The Postmodern Evolution of Telepathy: From Dracula to the Twilight Saga

By Sanna, Antonio | Gothic Studies, May 2013 | Go to article overview

The Postmodern Evolution of Telepathy: From Dracula to the Twilight Saga


Sanna, Antonio, Gothic Studies


Abstract

This article will analyse (the lack of) telepathic connection between the characters of Edward and Bella in Meyer's Twilight Saga and compare it to the subliminal link between the Transylvanian vampire and Mina in Dracula. The lack of a telepathic bond between the two characters will be read as a contradiction of the original concept of telepathy. The Twilight Saga is interpreted as a postmodern representation of vampires which both reprises and subverts the precedent literary and cinematographic narratives of such 'monsters'.

Keywords: Twilight, Dracula, vampire, telepathy, parody, postmodernism, monstrosity, Stephenie Meyer

In this article I shall analyse (the lack of) telepathic connection between the characters of Edward and Bella in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Saga and specifically compare it to the subliminal link between the Transylvanian vampire and Mina in Bram Stoker's Dracula. Considering that the relationship between Edward and Bella is actually founded on reciprocal love in Twilight, the lack of a telepathic bond between the two characters shall be read as a contradiction of the original concept of telepathy (formulated by Frederic W. H. Myers in 1882) and, more precisely, as epitomising the parodie transgression of previous fictive narratives which is typical of postmodern fictions. In fact, I shall interpret the Twilight Saga as a postmodern representation of vampires which reprises, confronts, and then both subverts and negates the precedent literary and cinematographic narratives of such 'monsters' by partly presenting them as friendly beings who are actually interested in the welfare of the human community.

Telepathy was one of the main phenomena analysed, studied, and debated by the members of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), which was founded by Henry Sidgwick, Frederic W. H. Myers, Edmund Gurney, A. J. Balfour, and Eleanor Balfour, together with several declared spiritualists in 1882. Within the Society, five committees were engaged in the study and description of phenomena such as thought-reading, Mesmerism, apparitions, and haunted houses, and related issues such as phrenology, hypnosis, trance states and multiple personality.1 Much of the work of the SPR was premised on the supposedly positive results of the experiments with Douglas Blackburn and George Smith, who claimed to be able to read each other's thoughts and simple mental images.2 Such an ability was verified by the psychical researchers examining them in front of numerous audiences. The experiments thus supposedly proved the existence of telepathy, though the positive result was asserted mainly through the researchers' confession of their inability to explain such phenomena by means of the methods of conventional sciences rather than through a proper explanation of the laws governing its functions. Telepathy came thereafter to be taken for granted by many adherents of the SPR. In many reports it is affirmed, indeed, that 'telepathy is a fact'.3 During the 1890s, many reporters did not even consider that the existence of telepathy might need any more research or proofs. In 1894, for example, A. J. Balfour (then president of the Society) affirmed: 'it is our business to record, to investigate, to classify, and, if possible, to explain, facts of a far more startling and impressive character than these modest cases of telepathy".4

Telepathy came therefore to be one of the very bases of the theories of the Society. Specifically, it was thought to occur when the 'mind under certain circumstances sees without the use of the physical organ of sight'.5 In Gurney', Myers' and Podmore's 1886 volume Phantasms of the Living, a sort of Bible of the supernatural for the period, it is described as occurring when 'the mind of a human being [affects] the mind of another ... by other means than through the recognised channels of the senses'.6 According to this assumption, telepathy was seen as the power uniting self and other and effacing such a binary opposition. …

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