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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"The Occidental Tourist"

                Until I read Stephen Arata’s article The Occidental Tourist: Dracula and the Anxiety of Reverse Colonization I never once saw with in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula many of the underlying ideas that Stephen Arata  brings to light in his literary criticism. On the whole I found the piece very enjoyable, and it gave me almost a sense of an “a ha” moment many times over. Once I read his piece it was easier for me to see his ideas reflected in Bram Stoker’s work.
            The first idea that I found very interesting was how the character Dracula not only portrays a vampire, but also portrays a different race as a whole, and by forming this idea shows that in truth is was Stoker’s way of showing the general apprehension of late Victorian Englishmen. To them Dracula is a threat, one that tries to take over and subdue England, and this idea was very much thought of by many during this time, that England would be overcome by its colonies. Stephen depicts this fear among Englishmen when he states in his piece “This racial context helps account for what critics routinely note about Dracula: that he is by his very nature vigorous, masterful, energetic, robust. Such attributes are conspicuously absent among the novel's British characters, particularly the men.” (Arata, 631).
            To be completely honest until I read this excerpt I never once thought about this idea before. To me Dracula had always just been a gothic novel, and I never really took the time to truly dig into the details of Stoker’s work to consider his underlying ideas. I always knew that Bram Stoker had done a lot of research for this story; however I never realized how much research he really did.
            Another part that I found interesting in Stephen Arata’s work was his ideas of “eastern” and “western” culture. I always knew that though out ancient history there was a discernable difference between these cultures, however I never realized that this idea of differences carried so far into our recent past.  I found it interesting that he discusses how Jonathan Harker’s journal begins as a travel guide, such as many which were written in that time frame. He discusses Harker’s irritation that time seems to not matter to the “easterner” and that the trains are never on time. He also discusses Harker’s observations of the people and customs without so much as a disturbing feeling, because he believes that they are simple and a superstitious group of people. He does not seem them as equal to his own “western” thoughts.
            Then to Harker’s surprise he comes to meet the Count who is in a sense his equal, and quite possibly superior to him, because of his knowledge of the western world. Not only has the Count taken the time to learn their customs, but even perfected their accent. Arata cites a passage from Bram Stoker’s book stating how the Count admits to wanting to be able to blend in with the Englishmen, and has taken great time to make himself truly assimilate with them.
            Once again he compares this to the fears of Englishmen of the time. He discusses how their greatest fear would be for someone “under” them to be able to completely blend in with them, and by doing so have the ability to “take over”. In a sense this is what Dracula tries to do within the story, He makes himself go unnoticed to the English population, and because of this can slowly stalk out his prey without anyone batting a second glance at him.
            Over all Stephen Arata’s piece of literary criticism is very well written, and it truly opened my eyes to some of the underlying events that were actually taking place at the time Bram Stoker wrote this novel. Dracula has always been one of my favorite novels, and now after reading this piece I almost want to reread the novel once again, to see how much I have truly missed out on when I have read this before.
            One thing that I did find interesting was that I have read another book titled Anno Dracula by Kim Newman, and this story is what would be considered a sequel to Dracula had the Count won against Van Helsing. Not only does the story bring other famous vampires of the time into the novel, such as our great Lord Ruthven, but it also depicts the conquering of England itself by the Count, and how the world might have been if he would have gained control. It is a wonderful story, and now after reading this literary criticism I think about if it had been written during the actual time it would have caused quite a stir in the eyes of the Victorian Englishman.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Online Artifact--- The Vampire Mythos

