Sunday, September 02, 2018

Dracula An International Perspective – Review

Editor: Marius-Mircea Crișan

First Published: 2017

The Blurb: This volume analyses the role of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and its sequels in the evolution of the Gothic. As well as the transformation of the Gothic location―from castles, cemeteries and churches to the modern urban gothic―this volume explores the evolution of the undead considering a range of media from the 19th century protagonist to sympathetic contemporary vampires of teen Gothic. Based on an interdisciplinary approach (literature, tourism, and film), the book argues that the development of the Dracula myth is the result of complex international influences and cultural interactions. Offering a multifarious perspective, this volume is a reference work that will be useful to both academic and general readers.

The review: This academic book of essays looks at the novel of Dracula (and beyond) and there is often a Gothic caste to the articles, the book being part of the Palgrave Gothic series. As often occurs with these multi-essayed volumes the quality varies, though I’m please to say that the writing and content are primarily excellent. Towards the head of the volume there were a couple of chapters that perhaps had little to do with the novel itself – so Badin’s The Discourse of Italy in Nineteenth Century Irish Gothic was fascinating but I failed to perhaps see a dotted line to Stoker as much as I did with Szabo and Crișan’s “Bloodthirsty and Remorseless Fangs”: Representation of East-Central Europe in Edgar Allan Poe’s Gothic Short Stories.

The Sam George chapter that examined the representation of Transylvania in Dracula and the Pied Piper was wonderfully thought provoking and Duncan Light’s Tourism and Travel in Bram Stoker’s Dracula was an excellent opening to a new vein of study in the novel. Several of the chapters had a location aspect. I was very aware of Hans de Roos’ theories regarding the location of Castle Dracula and Stoker’s basis for the character of the Count already, though they are well constructed arguments if you do not know the theories, and really enjoyed Crișan’s chapter on Castle Hunedoara. I thought Kristin L Bone might have expanded her essay on Location and the Vampire to expand past the direct impact of Interview with the Vampire on New Orleans and look at the modern general vampire myths (such as the Casket Girls) that had no historical vampire connection.

Towards the end of the book we perhaps had some chapters I thought were a tad off mark or filler. I appreciated where Nancy Schumann was going with her discourse on Dracula and Interview with the Vampire – however Rice’s vampires were not the first sympathetic vampires (though I would accept the argument that they popularised the idea). However, Fred Saberhagen played with Dracula as a sympathetic character a year before Rice’s first volume in the Vampire Chronicles but we can look as far back as 1823 or 1824 for sympathetic vampires in the short story the Black Vampyre or the novel the Virgin Vampire. Incidentally when Louis feeding “on rodents, rather than mammals” is mentioned, it has to be noted that rodents are mammals – perhaps rodents rather than large predators was meant?

When Magdalena Grabias looks at the gothic themes in contemporary cinema and television I felt that looking at (the none-vampire) Victor Frankenstein (2015) was a shame when she could have explored the wonderfully Gothic Penny Dreadful, which had both Frankenstein and vampires (and Dracula). I also felt a trick was missed by Dorota Babilas, who looked at the increase in the vampire genre of family values as a modern phenomenon. In fact, it was suggested “Classic vampires do not have sex” (and therefore do not procreate through sex). Well I guess it depends on what you mean by classic – the folkloric vampires had sex, some stories suggesting returning to lay with their widows, whilst other folklore had the children born as dhampiers – and certainly the vampires of Jess Franco and Jean Rollin had sex. However, for a vampire not only fathering a daughter but becoming a grandparent – well we need only look to the 1964-66 The Munsters and Sam Dracula, his daughter Lily (we also meet his werewolf son, Lester) and Grandson Eddie.

The book ends with a strong examination of the growth and transition of gothic spaces by Carol Senf. The book is indexed, which is always good, and the essays are all well referenced.  As always, whilst I might find issues with aspects (and that should be part of the academic essay, as it is through the discourse of differing ideas that things grow and develop) that does not mean to say the volume was poor. Indeed, it was strong to very strong in the main and even those couple of chapters that felt like filler were well written. 8 out of 10.

In Hardback @ Amazon US

In Hardback @ Amazon UK

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