Dracula: Detailed Context

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  • Created on: 13-01-20 10:49
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  • Dracula: Detailed Context
    • Fin de Siècle
      • Means 'end of century'; typ. used to describe period @ end of 19th cent.
        • Thought of as a period of degeneration, but also a period of hope for a new beginning.
        • "Spirit" of f.d.s. refers to cultural hallmarks prominent in 1880s / 90s, incl. ennui, cynicism, pessimism, and "widespread belief that civilization leads to decadence".
      • Sense of instability and unease; change, not necessarily for the better.
        • Devolution / Degeneration. Anxieties about future of the city reflected in dark landscape capable of hiding Drac.
        • Foreign threat is Drac. - threatens life and civilized life, but also women. Future of city is one of parasitical degeneration lead by foreign menace.
      • Drac. can be framed against social / political currents of Vic. period in Eng. soc. during reign of Queen Vic. 1839 - 1901.
        • Eng. experienced great economic, social and political change.
        • Under Vic, Eng. expanded colonial holdings to form empire "on which the sun never set" - extended from India, to China, to Caribbean islands, to Africa (trading + financial interests).
      • Imperialism caused great infusion of money into London (capital of empire) but also greater exchange of info, stories and legends from around world.
        • Legends of Carpathian mountains (in present-day Romania) form basis of Dracula.
      • Written @ end of Vic. reign, golden age of empire. Dracula is fantasy yet effectiveness comes from ability to play on universal fears.
        • 19th cent. anxieties - Drac. = vision of evil + incarnation of Eng.'s strongest fears.
        • Scientific rationality set against folklore + superstition; old Europe set against modern Lon.; trad. notions of civilized restraint + duty threatened by spread of corruption + wanton depravity.
    • Sex / Gender
      • Men's + Women's roles more defined in Vic. period. Men commuted to work while women left to oversee domestic duties.
        • Women assumed to desire marriage to become mothers rather than pursuing sexual / emotional satisfaction.
        • A doctor once said that "the majority of women (happily for them) are not very much troubled with sexual feeling of any kind".
      • Trad. role of women in soc. epitomized by Patmore's poem "The Angel of the House"; ideal femininity - loving wife devoted to husband, mother devoted to children.
        • Meanwhile, Acton's observation of female sexuality expressed medical man's view of ideal woman's sexual desire - or rather, lack thereof.
          • Modest woman who seldom desires sexual gratification. Submits to husband but only to please him. Besides desire of maternity, would rather be relieved from his attention
      • New Woman - feminist ideal from late 19th cent., influenced well into 20th cent. Sarah Grand defines as independent women seeking radical change
        • Autonomy = radical goal for women @ end of 19th cent.
          • Historically, women were legally and financially dependent on husband, male relatives, or social + charitable institutions.
        • Education + career opp.s for women in late 19th cent. + new legal rights to property (not yet vote); new freedom and choice in marriage and sexual partners.
        • Sexual autonomy; still difficult to put into practice in soc. Any extramarital sex seen as immoral.
          • Male writers cast new woman as sexual pred. or over-sensitive intellectual unable to accept sexuality (e.g. Lucy).
    • Social Context
      • 1859, Darwin pub.d "Origin of Species". Promoted evolution theory - humans are part of nature rather than above it.
        • Many thought it undermined Xtian exp.tion of human origin, as it meant world could not have been created in 7 days.
      • Atavism arose with popularization of evolution theory. Countering Darwin, it promoted fear of regression / devolution. If we evolved from primitive forms, we could return to them and succumb to primitive urges.
        • Atavistic behavior associated with criminality as it rep.d transgression such as violence and murder, which broke moral framework of Vic. standards of behavior.
      • Resurgence in xenophobic attitudes which saw Eastern Europeans as dangerous and fearsome, due to their 'backward thinking + operation' compared to Brit progress + enlightenment
        • Fear of eastern expansion / contamination of gene pool typified through Transylvania + Drac w/ his brides. Vamp. metaphor for contamination of races + bloodlines.
      • Birth of modern psychology + psychiatry. Freud began pub.ing psychosexual + unconscious theories in 1895; only one of many who believed mind was darker than supposed.
        • Seward + Helsing both psychological practitioners. Hypnosis, mental suggestion and compulsive behavior reflect public interest + fears about human psych.
      • Lombroso = central figure in promotion of atavism. Endorsed use of physiognomy.
        • Physiognomy - idea that atavistic behavior is identifiable through examination of individual features.
        • Believed in 'Born criminal' - id'ing criminals by appearance e.g. size of skull.


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