Patrick’s Dracula Post

Patrick was having trouble posting, so I’m posting this on his behalf. This “detoured” mediation seems appropriate (for both Poe and Stoker) . . .

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In relation to our discussion of Lacan last week and my recent research for my course paper I have found several new angles to view a text which has held my interest since before my first reading of the Dracula in seventh grade. As I have often argued the epistolary nature of the text makes the book feel like what it claims to be; a transcription of primary sources testifying to an actual event while the closing of the novel begs off “We have no proofs; we ask that none believe us!”.

 

On this latest reading a few cracks have developed in the veneer of faux reality for me. Making a concerted effort to read the chapters as journal entries and letters rather than chapters in a book has drawn particular notice to the full transcription of letters from second authors within the “primary texts” of chapters. Of particular note are notes from dracula in Jonathan Harker’s journal. Perhaps this can be excused and taken as communicating to the reader Harker’s feelings of isolation as he has no other outlet for his feelings about the Count and his castle than his journal and had nothing better to occupy his time than transcribing notes.

 

I have also the role of mediation and interruption in the novel. There is of course the issue that despite the novel being a collection of primary sources, most of these have been mediated many having been transcribed by Mina from shorthand journals and Phonograph and then having to be copied from only one of the three carbon paper copies after the other two were destroyed. The then were mediated again in their organization and editing for its intended audience who we are standing in for.

 

There is also Dracula’s mediation and interruption of Harker’s letters home. He tells Harker who is in power the nature of what he is to write and when the gypsy delivers the letters Harker gave him to Dracula. It is interesting to consider that Dracula was the destination of those letters, which unlike so many others are not reproduced in the novel.When Harker accepted the Count’s invitation to “Enter freely and of your own will” did he consent to this mediation, sending messages only through the count subject to his approval? This situation reminds me of public officials e-mails which come to the public not through leaks, but through FOIA requests in which ultimate ownership of the “private” documents by the government and by extension the citizenry was a known factor, though one that could easily leave one’s conscious thoughts.

 

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5 thoughts on “Patrick’s Dracula Post

  1. Patrick,
    Might the various sources and [re]mediations of faux primary sources function to hypermediate the events of the text and draw attention to the very process of mediation? The novel is is often metacompositional in that characters reflect back on the process of writing (mediation) within the novel. Moreover, the novel is always explicit in regards to the technologies being employed to mediate the events of the novel. Might this signposting function alternately to highlight mediation (specifically at the beginning of chapters when signposting is most clear and during metacompositional moments), but then to occlude the process of mediation when entering into wordy Victorian descriptions which create immediacy? This disjunction, for me, functions as an “interruption” of sorts, but like Harker, I am not in charge here.

    This question of consent you pose is quite interesting for this very reason. I cannot but reflect back that to some extent I am entering the novel “freely and of [my] own will” (I did sign up for the class after reviewing the syllabus) but instead of Count Dracula mediating and interrupting it is instead the novel Dracula which is oppressing me in this way. Mediating my experience with the events and interrupting me with its hypermediate and immediate disjunctures.

    I’m very interested to read what others have to say. Great post.

    V/R,
    Darisse

  2. You’ve both hit on one aspect of the novel that I find fascinating – what Bolter and Grusin (and Darisse) call its “hypermediacy” (http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/6.1/reviews/blakesley/glossary.html) or its tendency to call attention to the fact that it is constantly being mediated. We learn from the very beginning that “these papers have been placed in sequence” (5), which calls attention to an author who may be Mina or Stoker or someone else. Suggesting a kind of “placing” betrays the claim that the events may “stand forth as simple fact,” an appeal to the scientific method that would supposedly make the story that much more authentic. I think this is one of the key literary attractions to the epistolary – that it pretends, in its very form, to be real, to be factual, to be true. However, when the mediation is laid bare, I think we have to question the “factual” and “true” nature of the history told to us. In some sense, this suggests a strident critique of Victorian empiricism.

  3. To build on Alex’s comment with a couple of concrete examples: hypermediation as it relates to Harker’s diary poses an interesting dilemma for me. The archivist contends that “HOW these papers have been placed…will be made manifest.” In that case, I can conjure absolutely no justification for the transition from Harker’s diary to the “flashback” that draws out the question of whether he has died in his escape attempt other than “it makes the story more suspenseful.” Does the hypermediation, then, simply draw attention to the fact that I’m reading a fictional and suspenseful story? This rabbit hole is a dangerous one to go down: if you begin to question the documentary nature of the text, it starts to wobble under it’s own weight. Dr. Seward’s diary entry on page 118 captures such a wealth of specific dialogue that it is hard to imagine him recounting it accurately. Does drawing attention to the fact that he uses a phonograph (though as a diary, not to monitor the conversation as it happens) make it more palatable that he would so specifically recall the exact words spoken and help maintain suspension of disbelief, or does drawing attention to the specific tool he uses only increase the likelihood of the reader rejecting the narrative situation outright?

  4. I tend to agree with you, Tim, that suspense is privileged. I think I find the form of the novel Dracula preeminent, like Darisse. It’s perhaps counter-intuitive: creating a novel out of found documents would seem to constitute a serious formal disruption. If anything, I find generic conventions more intact than, say, in The Purloined Letter, when they were so noticeably flaunted. There’s a premium on suspenseful questions – not just the drawn-out question of Harker’s fate, but also Mina focusing on the ‘pin pricks’ on Lucy’s neck.

    Yet – if we’re trying to leave the conceit of an archivist intact – maybe an archivist would hope to be *instructive* (I’m back to didacticism) in compiling these papers. Think about all the lessons learned from horror movies! This arrangement dramatizes the otherwise quotidian concerns of the characters – a missed letter here, a pin prick there – into severe, missed warning signs. The reader is left to understand that they should keep an eye out for these very signs and take them to heart, lest they take a vampire to the neck.

    [adding a note at the end because WordPress thinks I’ve already posted this comment, and has sent the message that there will be no more duplicate messages…]

  5. I think hyper-mediation is fascinating; In particular, I am drawn to the flame metaphor introduced at the beginning of the tale. The overlay between flame and figure, figure and flame challenges me to consider how linguistic treasure is blazing but illusive. When we read Dracula, the words carry the message; but which side is the story on? Is it behind the words, between the words, in front of the words (as we begin to picture the scenes), or amid the words? The optical effect here seems to point at the nature of truth: although you can witness the signals, reality remains forever buried.

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