For my online artifact I chose a blog posting entitled Women and the New Vampire Mythos by S.E Smith. I chose this blog because I found it interesting and relevant to our discussions of not only Carmilla, but also relevant to many of the stories we have read or will read during this class.
            In short the blog discusses the role of women in a vampire novel, and how it has changed greatly from the times when The Vampyre and Carmilla were written. In the blog it discusses how women have taken on a much stronger role within the stories of today’s age compared to the frail innocent creatures that women were depicted as in older vampire stories. The author discusses many different stories including Carmilla and True Blood.
            What truly grabbed my attention to this blog wasn’t the discussions in the blog as much as the diction used in the blog. Although the author of this blog only uses their initials, from the word choices I can tell that the blog was written by a woman. For example when the author is discussing the difference in 19th century vampire literature to today’s she states;
            You want to talk about a vampire trend which was harmful to women, let’s talk 19th century Gothic vampire literature, people, because this shit gets ugly, and the difference between Gothic and Modern works is pretty radical, yet at the same time, a lot of things stay the same.”
            Just by reading this tiny sentence in this blog I can discern that the author is female. Since she defends women so strongly in this sentence it almost radiates her gender.
            Another point of interest to me in this blog is that the author connected how sexuality and the ideas of it in a vampire novel have changed, yet stayed the same. The author points out how the idea of a man’s sexuality has changed somewhat since the earlier writings, but how the women’s role still has not yet changed completely. To support her theory she uses the example of Carmilla and how it is assumed that she was a lesbian, and because of that she was made to be an evil creature, and she is in the end punished for her sexuality. The author then goes on to give an example from the modern age and uses True Blood.
            I believe this piece is well written for a blog. Once I read the piece once over I knew right away from the diction and tone of the piece that it was written specifically for a blog. The piece is not scholarly, and does not cite references. The piece is more toned down, and to me it seems the audience is more likely to be a normal person who is browsing for information about vampires. The author uses slang and curse words in her piece which makes the piece more down to earth as well.
            I found the piece in whole entertaining. The ideas the author touches on are very large ideas, especially in the world of vampires, and to be honest the piece could have touched on more details, however because the piece seems to be more of an opinion than a educational blog it works well for its purpose.
            The reason I chose this piece and its relevance to Carmilla is because of its discussion of sexuality. The novella deals with sexuality, not only sexuality, but lesbianism. For this time period when this story was written it was something very radical to write about. When I first read this story I was honestly shocked that it was even allowed to be written during that time period. I have always noticed a line between sexuality and the vampire, as many of the stories I have read are of the modern era, and have found the whole idea of it positively interesting, especially in Anne Rice’s stories, however I will wait to discuss that until the right time.
            Overall I thought this blog was very good, and brings up a lot of different points for discussion. It’s one of those pieces that you read, and then try to google more information about.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Carmilla and Innocence

                In the short novella Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan La Fanu the vampire reigns supreme. It is an interesting twist on the gothic vampire story because in this story the vampire is a young and beautiful girl. To the naked eye she is a young helpless child, who needs someone to help take care of her. This is seen when we are first introduced to her when her carriage tips over in front of the schloss. My child will not have recovered sufficiently to resume her route for who can say how long. I must leave her: I cannot, dare not, delay. “To Laura and her father she seems like a perfect normal young girl, and because of the loneliness of the schloss they decide to take the young girl in, even though they really know nothing about her, and are even told not to ask questions of her.
                I found the story interesting because of the innocence of Carmilla. She doesn’t show the signs of a scary monster; in fact she is the complete opposite. She can live, breathe, and walk among humans as if she is one of them, and no one would ever suspect her.  She uses that innocence to prey on her victims slowly and methodically.  In a way the story reminds me of The Vampyre because she can blend in with humans, but unlike Polodori’s Ruthven who is depicted as mysterious, she is innocence personified.
                The story has an underlying gothic theme of the dual nature of the character. She is evil and destroys life, but at the same time looks and acts like a child, and feeds off the loneliness of Laura. Laura dismisses many of Carmilla’s quirks because she desperately wants someone to be her companion.
                Another interesting note in this story compared to Polodori is that Carmilla could actually love someone. It is shown many times over in the story that she is in love with Laura. “The time is very near when you shall know everything. You will think me cruel, very selfish, but love is always selfish; the more ardent the more selfish. How jealous I am you cannot know. You must come with me, loving me, to death; or else hate me and still come with me. and hating me through death and after. There is no such word as indifference in my apathetic nature.”  Even though Carmilla is an evil creature she can still love another person.  Once again is emphasizes the dual nature of her character. It emphasizes more of her human characteristics. We can see by her love of Laura that she is determined to have her no matter what, and she will take her death to have her all to herself.  In this passage she blatantly admits to Laura she is being selfish with her, even though Laura doesn’t really understand the true meaning of Carmilla’s words.
                Overall this was a very enjoyable novella, and I will admit I did not stop reading until the end of the story. I enjoyed the story very much, though I will admit I really wasn’t sure what to write about for my blog this week. I am hoping that others in the class will help give me a better idea of something to write about for next week. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Awesome Link

     While searching on the internet for a description of daily life in the 19th century I found this wonderful site and I wanted to share it with everyone. There are some very amazing links on this page that helped give me a better idea of what it would have been like to live during this time period.


