Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

Bram Stoker's Dracula as Saviour: Nietzschean Reading

Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

Bram Stoker's Dracula as Saviour: Nietzschean Reading

Article excerpt


Brain Stoker's Count Dracula is traditionally and popularly regarded as the villain of Stoker's classic 1898 novel. Drawing on Nietzsche's theories on power and morality, as well as on existing theories on late-Victorian England and on the novel itself, this article argues that the famous Count emerges ironically as the novel's tragic hero. In particular, the preoccupation with appearance and boundaries that in part characterised late-Victorian England will be outlined with reference to Ronald Pearsall's The Worm in the Bud ([1969]2003) and Prescott and Giorgio's (2005) research on Dracula, which situates the novel within the late-Victorian climate of anxiety and power.

In this process, credence is given to Nietzsche's theory that morality is a construct borne from humanity's will to power and not a natural, historic given. As such, judgements formulated around this construct need to be carefully scrutinised and their value questioned. In the same vein, characters cast as either villainous or heroic within this constructed framework must be re-evaluated. Thus, the proposed article re-evaluates conventional ways of thinking with regards to power and morality, and focuses on how transgression can represent a meaningful challenge to a repressive, hypocritical status quo.


Die tradisionele, en gewildste, beskouing van Bram Stoker se Count Dracula is van hom as die booswig van Stoker se klassieke 1989 novelle. Hierdie artikel hou voor, aan die hand van Nietzsche se teoriee aangaande mag en moraliteit, dat die befaamde "Count" ironies na vore tree as die tragiese held van die novelle. In besonder word die laat-Viktoriaanse Engeland se karakteristieke besorgdheid met aanskyn en grense hier omtrek, met verwysing na Ronald Pearsall se The Worm in the Bud ([1969]2003), en Prescott en Giorgio's (2005) se navorsing aangaande Dracula, wat die novelle midde in die laat-Viktoriaanse klimaat van angsvalligheid en mag plaas.

In hierdie proses word geloofwaardigheid verleen aan Nietzsche se teorie dat moralitieit 'n maaksel is, gebore uit die menslike sin na mag, en nie 'n natuurlike, historiese gegewe nie. Sodanig is dit nodig om die uitsprake wat rondom hierdie maaksel geformuleer word sorgvuldig te ondersoek, en hul waarde te ondervra. In dieselfde gees word vereis dat karakters wat binne hierdie gekonstrueerde raamwerk of as skurkagtig of as heroies uitgewys word, soortgelyke herskatting ondergaan. Die artikel heroorweeg dus konvensionele denkwyses aangaande mag en moraliteit, en fokus op die wyse waarop oorskryding 'n betekenisvolle betwisting van die bedwingende, huigelagtige status quo kan aanvoer.

Brain Stoker's Dracula as Saviour: A Nietzschean Reading

Count Dracula is the archetypal villain. He is the invader of sovereign lands and bodies, and the polygamous murderer of babies. However, Dracula is only "evil" in so far as he is the opposition to what the novel presents as "good". Acceptance of Stoker's protagonists and London as such casts The Count automatically as morally reprehensible and therefore "bad".

Drawing on Ronald Pearsall's study on sexuality and morality in late-Victorian England as well as on Nietzsche's philosophy on power, I argue that Dracula represents the only opposition to the late-Victorian climate of moral hypocrisy and self-delusion and as such is ironically the most "Christ-like" figure of the novel. Nietzsche's philosophy is particularly relevant here given the time period in which he wrote and his focus on power--a human characteristic that shaped the late-Victorian moral superstructure of which Dracula was a reflection.

Nietzsche's theories on power have been contentious, not least because his only book whose title includes the word "power" is not entirely his. In his book Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist (1974), a composed yet clearly irritated Walter Kaufinann outlines the less-than-ideal conditions tinder which The Will to Power (1901) was published, citing Nietzsche's sister, Elisabeth Forster-Nietzsche as the main antagonist in the ordeal--for Kaufmann, the anti-Nietzsche. …

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