree but I’m curious about y’alls reaction to this?
- “Dracula is never seen objectively and never permitted to speak for himself while his actions are recorded by people who have determined to destroy him and who, moreover, repeatedly question the sanity of their quest” (162). Well, when you put it like that…She has good points about the characters’ mental stability (eg Renfield, Jonathan’s breakdowns, Lucy’s mood swings) and the fact that a lot of it takes place in or near the mental institution.
“Stoker reveals that what condemns Dracula are the English characters’ subjective responses to his character and to the way of life which he represents” (163) and “Stoker implies that the only difference between Dracula and his opponents is the narrators’ ability to state individual desire in terms of what they believe is a common good” (165). I mean, she makes a good point, but it’s sort of like….
- If they become like Dracula, “No longer would they need to rationalize their “preying on the bodies and souls of their loved ones” by concealing their lust for power under the rubric of religion, their love of violence under the names of imperialism and progress, their sexual desires within an elaborate courtship ritual” (166). The only thing Dracula does wrong is with his body if you know what I mean….This writer has absolutely no chill.
- SPOILERS BELOW
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- SPOILER WARNING FOR THIS QUOTE, BUT IT IS A DOOZY “By the conclusion of the novel, all the characters who have been accused of expressing individual desire have been appropriately punished: Dracula, Lucy Westenra, and the three vampire-women have been killed; and even Mina Harker is ostracized for her momentary indiscretion. All that remains after the primitive, the passionate, and the individualistic qualities that were associated with the vampire have been destroyed is a small group of wealthy men” (167). END OF SPOILERS
DISCUSS. This article was a very interesting read, but for me it went to extremes in order to justify Dracula’s actions and behavior. But again, Senf definitely makes some good points on the unreliability of the narrators.