(M)eating Dracula: food and death in Stoker's novel.
In this essay I will explore these questions by undertaking a nonanthropocentric discussion of vampirism in Dracula, employing an EcoGothic approach to examine how the relation between the consumption of human and nonhuman flesh and blood reflects the evolving meaning of species, nation, and gender in nineteenth-century industrial society. (1) I maintain that Dracula, despite a history of critical approaches focused on drinking blood and unhuman, or supernatural vampirism, warrants attention for the significant role that flesh consumption plays in the development of an alternate form of vampirism. I argue that an 'in-human' state, the bodily inhabitation of the human by the nonhuman body that occurs when meat is eaten or, what might be called the eaten beast within, constitutes a multilevel symbolism parallel to the undead and a form of nonhuman vampirism. Despite the fact that the dinner plate is favored over the neck as the primary site of consumption, Dracula is seldom approached as a novel about eating. (2) While critics, especially in the field of the Imperial Gothic, have emphasised the relation between vampirism and cannibalism, little attention has focused on carnivorism, primarily because it remains a tabooed subject in Western, flesh-eating society. Yet in Dracula dead animals, like their undead counterparts, are objectified, exsanguinated, and consigned to a marginal existence, an analogy that raises provocative questions for species identity. For example, how do the distinctions between carnivorism and cannibalism trope the nonhuman and unhuman bodies as specular sites of death and horror, equally incapable of keeping their demons at bay? And how does a nonanthropocentric approach to revenance broaden our understanding of monstrosity in the novel? I will begin my discussion by providing background about the role of consumption, especially meat eating, in the formation of Gothic allegories of monstrosity and in Stoker's life, and then turn my attention to allegories of nutritional and imperial vampirism in the less studied opening chapters, which I see as essential to understanding the unfolding of carnivoristic and cannibalistic tensions at the castle.
The nineteenth-century was a time of significant social upheaval similar to our own, when industrial transformation and scientific advances reshaped the landscape of human animal relations and species anxieties reached historic proportions. Gothic literature and, in particular, Dracula, exhibits a curiosity for such issues, exploring the relationship between humans and animals through hybrid expressions of species identity such as the non/un/human Count. (3) In industrialising society, a paradigm shift in the agricultural means of production--from tillage to animal pasturage and mechanised slaughter--led to the commodification of animals and the institutionalisation of meat, radically altering the relationship between the species. Such a transformation led to a dramatic increase in the availability and consumption of meat (4) and, consequently, to anthropocentric society's attempts to rationalise the realities of animal slaughter and deny species likeness by enforcing, 'clear boundaries between the states of the dead and living', a distinction that Stoker's undead emphatically dismantles. (5) Animal slaughter, once a common sight at the butcher's shop and in urban markets, was banished to a more remote, 'off-site' repository, figuring the relocation of animal death from a human to a mechanised site, the slaughterhouse. (6) But the harsh realities behind the production of animal food were not so easily confined to the slaughterhouse. Reminders of animal slaughter pervaded everyday life, haunting humans as miasmas (noxious air), 'the haphazard dispersion of slaughtering stalls in disreputable streets and alleys', (7) and even becoming a 'pastime for young children'. (8) This estrangement between the species culminated in the creation of the modern 'food animal'--livestock that is born to die, an abject figure that, like the secrets of the slaughterhouse, began to claim an allegorical foothold in the Gothic, resurfacing in works like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in the form of monsters threatening reprisals for their objectification and accursed fates. Monsterised animals or animalised monsters crop up repeatedly in Stoker's fiction, for example, in The Lair of the White Worm where the slaughterhouse and nonhuman suffering become a rhetorical vehicle to express the horror of the Worm's lair: 'It was like nothing Adam had ever met with. He compared it with all the noxious experiences he had ever had--the drainage of war hospitals, of slaughter-houses, the refuse of dissecting rooms.' (9)
Although Gothic literature may provide a forum for the articulation of nonhuman subjectivity, it ultimately casts animals ambivalently, as remonst(e)rances, that is, monstrous presences whose reproachful protests or, 'agonized wailing', as the following passage from Dracula shows, may be ignored by humans but constitute a form of resistance to their demonisation: (10)
Then a dog began to howl somewhere in a farmhouse far down the road --a long, agonised wailing, as if from fear. The sound was taken up by another dog, and then another and another, till, borne on the wind which now sighed softly through the Pass, a wild howling began, which seemed to come from all over the country, as far as the imagination could grasp it through the gloom of the night. At the first howl the horses began to strain and rear, but the driver spoke to them soothingly, and they quieted down, but shivered and sweated as though after a run-away from sudden fright. Then, far off in the distance, from the mountains on each side of us began a louder and a sharper howling--that of wolves--which affected both the horses and myself in the same way (37)
