With the reading of Dracula concluded, the Guides will spend the week discussing the novel in roundtable format. This is the third of four parts.
Claire commented on the constant tension in the novel between the supernatural and the scientific method. Any additional thoughts on the subject?
Matthew Baldwin: I was unclear if Stoker was championing the scientific method, or warning about relying upon it too much. Obviously Van Helsing and others–the ostensible heroes of the novel–used science as a tool for defeating evil. But at the same time, a subtext of the story seemed to be “ignore the supernatural at your peril, because ignorance of evil makes you a target for it.”
Obviously vampires are hot right now. How is their current incarnation different from Stoker’s introduction to them?
MB: One obvious distinction is that the seductive power of Dracula was designed to repulse Victorian readers (at least superficially–I have no doubt that Stoker was pandering to baser instincts a bit), whereas modern vamp-lit authors package their bad boys as genuinely sexy, with their allure portrayed as a pro rather than a con. In other words, while Stoker had to titillate on the sly, today’s writers do so brazenly.
Claire Zulkey: I rewatched “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” and had to laugh about how deep I thought I was when I first saw it, saying “You see, it’s not a horror story, it’s a love story.” Well, actually, the book is pretty much just a horror story. Save Jonathan and Mina’s relationship, there is no real love in this book, especially coming from Dracula. There’s no immortal beloved, no sensitive vamp. Just a blood-sucking bad guy.
Kevin Fanning: I think the main difference is that it’s no longer a case of vampires being seen as creatures of pure evil. Between Anne Rice, the Underworld series, Buffy & Angel, True Blood, Stephanie Myers and Scott Westerfeld, there are lots of people making the case for a distinction between good and bad vamps. This is part of what’s really revitalized the genre in the last few years, and it’s a big change from the origins of the vampire myth.