- Mass Production and the Spread of Information in Dracula: “Proofs of so wild a story”
Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a collection of firsthand narratives about a small group’s interaction with, and eventual defeat of, a foreign threat that invades England. Presented within a frame, the purpose of the collected narratives within the fiction is to provide information to a group of people who desperately need it, but Dracula is not simply a framed narrative with multiple points of view telling distinct stories that eventually come together. Within the context of the novel, it is not sufficient that the material be collected by firsthand observers and written down; it needs to be shared. To know everything about Dracula is to know how to destroy him. It is information, gathered and arranged into a collaborative and comprehensive account, that enables the group to defeat Dracula.
To meet demand, multiple, identical copies of the accounts derived from original documents are created and circulated to an audience only tentatively connected to one another, a move that mimics the shift from a culture that disseminates information only to a privileged few to one that distributes information on a large scale, transcending boundaries of class, location, and gender. As a group of manuscripts from various sources, collected, arranged, standardized, reproduced, and distributed with the intent to inform a wider audience of a significant state of affairs, Dracula is a representation of the periodical, and more specifically the newspaper, of the 1880s and 1890s. Just as the spread of literacy during the nineteenth century created a market for a proliferation of daily and weekly periodical publications, the potential spread of vampirism creates a need for these particular texts, and the same technological advances and methodologies in printing and publishing that satisfied the needs of a vast reading public make the exchange of [End Page 440] information in Dracula possible. However, the spread of information creates its own anxieties, and the narrative form of the novel appropriates the authority of contemporary news sources to explore and contain these anxieties. In Dracula as in the news industry, private confidences and exchanges are replaced by publicly distributed material, but the end result is the same: an audience who trusts its source will act on the knowledge that the source imparts, and if the information is provided quickly enough, the audience can respond while the news is still relevant. Drawing on the form and practices of the contemporary newspaper, Dracula also appropriates the authority of the press: that of the individuals preparing the news, the means by which they record and reproduce it, and that inherent to the profession itself.
Initially, the narratives that comprise Dracula are presented as found, technologically modern but private manuscripts: journals kept, for example, in shorthand or on a phonograph. However, within the fiction of the novel, the material is, in the hands of Mina, collected and disseminated, transcribed and typed and duplicated, and it is this collating and cross-referencing to arrive at the facts of the matter that makes Dracula less an epistolary-style novel than a novel employing journalistic discourse. Multiple accounts, dispatches from abroad, and material culled from interviews and other sources work together to create a transpersonal authority for the fantastic events within the text, an authority that is journalistic in nature. The multiple-witness, on-sight recording of events, later cleaned up by a lady typist, suggests the dispatches of a foreign correspondent, as does Harker himself, who makes reports from abroad that include recipes and local lore, as well as a day-by-day account of events. Stoker’s inclusion of newspaper clippings such as those pasted into Mina’s journal provides the reader with a professional journalistic account with which to compare those of his participants. Cross-referencing of reports, made possible for the reader throughout by the collection and arrangement of the text by the editorial persona, moves the plot forward in the second half of the novel, and authoritative accounts from beyond one character’s sphere are provided by accounts from others.
When Harker sits down seven years after the events described in the book in what seems to be the newly...