The Count, a human/animal/vampire hybrid, epitomises the demonising representation of animals in Gothic literature, his 'true nature, as an atavism ... [and] close kinship to the brute creation' casting him as the very face of the objectified nonhuman and the arbiter of species identity: (11)
[H]e is brute, and more than brute ... he can, within limitations, appear at will when, and where, and in any of the forms that are to him ... He can transform himself to wolf, as we gather from the ship arrival in Whitby, when he tear open the dog; he can be as bat ... He can come in mist ... He come on moonlight rays as elemental dust [and] come out from anything or into anything. (242-4)
As Van Helsing reminds us, the Count is a transmogrifying, cross-species vampire whose ability to materialise in animal form invites a more zoocentric reading of the allegory of vampirism in the novel, extending its reach and the Count's sphere of influence to animals like the dog, a disguise he assumes to disembark the Demeter and while 'howling all night under [Harker's] window' in Klausenburgh (28). (12) In this episode, the Count may be seen as the re-incorporated animal body policing species borders and confronting Harker for his consumption of meat or, in other words, the canine projection of Harker's dismembered meal come back to life with eyes, sharp teeth, and a vengeful howl that, disturbing his sleep and causing 'queer dreams', foretells his fate at the castle. (13) Both in these less traditional episodes of vampirism and at the castle, the Count serves as the voice of silenced animals, observing or staging meals where they are consumed, voyeuristically preying on humans and eroding, with his nonhuman gaze, the species difference and dominion that carnivorism is meant to enforce.
A thematics of consumption in Dracula can be traced to the role of starvation and meat eating in Stoker's life. Born the year the Irish Famine was at its peak Stoker may have drawn on two related personal experiences to fashion the Count's unusual eating habits, his childhood exposure to starvation in the Great Famine (14) and later, in what may have been a compensatory reaction, an apparent indulgence in meat-based meals at the Lyceum Theatre's Beefsteak Room. (15) Another source for consumption is Stoker's putatively facetious ascription of Dracula's genesis to a nightmare he had after eating crab one night:
[T]he idea came to me in a nightmare ... One evening I was dining with Henry Irving when I ate a little too much dressed crab and I spent all night long dreaming these weird dreams about a dead --alive man preying on the living! (16)
Stoker's dream, even if only anecdotal in nature, (17) shows that eating and flesh were on his mind when he conceived Dracula, suggesting a subconscious link between vampirism--a 'dead-alive man,' and carnivorism--eating 'a little too much crab' and, more germane to this essay, inviting a broader exploration of consumption, in particular, the allegorical role that meat and vampirism and a related 'circularity of nutrition' play in the construction of monstrosity. (18) For example, the vampire's puncturing of the neck and figurative decapitation of its victim elicits the slitting of an animal's throat and the severing of its head to make meat, acts that position animals and vampires as the objects of a similar type of carnal de-face-ment'. The (in-human) assimilation of nonhuman into human flesh that occurs in meat eating reduces animals to an anonymous state similar to the undead, in which both beings are stripped of their former identities and denied eternal rest. (19) Slaughtered animals like chickens, who may continue to move after decapitation, occupy an unclassifiable state of existence and prolonged suffering suggestive of the undead. (20) The nineteenth century was obsessed with hiding the act of slaughter and drawing clear distinctions between life and death exhibiting, as Paula Young Lee contemplates about humans and animals, an existential curiosity that can also be seen as part of a shared iconography with vampires and the state of the undead: 'After beheading, corpses sometimes twitched: were they alive or dead? At what point did true death occur?' (21) Similarly, the scientific quest to unravel the mysteries of the internal body and physiological processes like digestion led to depictions of meat assimilation that demonstrated a cross-pollination of ideas and provocative theoretical intersections with literary subjects like vampirism. Thus medical accounts of meat assimilation into the human body--for example, 'the animal substance which to-day may be beef, mutton or pork, may tomorrow be human substance, part and parcel of man, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh' (22)--provided a physiological basis for Stoker's anti-Christian conception of bodily assimilation in vampirism, as evidenced by the Count's remark to a blood-drinking Mina: 'you ... are now to me, flesh of my flesh; blood of my blood'. (23) Such a juxtaposition illustrates the integral role that consanguinity and 'concarnality' play in the development of literary representations of carnivorism, cannibalism, and monstrosity and, in turn, the transformation to a society increasingly defined by flesh hierarchies and commodification. Dracula offers a reflection on such issues, engaging a rhetoric of flesh consumption and species hybridity to challenge the ontological and carnal distinctions imposed on humans and animals by anthropocentric society.
