• Cartography of the Imperial Mind: The Dangerous Forms and Reforms of Dracula

    Caitlin Duffy (see profile)
    Gothicists, Horror, Humanities Commons Summer Camp, Victorian Studies
    English literature, Nineteenth century, Arts, Gothic, Medicine, History, Cartography, Literature, Imperialism, Gothic literature
    Item Type:
    vampires, dracula, brain science, boundaries, Victorian literature, Gothic, Medical history, Cartography and literature
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    The late Victorian era was imbued with progressive scientific reform and palpable anxiety regarding the future of the British empire. These two topics may seem distinct, but they find mutual expression in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, in which the soulless Count travels from Transylvania (literally, “beyond the forest”) and invades England. The fear of the foreign “other” infecting England and the crumbling belief in the concept of an autonomous soul were reactions to the height of development of which the late Victorian era is characterized. I argue that the horrors caused by the demonic vampire in Stoker’s Dracula not only parallel the anxieties of brain science reform, as scholars like Anne Stiles have shown, but they also run analogous to the imperial unease of the late Victorian era. Fears of primitivism and loss of self-control were present within both imperial discourse and criticisms of brain science, but become materialized within Dracula. I first explore the reforms in brain science produced by T. H. Huxley and David Ferrier, paying particular attention to their cartographic drawings of the brain. By claiming dominion over the human body, these scientists were able to colonize and draw boundaries along the human mind, localizing specific processes to areas of the brain. I also explore British imperialism at the end of the Victorian era. After gaining material knowledge and wealth through their conquests mapping the world, fears developed regarding contamination via disease and interracial coupling. In Dracula, we see the realization of the fears brought upon by the cartography of the mind and of imperialism in the late Victorian era. Count Dracula journeys from a land beyond the control of any map to England, annihilating geographic and mental boundaries as he easily manipulates the minds of his British prey.
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    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    5 years ago


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