Communication and Construction of Monstrous Embodiment
June 15-16, 2012

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

“Just a wooden stake”: (de)sensualising Dracula

Hopefully, you are already enjoying your holidays and long winter nights with a good book or an interesting piece of writing. For those of you passionate about vampires and Gothic literature, take a look at Elizabeth Miller's intriguing article Coitus Interruptus: Sex, Bram Stoker and 'Dracula' which dissects Stoker's timeless classic by reflecting on numerous interpretations and critical works which highlight the novel's overwhelming sexuality. Introducing the article, Miller writes that readers of 'Dracula' have been repeatedly assured that the novel is "all about sex" where "every sexual practice has been thrust upon its pages" like necrophilia, fellatio, homoeroticism, bestiality, incest, pedophilia, sexually transmitted diseases and others. Miller argues that:
Words have been twisted to yield new meanings, passages have been examined out of context, and gaps in the text have been declared intentional omissions. Furthermore, critics comb every aspect of Stoker’s life looking for evidence for their particular brand of psychosexual analysis, sometimes even inventing “facts” to support flimsy theories. The preponderance of such readings of Dracula demands re-assessment.
Basically, Miller invites readers to imagine 'Dracula' where a 'wooden stake is just a wooden stake' and 'blood is merely blood'. While Miller does not deny the existence of eroticism and sensuality in the novel, she argues that certain readings' insistence on certain sexual contexts may lead to "reductive textual nit-picking" and could be a consequence of projecting modern sensibilities and discourses of sexuality onto a Victorian text (for example, numerous readings of the scene of Lucy's staking which most popularly refer to phallic symbols, sexual violation and many others). Taking Miller's article and other readings into account, it seems that the extent of sexual contexts, practices and overtones present in 'Dracula' remain shrouded in speculation and mystery. Finally, Miller tellingly concludes the article:
But in the flush of excitement to validate the novel, to give it relevance in a postmodern world, one can too easily fall victim to distortion or even the creation of information to support a theory. That is where, in the view of this writer, we should pull back. For sometimes a wooden stake is just that—a wooden stake.

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