Harker's impulse to consume during his travels to Transylvania plays an integral role in the development of imperialist and vampiric tensions in the novel. As Athena Vrettos states, 'the act of feeding not only maintains the body's health but perpetuates power through the act of consumption and assimilation. In Dracula, consumption functions as a metaphor for imperial expansion'. (24) Eating assumes a powerful symbolic role in the introductory chapters, representing not only a way to 'define personal, national, and ... sexual differences' but species difference as well. (25) Meat eating, especially in the Gothic where category crisis encompasses the monstrous, is vested with a potent symbolism, projecting the fear that if we are what or, more to the point, whom we eat, then so again are our monsters and our nations. (26) In Victorian England a meat ideology based on gender, class, and racial inequality arose: meat eating was generally reserved for aristocratic, white men while 'women were more likely to eat "second-class food" ... fruits, vegetables, and mostly grains'. (27) For Harker, eating (meat) implies the assertion of imperial authority. He eats to negotiate his fear of what is foreign or, more pointedly, not British, and to compensate for the cultural and ethnic threats posed by 'leaving the West and entering the East', for Transylvania's unnervingly heterogeneous 'whirlpool of races'. To overcome his dispossessed condition Harker employs a colonial strategy common in the face of cannibalistic danger. He reflexively consumes and incorporates all that threatens him, 'eating his fear' of foreign difference to ward off the impending threat to his own flesh. Harker sets the pattern of nutritional aggression: he eats his way through animality while the Count, as Athena Vrettos notes, 'drinks his way through the population'. (28) Drawing on the power structure that remains at his disposal, the dominant carnivoristic ideology of the empire, Harker emphatically eats meat, 'dividing' and consuming the animal body in order to consume the national body and his fear of difference. (29) He deploys the conquered animal body and the hegemonic terms of consumption to overcome the fear of a loss of flesh-eating difference: that he, like the Count, may eat 'not as others', that is, human not animal flesh. Complicit in this colonising advance is a textual, or authorial sleight of hand, an elision of British and local recipes that enables Harker to eat dishes that are, in part, familiar, equipping him with the hegemonic carnivorous ideology of British culinary discourse to subdue the personal, cultural, and national threats he confronts. Harker's diet, consisting largely of meat--paprika and roast chicken, impletata, and robber steak--and other animal products such as butter, sour cream, and cheese (mamaliga) that are high on the food chain, suggest recipes and eating habits that are, in fact, more indicative of Anglo-Irish cuisine and emerging meat-eating paradigms in British industrial society than of the vegetable- and grain-based, agriculture and economic realities of Transylvania. (30) Through recipes such as 'robber steak', made with 'bits of bacon, onion and beef' and compared, tellingly, to a British dish, 'London cat's-meat', (31) Harker negotiates his foreign experience with a familiar culinary currency--elements of an Anglo-Irish diet. (32) In this light, his emphasis on meat eating epitomises an important sociocultural transformation: British euphoria for the increased availability and consumption of meat in the country's transformation from 'a population existing permanently on the verge of starvation' to one in 'the vanguard of a dietetic revolution that saw the democratization of meat and protein in Europe.' (33) By eating carnivorously in these episodes Harker, in effect, throws down the gauntlet on flesh consumption, employing a human 'fang' to draw the first blood in his battle of consumption with the Count.
