Friday, July 01, 2022

Dracula and Philosophy: Dying to Know – review

Editors: Nicolas Michaud & Janelle Pötzsch

First Published: 2015

The Blurb: John C. Altmann decides whether Dracula can really be blamed for his crimes, since it’s his nature as a vampire to behave a certain way. Robert Arp argues that Dracula’s addiction to live human blood dooms him to perpetual frustration and misery. John V. Karavitis sees Dracula as a Randian individual pitted against the Marxist collective. Greg Littmann maintains that if we disapprove of Dracula’s behavior, we ought to be vegetarians. James Edwin Mahon uses the example of Dracula to resolve nagging problems about the desirability of immortality. Adam Barkman and Michael Versteeg ponder what it would really feel like to be Dracula, and thereby shed some light on the nature of consciousness. Robert Vuckovich looks at the sexual morality of Dracula and other characters in the Dracula saga. Ariane de Waal explains that “Dragula” is scary because every time this being appears, it causes “gender trouble.” And Cari Callis demonstrates that the Count is really the Jungian Shadow archetype — with added Shapeshifter elements — in the journey of Mina Harker, heroine/victim of Stoker's novel, from silly girl to empowered woman.

The review: This reference work looks to, through various contributors, examine Dracula (character and novel) via a range of philosophical lenses. The aim is good but the result is a mixed bag.

The first thing I’d mention is that whilst the book does include a bibliography and index, there is also a large amount of very casual (rather than academic) language through the volume. This is a double-edged sword – in some respects good, it may well engage readers put off by academic form, but it felt too casual to me at points (but that is just me).

There is an issue also in the use of Dracula (the novel) when it felt, at many turns, that the authors had not read the text or, at the very least, had conflated it with aspects from the megatext. Several authors, for instance, make reference to the destructive nature of sunlight when a scholar of the novel knows that the sun is debilitating but not deadly (and, indeed, some key moments with the Count occur during the day). Sometimes this might be just confused text and so Ariane de Waal discusses Mina’s career aspirations in Letting Dracula out of the Closet and the text intimates she is referring to Stoker, the text following on from Lucy being thought to be polyandrist (Stoker) and not subsequently changing her source. In fact, the situation she describes are from the 2013 TV series Dracula and better in-text referencing would have helped that – incidentally, that grumble aside de Waal’s was probably my favourite chapter.

That said, when the contributions were good, they were worthwhile and picking aspects from the megatext rather than Stoker is not an issue so long as you recognise/identify your source. It might be that a student of philosophy, especially one who is not so immersed in the vampire genre, would get more out of some of the scenarios. This student of the genre, with no real background in philosophy, could only take some of the arguments at face value, not being able to attest to the robustness or otherwise. 6 out of 10. Thank you to Sarah, who bought me this for my birthday.

In Paperback @ Amazon US

In Paperback @ Amazon UK

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