So in my last post I opened asking “did you miss me?” And someone decided to send me this anonymous ask on tumblr:

A screenshot of an anonymous message on tumblr which simply says "no"

It’s possible that it wasn’t in relation to my Fujoshi Let’s Read, but this would be the third time someone has harassed me about this series on tumblr. I know “harass” is a strong word for this instance, but I can’t think of a better one for the vitriol people are spitting at me for being horny on the internet, the place where people go to be horny. Instead of muting me or filtering the word “fujoshi” to remove me from their online space, they encroach into my online space to make me try to feel bad about myself. So far no one has bothered me on twitter (probably because I keep forgetting the #draculadaily tag) and no one has told me to kill myself, so I find these interactions annoying at best and tiresome at worst. 

This morning over coffee, with a cat asleep in my lap, I thought it over: what could I do to convince these people to google how to filter terms on tumblr? The answer is this: post more content.

Of course while we’re operating on Dracula Daily’s schedule, I can’t come up with much more stuff to do. BUT, I do have an academic book about vampires that I can tell you about, and we have countless movies and such that I can watch and post about too. Let’s be horny about gay vampires together and maybe be nerdy about academic shit.

To skip the bonus, click here to part 15.

So this book I have, I found it at the dustiest, most unsafe bookstore I’ve seen in a long time, and all the clients there were elderly people, risking their lives to be murdered by collapsed book piles. It’s Reading the Vampire by Ken Gelder. I picked it up for a friend and it kinda inspired me to actually do this Let’s Read like I always wanted to, because where else would I deploy this Dracula trivia? When I get through it I will send it off to my friend with cheeky notes throughout, so if you’re reading this Leigh I suggest you skip these posts for spoilers.

Chapter 1 is called “Ethnic Vampires: Transylvania and Beyond” and I left a note about how “no one says ethnic anymore” on the table of contents and then made the same joke again on the chapter title itself, in case you were wondering what being friends with me is like.

Chapter 1 opens with an interesting story about the island of Tasmania, and how it was being colonized and assaulting the Aborigines. Though these white assholes didn’t make it into the dark forests on the southwest of the island, they named the place Transylvania all the same. The author translates the name as “beyond the forest” or, as the root word “trans” (trans rights woo!) means “crossing,” one might also say “to the other side of the forest.” It’s a very whimsical and imaginative name on its own. Now, Transylvania has become synonymous with vampires, forgetting that it is a real place in Romania (and apparently, also Tasmania). “One of the peculiarities of vampire fiction is that it has – with great success – turned a real place into a fantasy.”

Apparently in the nineteenth century, Britain had its eyes on Transylvania and other parts of Eastern Europe, and at the same time, travelogues were popular and available, as well as folklore and ethnography texts. Jonathan’s story, at the beginning, is itself written as a travelogue, complete with racist assumptions and complaints about the trains. Stoker himself never went to Transylvania, and wrote the novel based on research largely from such travelogues, “parts of which he had incorporated into Dracula almost word for word.” 

Dracula casts a shadow over Romania to this day (probably, this book was written in 1994 and this blog almost 20 years later), and a revolution to overthrow communist rule in 1989 led journalists to compare Nicolae Ceaușescu to Dracula as the modern Vlad the Impaler. Dan Simmons wrote a few vampire novels around this time, Children of the Night picks up right after the coup in Budapest and, apparently—forgive me if I’ve gotten this wrong—compares the vampire contagion to AIDs. This is a fascinating piece of information for my gay Dracula agenda.

For the record, there’s a lot to this book that I’m glossing over because it’s dense academic stuff. Every paragraph juggles about twelve ideas while trying to get to its thesis and if I unpacked it all this blog would be longer than the book itself.

German Lacanian writer, Friedrich Kittler, proposes that Jonathan Harker is acting like an English spy by entering Dracula’s castle and communicating to his friends using his shorthand code. He proposes that, given the interests of Britain in the area at the time, all tourism was imperial tourism. He compares Harker’s mission (and discomfort with “hybrid identities”) with something written by Van Helsing about Dracula, that seems to reference some dude named Armenius Vambery. Vambery was an Orientalist and also a spy for England, weaving through Turkish society and appearing to all who met him as a local. According to Kittler, it is Vambery who is the basis for Dracula, not Vlad the Impaler. Gelder points out however that Kittler doesn’t mention that Vambery was Jewish, an identity that Vambery made efforts to obfuscate, leading him to study many languages and religions until he became alienated from his sense of self. No matter where he went, everyone looked at him and presumed he was an outsider. Using Vambery’s own words, Gelder accounts that Vambery is “‘at home’ everywhere and simultaneously ‘a stranger everywhere’ (Vambery 1904, 394) – able, indeed (as Kittler suggests), to spy, but conscious also of always being spied upon.