Adding to this cultural homogenisation is the reassuring remark by the waiter at the Hotel Royale in Klausenburgh that the hendl is a 'national dish [that Harker] should be able to get ... anywhere along the Carpathians'. A national rather than a local representation of identity functions as a form of cultural capital for a dispossessed Harker, sparing him a deeper, potentially more disorienting engagement with ethnic difference. Such discursive culinary elisions foster an ill-matched comparison of nations, between a fragmented, depoliticised Transylvania, represented as a series of districts, states, 'portions,' and 'distinct nationalities', and the British Empire (27, 28), culminating in a showdown at the castle and the Count's loaded remark: 'We are in Transylvania; and Transylvania is not England' (46). The Count's words are defiant, seeking, however, not to provoke an unrealistic rivalry with Harker and the Empire, an act of reverse colonisation that he will attempt on British soil, but to redefine their battle in his own unassailable terms, by intimating Harker's carnal vulnerability to the vampire and, in doing so, halting the advance of the colonising human body. Harker may leave a gastropolitical trail of conquest in his wake, raising an imperial flag over the disenfranchised nonhuman and national body in Transylvania, but the Count will take Harker's imperial demons to task in England, launching a campaign of nutritional counterimperialism--wrought in flesh and blood--against colonialists who, having raided the world's coffers, became 'victims of their own success, trade and the expanding empire now weighing down the English dinner table'. (34)
Shaping these nutritional and imperial allegories of consumption is a chromatic symbolism. Based on the colors red and white, and on the greenness invoked by Transylvania, such a symbolism suggests a link between the consumption of nonhumans and vampirism, setting the stage for their more celebrated appearance as human blood, flesh, and fangs. As dishes like 'paprika hendl', made with paprika, pepper, tomato juice, chicken, flour, and sour cream attest the colors red and white, associated with human blood and the vampire's fangs, first claim a presence as animal flesh, blood, dairy products and similarly colored ingredients. In doing so, they establish a chromatic link between what humans and vampires eat based on an association with nutritional aggression that, conflating carnivorism and cannibalism, disturbs the flesh-mediated borders between the species. Red and white, in fact, crop up in references to flesh, blood, and fangs, and as part of a visual imagery that extends to lips, eyes, tongues, cheeks, jaws, moustaches, mist, snow, churches, and clothing. Such an imagery culminates in a compelling analogy between Harker's reaction to eating paprika hendl and his encounter with the Count at the castle:
I did not sleep well, though my bed was comfortable enough, for I had all sorts of queer dreams. There was a dog howling all night under my window, which may have had something to do with it; or it may have been the paprika, for I had to drink up all the water in my carafe, and was still thirsty ... I had for breakfast more paprika (28).
In a subtle but provocative allusion, the text casts paprika as a red substance that, like blood, is juxtaposed to white (animal) flesh and has a puzzling effect on the body, introducing the threat that the consumption of blood and human flesh pose in the novel. Thus Harker's poor sleep and 'queer dreams', a threatening intruder (a dog), and an irresistible urge to engage in pleasurable but risky behavior foreshadow remarkably similar events at the castle: Harker's sleeplessness and nightmares, the threat of the vampire, and the 'thrilling but repulsive' temptation to engage in 'langorous ecstasy' with the vampire sisters (28, 61-62). (35) Such an association has a disarming effect on readers, tacitly predisposing them to a sense of anxiety based on the act of consumption. And while the anthropocentric frame of the novel stems any deeper ideological association between eating meat and vampirism, a chromatic symbolism functions to cultivate a visual landscape of fear and to shape the allegorical boundaries we construct for the trope of vampirism. (36)
The lexical connotations of the word Transylvania further the development of the chromatic symbolism and thematics of consumption in Dracula. Meaning 'beyond the forest', Transylvania fosters an effective wordplay, subconsciously directing our attention to an elusive destination that, similar to the castle and vampires, lies beyond nature. (37) It invokes the greenness of nature but in a state of transcendence, projecting a chromatic dissociation that resonates with the scarcity of (green) vegetables in recipes and on Harker's plate and, moreover, the textual displacement of vegetables by (red) meat and flesh-based meals. (38) Such a chromatic symbolism is underscored at the castle where green and other signs of nature and life succumb to a funereal imagery shaped by the blood and flesh meals of vampires and humans. This meat and vegetable dichotomy bears gender connotations. (39) As meat is associated with men and power and vegetables with women and subservience in patriarchal society, the textual dislocation of green from red echoes the dislocation of women from the novel's power structure, wherein they are reduced to passive, absent, or irrational presences. Thus Harker's journey is predicated on a double-edged assertion of patriarchal negation, of animals by rendering them absent in the act of eating, and of women reducing, for example, Mina to a voiceless correspondent and the peasant women to irrational, superstitious presences.
