Vampires and Victorians: Count Dracula and the Return of the Repressive Hypothesis



This essay is not a reading of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897). It is an examination of the myths and assumptions which operate when modern culture approaches this text, and the way it represents its central figure, the undead Transylvanian count. It proposes to historicise that which often forgets that it has a history: the ‘sexuality’ which Count Dracula supposedly embodies. It is a commonplace in contemporary critical and cinematic discourse that vampirism has an erotic ‘meaning’. However, what for many critics is ‘simple, evident, unavoidabl’3 will perhaps appear less obvious when history is brought to an assumption that reveals more about the myths and desires of ‘modernity’, than it does about Stoker’s text or the folklore of vampirism. This essay will approach this subject from three perspectives: the history of cinematic and critical representations of Dracula; the history of sexuality; and what could be called the erotic history of the vampire. The former will be dealt with first. To do this it is necessary to go back to where it all began; not to the Transylvania or London of the 1890s, but to Bray in Berkshire and 1958, the year Hammer studios released its first Dracula movie.


Modern Culture Historical Construction Regular Sexuality Sexual Liberation Modern Critic 
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  1. 6.
    David Pirie, A Heritage of Horror: The English Gothic Cinema 1946–1972 (London: Gordon Fraser, 1973), p. 84.Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    Bram Stoker, Dracula, edited by Maurice Hindle (1897; Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1993), p. 51.Google Scholar
  3. 10.
    Main Silver and James Ursini, The Vampire Film: From “Nosferatu” to “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (New York: Limelight Editions, 1993), p. 123.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1998

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