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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.