At the castle Harker meats the voice of carnal difference in the form of the Count. Here Harker's enthusiasm for meals dissipates, deteriorating into a form of unspoken disgust stemming from the growing awareness that the Count is anthropophagous, that he consumes human flesh. Although Harker eats two breakfasts and dinners at the castle, it is here that the pleasure of eating comes to a jarring end, replaced by a growing anxiety over the Count's peculiar absence at meals and eating habits for which both Harker and Van Helsing express alarm: as Harker recalls,
When I went into the dining-room, breakfast was prepared; but I could not find the Count anywhere. So I breakfasted alone. It is strange that as yet I have not seen the Count eat or drink. He must be a very peculiar man!' (50).
Van Helsing, likewise, states 'he eat not as others. Even friend Jonathan, who lived with him for weeks, did never see him to eat, never!' (244). The Count, in fact, baits the Victorians, making loaded references to this habit and excusing himself repeatedly from Harker's meals: 'You will, I trust, excuse me that I do not join you; but I have dined already, and I do not sup' (42). While these passages are generally read as an allusion to the Count's quest and consumption of human flesh, they also allude to what, or whom, the part nonhuman Count does not consume: he does not eat the flesh of other nonhumans. The Count 'eats' human flesh but not meat, abstaining from the animal flesh that Harker and the Victorians eat, demonstrating a resistance to the dominant, meat-eating ideology of patriarchal society that can be attributed to his own species hybridity and resulting kinship for other animals. The pleasure of eating also ceases because of what Harker most dreads: that he will become like the Count and eat human flesh. Indeed, Harker and the Count are bound by the same necrophagous impulse, that is, they both 'eat death'; one a carnivore who eats passively slaughtered nonhumans and the other a cannibal who eats humans he kills (or renders undead) himself. It is, in fact, Harker and not the Count who, by eating
meat, commits the first acts of exsanguination and flesh consumption in the novel, deploying carnivorism to eat his fear of the impending threat of cannibalism. His in-human act of consuming the flesh and blood of a dead, exsanguinated nonhuman serves, then, as an ironic rehearsal for the vampire's unhuman act of exsanguinating and consuming the flesh of an undead human. (40) Although euphemistically depicted as gustatory pleasure and, further, sanctioned by the anthropocentric frame of the novel it is Harker's carnivorism that initiates the oral penetration and flesh consumption in Dracula. His carnivorous, or human 'vampirism' functions then as a counterpart to the Count's cannibalistic vampirism, setting in-human consumption --the human entombment of nonhuman flesh, as the benchmark for vampiric consumption--the unhuman entombment of human flesh, and pointing to the dual nature of monstrosity in the novel. Harker, by eating a decidedly carnivorous diet, paves the way for the threat to conventional species boundaries that the Count will pose with cannibalism. (41)
The castle sits at the crossroads of carnal tension in Dracula not only because it is where Harker comes face to face with the vampire but because it is where he is forced to confront his own vampire, that is, that he too eats flesh. Thus it is not the barbarity of cannibalism that sets Harker apart from the Count--they both eat dead bodies--but rather the fact that his form of corpse consumption, carnivorism, unlike the Count's tabooed practice, is sanctioned by modern flesh-eating society. Indeed, with his own survival at stake, Harker is ironically thrust into the same position as the nonhumans he has consumed, becoming prey for the unhuman meal and reacting by meat-ing or 'beefing up' his carnivoristic defenses to apotropaically ward off his fear of cannibalism and of being eaten himself. (42)
By renouncing meat-based meals with Harker for human flesh the Count resists indoctrination into the dominant, meat-eating ideology of patriarchal society, destabilising the carnal borderline between the species and threatening the tenuous, flesh-eating hierarchies governing the Victorians' diet. He gains the upper hand in a flesh-based confrontation with Harker, trumping his threat of the carnivoristic consumption of nonhuman flesh with a threat that cuts closer to the bone, the cannibalistic consumption of human flesh. In doing so, the Count draws attention to the tabooed border separating carnivorism from cannibalism, dredging up the fear that the two are un/restrained forms of the same flesh-eating impulse, and the even deeper fear of what a collapse of the two would mean for an anthropocentric formulation of species identity: an atavistic reminder of a shared flesh-eating past. The carnal frenzy that the Count stirs up has broader ramifications about species extinction that are reflected in Renfield's escalating consumption, from insects to birds to cats to human blood, a troubling march up the food chain toward cannibalism that the Count raises to a hysterical pitch with his potential to extinguish the entire human race by begetting an 'ever-widening circle of semi-demons' (74). This threat draws unbridled cannibalism and, by association, unbridled carnivorism into a disturbing parallel, relating the monstrous extinction of the human species by cannibalism to the human extinction of the nonhuman species by carnivorism--in an industrial society capable of providing a seemingly unlimited supply of meat. In Stoker's narrative such a monstrosity of consumption perilously underscores the (in)distinction between carnivorism and cannibalism, exploding conventional notions of species identity by threatening a reversion to the Darwinian state of species sameness that nineteenth-century anthropocentric authority sought so vigorously to suppress.
