Dracula Foretold World War I: Monster Theory Meets The Cultural Roots of The Great War
(Valley Forge, PA—September 2011) Bram Stoker’s 1897 horror novel, Dracula, was so powerful because it was a premonition of the real-life horrors of World War I.
That is the provocative thesis of a new article by doctoral candidate Genesea Carter in the inaugural issue of a new online journal, the Journal of Empire Studies (JES).
Carter sees the novel’s depiction of a siege of vampirism descending on England as a foreshadowing of the destruction that would soon befall England when her young men encountered the terrible death dealt by modern warfare. The very scenario which frightened readers of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel—that a monstrous foreign entity (from the Austro-Hungarian Empire) invades innocent England using unforeseen, forbidden tactics to slaughter her citizens—came horrifyingly true less than two decades later.
“Questions of invasion, identity, and war were entangled in a dramatic story about vampires feeding on women and children in London,” writes Carter in her provocative article’s first paragraph. It turns out that Carter is joining a body of “monster theory” literature which regards scary stories of all kinds as a goldmine of social trends and anxieties.
She proves her thesis with a close examination of Stoker’s research. Magazines of the times were using pretty monstrous rhetoric to express fears about Germany’s aggression. Stoker, she suggests, simply capitalized on these anxieties. When Dracula asks aloud, “What devil or what witch was ever so great as Attila, whose blood is in these veins?” Carter aligns him with Germany’s thirst for global domination.
“Genesea has found a clever new application for monster theory,” says JES editor Tom Durwood of Valley Forge Military College. “I have already assigned her article to my students, and they love it. It makes them think about what scares them, and why, and how different societies create their own monsters.” Such material can prove to be classroom gold for Humanities teachers, according to Durwood, and both the article and an accompanying seven-page lesson plan are offered free on the journal’s website, www.empirestudies.com.
“We want to open this wonderful scholarly content to teachers and college students all over the world.” Durwood adds. “We hope teachers in Africa and Asia and Latin America will use Genesea’s article to introduce students to the whole idea of monster theory, as well as to the topic of World War I.”
Other topics in the Journal of Empire Studies include Indian architecture, Julia Keller on the Gatling gun, and the “Second Death of Latin” by language scholar Nicholas Ostler.
The Journal of Empire Studies (JES) is a new online journal devoted to the study of empire, east and west, across a number of disciplines—science, literature, technology, commerce and finance, military studies, art, music, linguistics, gender and architecture. As western and eastern schools struggle to bring global perspective to their students, we will actively promote this content to teachers as an ongoing resource, so they can assign our articles or printed anthologies to their classes.
We are seeking collaboration with universities on all continents. We don’t need funding: becoming a sponsor university means you will encourage your faculty to use JES as a classroom resource.