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BOOK REVIEWS remains an important area of modern scholarship, and some readers might be disappointed that the Encyclopedia is of little help in furthering research into it. All of this is to say that this is not quite the encyclopedia which I would have written. Nonetheless it is a work which I, and I'm sure many other readers, will find extraordinarily useful. Ian Small ____________________ University of Birmingham Dracula, Tradition, Modernism Carol Senf. Dracula: Between Tradition and Modernism. New York: Twayne, 1998. xv + 132 pp. $25.95 AFTER A HUNDRED YEARS, Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897) still retains its hold on our cultural imagination, at once turn-of-the-century period piece and classic vampire story. In this recent addition to the Twayne Masterworks series, Carol Senf places the novel clearly in its historical context, situating it at the intersection of contemporary concerns about gender, race, science, and technology. After the brief overview chapters required by the Masterworks formula (on historical context, critical reception, and "the importance of the work"), Senfs reading of the novel begins with a consideration of its narrative structure . She positions the major characters in terms of the social types they represent and celebrates the ability of the composite manuscript that they produce to defeat the vampire by its figuratively conjoined forces of "law, science, scholarship, religion, technology, and capital." She also endorses those views that read the ending as silencing Mina Harker, who, as chief organizer and collator of the varied documents that make up the account, might otherwise exercise a threatening degree of authorial control over it. The chapters that follow take a topical approach to the novel's contemporary significance. Drawing upon a variety of commentators, Senf demonstrates the ways in which Dracula tapped into fin-de-siècle fears about imperialism, race, and atavism by positioning Dracula as racial other. She surveys the wide variety of assumptions and fantasies about gender that shape the portrayal of both the vampires and the English women in the novel, as well as possible links to the anxieties about homosexuality that surfaced in the Wilde trials. Here she makes good use of Elaine Showalter's insight that cultural instability in times of change often registers itself in anxieties over conventional gender roles. 323 ELT 42 : 3 1999 A chapter that focuses on the novel's interest in extra-rational beliefs suggests links between insanity, religion, and gothic form, all means of challenging conventional definitions of normality. Her discussions of both science and technology stress their somewhat ambiguous status in the novel, as powerful but not invincible tools in the hands of the vampire hunters, who must also resort to more traditional methods to insure Dracula's defeat. In her most innovative chapter, she considers the neglected significance of class differences in the novel, particularly the way in which the superiority of the middle-class characters is defined against the decadence of the aristocratic Dracula and the derelictions of the working classes. At times the discussion seems to strain too hard to make the novel representative of the times; digressions into Victorians' attitudes toward animals and their fascination with history, for instance, do not seem central enough to the novel to justify their inclusion. On balance, though, this account makes a substantial case for Dracula's topicality. It also makes tactful and relevant use of details from Stoker's biography, like the ways his personal connections with the scientific and medical community contribute to his portrayal of these in the novel. Senf is generous and thorough in her inclusion of the work of other scholars; indeed, the study constitutes a veritable compendium of critical views of the novel, one that is careful to represent opposing positions. Her overriding concern with balance is signaled by her subtitle. While it is certainly true, however, that the novel combines a tantalizing mix of conventional Victorian prejudice and state-of-the-art innovation, Senfs determination to make Stoker both traditional and progressive may achieve compromise at the cost of incisiveness. This approach certainly works for characterizing the novel's mix of science and superstition. It also offers a plausible approach to Stoker's views of women, although the evidence for...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 323-325
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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