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13 DRACULA: THE GNOSTIC QUEST AND VICTORIAN WASTELAND By Mark M. Hennelly, Jr. (California State University, Sacramento) In Dracula (I897), when Mina Harker reads her husband's Transylvanian journal and relates it to the recent enigmatic events in London, she discovers that "There seems to be through it all some thread of continuity"¡1 and the attentive reader makes an identical discovery in Bram Stoker's long-neglected tale of two cultures. Until now there have been occasional folkloric,^ psycho-sexual,3 and even political^" readings of the novel; but such studies generally see this horror classic as a sui generis phenomenon and not as a sign of the times, not as a drama of conflicting epistemologies , which is so much a part of the Victorian tradition and which Dracula presents with brutal candor. Although the "Gothic" tradition is peripheral to this study, it is even more surprising that treatments of the Gothic or Romantic novel have almost totally neglected Stoker's most terrifying example of the genre. For instance, in Robert Kiely's otherwise excellent The Romantic Novel in England, the summarial definition seems written precisely for Dracula» "the most daring thematic innovations of the romantic novelists - the use of the supernatural and of wild nature, of dreams and madness, of physical violence and perverse sexuality - are played ironically or melodramatically against the conventions which they impugn. In terms of setting, tone, and character grouping, romantic novelists often seem to be writing two books in one." However, on the next and final page, he concludes: "After Wuthering Heights, it is difficult to find any work which carries the possibilities of intuition, subjectivity , or lyricism further in the novel without losing the old fashioned outlines of form altogether."5 It is the thesis of this study that besides being a masterpiece of Gothicism (which itself is ultimately concerned with the problem of belief in the Demiurge), Dracula is an allegory of rival epistemologies in quest of a gnosis which will rehabilitate the Victorian wasteland; and as its conclusion dramatizes, this rehabilitation demands a transfusion, the metaphor is inevitable, from the blood-knowledge of Dracula. Caught between two worlds, the now anemic nineteenth century all but dead, the twentieth powerless to be born without fertile, ideological conception, fin-de-siècle England desperately needs redemption. As Van Helsing announces: "we go out as the old knights of the Cross to redeem . . . .we are pledged to set the world free" (pp. 354-55)· Symbolizing the battleground between Ancients and Moderns, the Wasteland often provides a psychoscape for Victorian poetry and fiction; and the "waste land" of Tennyson's "Morte d'Arthur," the "ominous tract" of Browning's "Childe Roland," Arnold's "darkling plain" of "Dover Beach," Dickens' Coketown, and Hardy's Egdon Heath are just some examples of its prevalent imagery. In fact, in his study of the subject, Curtis Dahl concludes: "The wasteland , often thought to be a modern discovery, had been thoroughly , explored by the Victorians before the twentieth century was born." In Dracula, Dr. Seward, alter-ego for the Victorian reader, makes 14 clear the relationship between his wasted London, "under brown fog" like T. S. Eliot's, and his own blasted, scientific beliefsi "It was a shock for me to turn from the wonderful smoky beauty of a sunset over London, with its lurid lights and inky shadows and all the marvellous tints that come on foul clouds even as on foul water, and to realize all the grim sternness of my own cold stone building, with its wealth of breathing misery, and my own desolate heart to endure it all" (pp. 127-28). Here the oxymoron suggests that even naturally-wasted London is better than his own artifically-petrified, "desolate heart." However, the most salient passage for the wasteland theme, and one of the more remarkable passages in Victorian literature, locates the "waste of desolation" (p. 418) in London's geographic other-self, Transylvania - even the repeated desolate condition serves to link the two cultures. The broken-English here is characteristically Van Helsing's; and this description of Dracula's motivation and kingdom prompts his already mentioned pledge to "set the world free": I have told them...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 13-26
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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