Gelder compares Vambery’s crisis of identity to “imperial Gothic” literature (as coined by Patrick Brantlinger) which “reflects Britain’s interests in, fantasies about and suspicions of the East.” It seems that the British were disturbed that they couldn’t clock the identity of a person based on their appearance at a glance, and so found people from Eastern Europe, like Vambery, suspicious. 

Seems like not much has changed in 125 years! Maybe what JKR really hates is that nonbinary people are bathroom spies. I bet someone could write an essay about this but it’s not going to be me.

Anyway, Dracula himself in the early novel tells Jonathan about how Transylvania is diverse, and this diversity and their separate communities and interests causes a lot of conflict. “In short, diversity means the loss of one’s nationality” because they identify instead with more isolated groups with individual agendas, which sounds great to me because nationalism is shit. It is, however, problematic to the imperialist ideology of Britain. National identity is the us vs them on which imperialism operates, so vampirization is an act that dissolves white imperialists into the local environment—a reverse colonization, aka #landback. This reminds me of the lost colony of Roanoke where the hungry white people just signed up with the Croatoans, and the countless other colonizers who decided to hell with king and country. If this is what it means to be a vampire, Carmilla can take me now.

Dracula’s “reverse colonization” is a little weirder. He wants to go to England and blend in.

a stranger in a strange land, he is no one; men know him not – and to know not is to care not for. I am content if I am like the rest, so that no man stops if he sees me, or pause in his speaking if he hears my words, to say, ‘Ha, ha! A stranger!’

Of course to do this by bringing Dracula to England means to diversify the whole of London with #landback hotties, but apparently this doesn’t work so well later in the novel because Dracula is unable to disappear into the population. “…like Vambery, Dracula is a character whose ‘polyphony’ and ability to circulate freely – to traverse national boundaries – signify nothing less than his irreducible Otherness.”

Reading this makes me want to write a book about how this kind of vampirism would function in a globalized world. Accents are the first indicator to a local that someone comes from somewhere else, but I feel like, in my town at least, that’s not a bad thing, and not so unusual. I think strangers aren’t so rare.

Building on the theory about Vambery, Gelder goes into detail about vampires often embodying antisemitic stereotypes. He cites Nina Auerbach, who in Woman and the Demon: The Life of a Victorian Myth (1982), compares the sexual menace of Dracula over Lucy Westenra to that of Svengali over Trilby O’Ferrall and Freud over Fanny Moser. Gelder, a equal opportunity pervert of my own heart, points out that Dracula does not beguile only women, but also Jonathan. Dracula does embody a few harmful stereotypes, and Gelder suggests that after the novel’s popularity, a lot of vampiric traits were folded into antisemitic stereotypes about Eastern European Jews. 

Dracula hoardes wealth and has the ability to move from one place to another, thus decentralizing wealth and denationalizing, decolonizing it. I find this hilarious in the current globalized world, as it is common for folks like myself to work for companies in the United States and soak up their cash at a sweet and generous conversion rate. 

Franco Moretti, in Signs Taken for Wonders (1988) suggests that Dracula also embodies the “feudal monopoly” of the past. Quincey could be read as a foil to Dracula; he has money, he wanders, and he decentralizes his wealth, embodying the capital and monopoly of the future in the guise of the USA. Moretti believes that the true fantasy of Dracula is in the communal sharing of wealth to achieve justice, destroying the solo monopoly of hoarded capital. Gelder seems to have some doubts, but draws attention to Marx’s comment from Capital (1867) written 30 years before Dracula:

Capital is dead labour which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks.

Apparently, Marx compares the bourgeoisie to vampires a lot. And it wasn’t unusual for his era, as Varney the Vampire was in serialization, the first ever vampire novel written in English. Marx is also guilty of perpetuating antisemitic stereotypes of Jewish people as dedicated to commerce. While Marx himself was Jewish, he is specifically discriminating against Eastern European Jews. He even goes so far in his work to suggest that Jews can move in and out of cultures and speak every language, concerned primarily on their way with commerce, bringing us back to the transitory nature of the vampire.

It all comes together as Gelder lays out the threefold connection: capital, the vampire, and the Jew. These three seem to combine in the genre of imperial Gothic, which seeks to stratify national identity against the villain: the unassimilated Jew in the guise of a border-hopping vampire, roaming free to inject the past into the present.

Wait that’s a thing I actually said once already isn’t it? 

He sits in a female space, unpenetrated by the male one. But if he sees himself as modernity, it is that which he hopes, I think, to penetrate history. Or perhaps that he is afraid that the past will penetrate the present rather than the other way around.

That was in part 6!

Woman high-fives herself.

Maybe I wouldn’t have been such a bad academic if I’d gone on to get my Master’s.

This book has seven chapters and this post was really hard so please don’t send me bitchy messages on tumblr. If you liked this and don’t wanna send a bitchy message but would like more, you can send me a tip because this was hard work and I’m tired, but I’ll do it again for money and/or spite.

13 | TOC | 15 >