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Journal of Dracula Studies

Abstract

When Jonathan Harker first describes Castle Dracula, his journals rely on the language of war. Unable to pin down the castle’s site on an Ordnance Map, Harker is able to see instead the liminal city of Bistritz in terms of a historic siege (11). As he approaches nearer, Harker relates a companion’s (mis)quotation from Burger’s “Lenore,” a line spoken by an undead soldier, all too recently at war (17). Castle Dracula itself appears textually as a mix of military and Gothic discourses, whose “frowning walls and dark window openings” (21) serve both to situate Harker in classically Gothic space, and to describe a tactical situation “where sling, or bow, or culverin could not reach” (40). When the novel subsequently shifts ground to London, Carfax similarly appears in this dual role as Gothic and military edifice. Once “Quatre Face,” the now-estate contains massive and unbroken walls, a fine internal spring (for preserving fresh water during sieges), well-situated windows, few neighbors, and a difficult entry (28-29). As a Gothic site, Carfax becomes a typical architecture of terror, containing spatially organized secrets and suspense. Between these two architectural foci, these synecdoches of the Gothic and war, swings the balance of the novel’s plot and much of its conceptual structure, formally anchoring Dracula’s expedition and its retreat. My argument is twofold. First, Dracula draws on the Gothic genre’s persistent engagement with military discourse; second, that the novel’s representation of fortifications grounds and organizes a series of social and political issues. I will begin by sketching the military aspects of the Gothic antecedent to Stoker, then proceed to the novel, with a final glance towards the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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