Academic journal article Atlantis, revista de la Asociación Española de Estudios Anglo-Norteamericanos

Dracula De Bram Stoker. Un Estudio Sobre la Mente Humana Y El Comportamiento Paranoide

Academic journal article Atlantis, revista de la Asociación Española de Estudios Anglo-Norteamericanos

Dracula De Bram Stoker. Un Estudio Sobre la Mente Humana Y El Comportamiento Paranoide

Article excerpt

1. Introduction: Science, Spiritualism and Bram Stoker in XIX-century England

More than a hundred years have elapsed since Dracula was first published and it still stands out as one of the most influential creations in the world of literature and arts. (1) Appearing in June 1897, Bram Stoker's novel raised the vampire tradition--from previous works such as Polidori's The Vampyre (1819), James Malcolm Rymer's Varney the Vampyre: or, The Feast of Blood (1847) or Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla (1872)--to its highest and most popular summit, and created, at a stroke, one of the greatest myths Western culture. This epistolary novel was released at the dusk of the nineteenth century, in the so-called fin-de-siecle. As several critics have pointed out, this period was characterized by an astonishing development of the different sciences, along with profound inquiry into the degeneration principles arising from Darwinist postulates (Ledger and Luckhurst 2000; Stiles 2006b). To highlight two new intellectual standpoints, the end of the century experienced the growth of a scientific naturalism, and witnessed the birth and development of modern psychology, with outstanding names such as David Ferrier, John Hughlings Jackson and James Crichton-Browne (founders of the Brain journal in 1878), or Sir William Thornley Stoker (Bram Stoker's brother and President of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland).

Additionally, the new discoveries in sciences and the scientific attitude towards life and existence percolated into the lives of the common citizen. Newspapers and periodical publications brought closer to the readers detailed descriptions of scientific reality and burning topics concerning social issues. Henry Mayhew, for instance, displayed an autopsy of the London Labour and the London Poor of the metropolis' society, with his articles appearing in The Morning Chronicle between 1849 and 1850, while Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins offered their 'realistic' narrations in instalments that kept to precise dates. Narratives with overtly clear chronological sequencing seem to be related to the objective account of events as described in newspapers such as the Illustrated London News or the Illustrated Police News (which began publication in 1842 and 1864, respectively). (2) Thus, as Anne Stiles affirms, "Victorian intellectual culture permitted a dialogic conversation in which scientific researchers and literary authors were mutually responsive to one another" (2006b: 5).

Nevertheless, Victorian culture and sciences also hid a darker side where the supernatural played an essential role. The 1890s were notable for the participation educated people in Spiritualism and other occult activities, their interest in folklore of all sorts and the writing of a great corpus of fantasy literature (including Stoker's own works). Thus, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the arch rationalist Sherlock Holmes, believed that spirits could be photographed, as is evinced in The Coming of the Fairies (1922). The struggle between the rational scientists and the educated Spiritualists reached the public spheres. As Richard Noakes points out: "In articles in mass circulation periodicals, textbooks, in public lectures and in classroom teaching, Victorian professionalisers and popularisers of science enforced the contrast between science and Spiritualism, and helped represent Spiritualism as beyond the domain of natural enquiry" (in Bown, Burdett and Thurschwell 2004: 24). Hence, mid-Victorian Britain witnessed the appearance of works, such as William Howitt's The History of the Supernatural (1863) or Alfred Russel Wallace's The Scientific Aspect of the Supernatural (1866), about the supernatural, the Spirit ontology and their relationship with the scientific world.

In this context of communication between Victorian science, fiction and the study of the supernatural, I place the object of analysis of this essay. My aim in the following pages is to offer a reading of Bram Stoker's Dracula as an example of the dialogue established between sciences and the supernatural in Victorian England. …

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