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Expert Comment: Bram Stoker's centenary

Bram Stoker's Dracular with Rock the Boat Productions at the Capstone Theatre. Tuesday 23 October 2012

Dr Trish Ferguson, Lecturer in English Literature at Liverpool Hope University, on the centenary of the author of 'Dracula'.

This year witnessed large-scale national events to mark the bicentenary of Charles Dickens’s birth. 2012 is now drawing towards its close with another important literary centenary of this year comparatively disregarded. This is curious given that Bram Stoker, who died in 1912, gave us one of the most famous characters in literature and perhaps the most influential novel of all time in the phenomenally successful, globally renowned Dracula (1897).

Liverpool Hope University is celebrating the centenary with two lectures on Bram Stoker, one by Dr Jarlath Killeen, on Wednesday 7th of November 2012 as part of the Irish Literature Lecture Series. At the Liverpool Irish Festival on Saturday 20th October Liverpool Hope hosted a Stoker centenary lecture at the Bluecoat with a lecture by Darryl Jones, who is Professor of English Literature at Stoker’s alma mater, Trinity College Dublin.

Professor Jones highlighted just how significant the novel is, not only in Irish history, but as a commentary on fin de siècle England when London was many times over the world’s largest city, the ‘workshop of the world’, the headquarters of empire and, as the zero meridian, assuming a position of dominance in the modern world.

In a fascinating analysis of the novel Professor Jones demonstrated the many ways in which Stoker’s Dracula belies the collective optimism expressed in Queen Victoria’s triumphant Jubilee celebrations in its year of publication through a narrative deeply troubled with apocalyptic anxieties centred around a vampire invading England to build an empire of his own, beginning in the heart of Victorian London.

In terms of the current popularity of Dracula and all things vampire, Stoker’s Count is still very much undead and continues to resonate in contemporary culture in various afterlives and guises. In recent years Stoker’s infamous blood-sucker has taken firm hold in American popular culture, with ubiquitous reincarnations of Stoker’s vampire, which clearly speak in some way to a generation of disaffected teenagers. But Stoker’s iconic vampire has never lost his original allure and popularity in his original incarnation and continues to be relevant today. Dracula embodies (or perhaps disembodies) fears of racial and cultural otherness amid globally-felt anxieties of the possibility of terrorism of an unforeseeable nature.

He also speaks to current fears of economic apocalypse. As Jonathan Harker swipes Count Dracula with his great Kukri knife when they finally face each other in mortal combat, startlingly, the Count bleeds not blood, but money. Invasion narratives featuring vampires dripping with money seeking to bleed the country dry resonate in 2012 perhaps more than ever.

With the consistent and prolific output of Charles Dickens it is understandable that the Stoker centenary is eclipsed by that of the Inimitable; nonetheless it is appropriate that Bram Stoker is now taking a central place in Irish literary studies and duly celebrated for his astonishing and disquieting work.

 

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