Guides, Roundtables

Dracula Postmortem, Part IV

11.06.09 | 3 Comments

With the reading of Dracula concluded, the Guides will spend the week discussing the novel in roundtable format. This is the last of four parts.

Is Dracula still relevant?

Kevin Fanning: That’s a tough question. I think that vampires in general are still so relevant, compared to the half-lives of zombies and pirates and mummies and ninjas, is in part thanks to the larger vampire narrative that Bram Stoker’s Dracula helped set in motion. But as far as the book itself, I’m glad I read it, and it’s an interesting piece of vampire literature, but it doesn’t change or alter my opinions about Buffy, Twilight, Irma Vep, Cronos, Castlevania, True Blood, Anne Rice, Underworld or any other vampire media. Vintage sent me a copy of their book The Vampire Archives: The Most Complete Volume of Vampire Tales Ever Published, and it’s astoundingly huge and sprawling. Vampires are bigger than any one book.

Matthew Baldwin: Van Helsing’s excruciatingly slow revelation of Fun Vampire Facts doesn’t work as well when the average reader already knows more about the undead than they do about the Supreme Court. But the underlying motifs of Dracula are as relevant today as ever: xenophobia, sexual hysteria, and the eternal struggle for power. At times the book was a novelization of the worst fears of the anti-immigration crowd, a depiction of malevolent foreigners skulking into a Western country, siphoning off valuable resources, and converting people over to their side.

In picking her top 10 favorite Victorian novels, author Sarah Waters described Dracula as “An exercise in masculine anxiety and nationalist paranoia”. As neither is in short supply, even in the 21st century, the novel strikes me as relevant today as it was a century ago.

Claire Zulkey: What I think are most relevant about the book are the the way it’s written and its treatment of gender roles. I still think that Stoker’s use of correspondence is an ingenious way to tell the tale: I love that it’s put together like a scrapbook and that it utilizes different voices to tell it, so me that’s still fresh and just a lesson in general for writers. Meanwhile I think Jonathan and Mina Harker’s relationship is worth discussing even today–at some points to me it’s a model of modern partnership. At other times…not so much.