Bending to the Will of a Man

                In last week’s discussion of the story Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte I broached on the theme of social status and power in the story. For this week I would like to touch on the theme of having no power within the story, mainly focusing on the women of the novel.
                During the late 18th and 19th century in England women were not equal to their male counterparts. In fact women were not considered citizens at all. Take this excerpt from a piece on property rights by Hiam Brinjiki accessed from http://www.umd.umich.edu/casl/hum/eng/classes/434/geweb/PROPERTY.htm
The property rights of women during most of the nineteenth century were dependent upon their marital status. Once women married, their property rights were governed by English common law, which required that the property women took into a marriage, or acquired subsequently, be legally absorbed by their husbands. Furthermore, married women could not make wills or dispose of any property without their husbands' consent. Marital separation, whether initiated by the husband or wife, usually left the women economically destitute, as the law offered them no rights to marital property. Once married, the only legal avenue through which women could reclaim property was widowhood”
                A woman could not hold property on her own, and so her and her  possessions were passed from her father to her husband. The male controlled all aspects of her property including property she held before their marriage. If a woman worked the money she made was not considered hers, but her husband’s as well. A woman could not take her children from the husband, he had legal right to his children over her.
                The powerlessness of women is very prominent within Wuthering Heights. It is seen when Cathy makes her decision to marry Edgar, because his power and status will benefit her. Cathy will live comfortably in wealth and not have to worry about being poor. Since a woman could not make something for herself, she had to choose to marry well in order to survive.
                Another example of the powerlessness of women during this time comes from Isabella. Once she chooses to marry Heathcliff, and realizes what a monster he truly is she cannot get free of him. During this period divorce was not allowed by women. She chooses to flee, however Heathcliff makes it apparent that he could come and get her anytime he pleased, as well as take his child anytime he wanted to.
                Heathcliff uses this power over women many times within the story. He uses it on Catherine to force her into marriage with his son Linton, and then forces her to stay with them at the Heights,  instead of letting her live at her home in the Grange. He also knows that because of her marriage to his son that should his son die her property would pass to him, since Catherine cannot own property or possessions.
                The women in the story are forced into situations that they do not want to be in because they have no true control over their lives. They are controlled by the men in their lives and the decisions they choose to make. 
                For me, living in the 21st century, and being as independent as I am I cannot even begin to fathom how this powerlessness felt. As a woman in the 19th century you had no mind, and no choice. Many times in the story I would become upset at the way Heathcliff was able to bend women to his will because they had no choice.  Because of this power Heathcliff in many ways resembles the gothic vampire. He may not be drink their blood, but he can bend a woman to his own will and wishes, and she is powerless to control her own fate. It is almost the same way Dracula uses his powers of hypnosis over woman to make them bend to his whims.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Social Status and It's Effects in Wuthering Heights

 Good Evening Everyone,

Throughout the story Wuthering Heights many different ideas and themes are presented to the reader. In fact there are so many that you could fill up volumes discussing each of them in detail. For this discussion I have chosen just one theme to dig a little deeper into. I actually have two themes I would like to discuss for this story, however I will hold off on the second one till next week when everyone has read the entire novel. The first theme I would like to discuss is social status.
In England during the early 19th century there were very distinct lines of social status, which could be broken down into three different segments, which included upper class, middle class, and the lower class. Within Emily Bronte’s work we are able to see the view point of all three classes, and the effects of one being within a certain class. The Earnshaw’s could be described as upper middle class. They had servants, and owned land, however were not very wealthy. They did not have new and nice things, and they only had a few servants in the household. The Linton’s on the other hand were very wealthy. They owned lots of land, had many servants, and had the finest things money could buy.
In chapter seven when Cathy returns from her five week stay at the Grange she comes home a changed woman, and this can be depicted in the clothes she is wearing on her return. “…there lighted from a handsome black pony a very dignified person, with brown ringlets falling from the cover of a feathered beaver, and a long cloth habit, which she was obliged to hold up with both hands that she might sail in”(Wuthering, p49). The final class of society depicted within the story is the lower class. The servants, and Heathcliff (prior to his return) are depicted as worthless creatures who are uneducated and dirty.  
In the story Cathy loves Heathcliff, and Edgar, but must make a choice on which one to marry. On the night that Edgar proposes to Cathy, she explains her turmoil to Nelly. Nelly asks her the reasons she loves Edgar and she responds;
Nonsense, I do-that’s sufficient.”
“By no means; you must say why?”
“Well because he is handsome, and pleasant to be with.”
“Bad!” was my commentary.
“And because he loves me.”
“Indifferent coming there.”
“And he will be rich, and I shall like to be the greatest woman of the neighborhood, and I shall be proud of having such a husband.”(Wuthering, p72-73).
From this small conversation we can see that to Cathy having a well to do husband is something that women in her time strived for. She knew this marriage would cause her social status to rise with in society. Cathy does love Edgar, but it is because of what he has, instead of who he is.
The conversation then changes to Heathcliff, as Cathy loves him as well, and in fact by her description of her feelings for him, it is apparent that she loves Heathcliff more than she loves Edgar, however her response to marrying Heathcliff is;
“I’ve no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in heaven; and if the wicked man in there had not brought Heathcliff so low, I shouldn’t have thought of it. It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him...”(Wuthering, p75)
            In the end the reason she chooses to marry Edgar instead of Heathcliff is because of his social status. Had Heathcliff been rich and well stationed Cathy would have married him instead. If Cathy had chosen to marry Heathcliff the lives of all the characters in the story would have turned out completely different.