The text of Dracula has, as it were, been “eaten alive” by the culture machine. Since Bram Stoker wrote the novel in 1897, the infamous character “Dracula” has returned repeatedly in novels, short stories, films, television shows, art, music, fashion, new-age religions, and even forms of body-modification. Dracula truly is an un-dead figure of literary allusion. But the story of Dracula does not begin with Stoker’s eponymous novel either. Indeed, his roots trace back to ancient vampire-lore— particularly from Eastern European mythology (variants known as shtriga in Albania, vrykolakas in Greece and strigoi in Romania) but also from similar mythologies emerging in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. As such, Dracula provides a useful lens for considering various dimensions of the research process: questions of citation, summary, and adaptation as well as of genre, form, and audience. Bridging the 19th and 20th centuries, the gothic and the modern, superstition and science, Dracula also offers us grounds for thinking with and against the notions underlying our research methods: notions such as “history,” “meaning,” and “truth.” Indeed, the novel’s very form— episodic epistolary— demands that we readers take a critical archival approach. Stoker sets us the task, that is, of piecing together the mysteries of the story as well as of interrogating the reliability of his characters. To add to our archival task, I have assigned the “new annotated” version of this novel, edited by Leslie S. Klinger. These annotations will provide context, interpretation, and correction to the novel. Let us, then, enliven the rather deadening experience of research this semester by taking on Dracula and the popular culture of vampirism!
- Teacher: Katherine Thorsteinson