As with sexuality, flesh consumption in Dracula is frustrated and deferred to the act of vampirism, suggesting the construction of a doubly vested carnal symbolism. (43) The absence of sex in the novel and the receding emphasis on meat eating points to a mutual displacement of carnal desire: as the sexual impulse is displaced from the phallus to the fang, the carnivorous impulse to consume nonhuman flesh is deferred to the cannibalistic impulse to consume human flesh. (44) In both cases the carnal impulse to penetrate the body is mediated by and sublimated in the fang and the act of cannibalism. The Count's homoerotic contention with the vampire sisters for Harker's body ('This man belongs to me!', 62) underlies this symbolism. By coupling aberrant sexuality and flesh consumption, it implies an extension of the patriarchal terms of bodily appropriation from the fetishised female and consumed animal body to the cannibalised male body. The Count's fang thus represents the violation of both gender and species norms, the fear that men might sexually and nutritionally penetrate the bodies of other men and other humans rather than those of women and animals, a dual aberration that implies an ideological drift from the heterosexual/carnivoristic center to the homoerotic/ cannibalistic margins of the text.
While any fracture of sexual and flesh-eating conventions is temporary--effectively mended by the heterosexual alliances reconvened to eliminate the vampire's carnal threat and restore patriarchal order, it is noteworthy how the fear of same sex and same species flesh contiguity are discursively interwoven. Harker's fear of the loss of the female body and a reversion to a state of Edenic, androgynous oneness parallels the loss of the consumed animal body and a reversion to cannibalistic, species oneness, a double 'loss of differences' resulting from a shift away from heterosexual and carnivorous norms. (45) In this way the text raises the fear that men will become like the two primary objects of (male) flesh consumption and commodification in andro/anthropocentric society: women and animals. Harker and the Count mediate this fear by engaging with animals (and women) mainly in death, but in different ways. Harker's primary experience with animals is one of commodification--he deflects his fear of cannibalism and of species collapse by engaging a meat-eating ideology and feeding passively, like the modern consumer, on flesh that has been slaughtered for him. The Count also engages with animals in death, but his relationship with them is characterized by a paradox. His multispecies, undead body serves both as a repository of regeneration and degeneration--an alive/dead vessel that reincarnates but also entombs animals and humans. Thus in Dracula just as men touch indirectly 'only through women', humans and animals touch through death, as meat or in the form of the Count's death-ridden body. (46) The castle inspires such fear because it is the center of tabooed consumption, where both sexual and alimentary impulses to penetrate and consume flesh collapse onto each other, showing terrifyingly little distinction between which beings, unhuman, human, or nonhuman, and which sex, male or female, penetrates whom, and what impulses--for food, sex, death, or life--the vampire's bite is meant to satisfy.
Whether scripted as unhuman or human vampirism, Dracula frames the consumption of flesh and blood within an allegory for monstrosity that reflects evolving conceptions of the body and species in nineteenth-century industrial society. If we read the allegory of vampirism solely through the anthropocentric gaze of Harker and the Victorians, we risk limiting its meaning to the sphere of human subjectivity. If, however, we extend the allegory to species, as critics have done with readings based on gender, race, and class, then we must acknowledge the presence of human vampires and a cast of 'undead' nonhumans, both those consumed as food and those depicted as human threats that voice monstrous resistance to anthropocentric order and the colonized body. The Count's hybrid body serves such a function, to symbolically re-embody all beings rendered absent by consumption, humans on the vampire's menu and nonhumans on the human menu. He is, as a vampire, the specter of the undead human, but also of the undead meal. Indeed, Renfield's remark that '[t]he blood is the life' only tells part of the story. For blood and food are life and (un)death in Dracula, reciprocal forms of consumption begetting a cycle of revenance and monstrosity.
David Del Principe
Montclair State University
Address for correspondence
David Del Principe, Department of Spanish and Italian, Schmitt Hall 241E, Montclair State University, 1 Normal Avenue, Montclair, New Jersey 07043 USA. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
(1) In my EcoGothic approach I incorporate ecofeminist, vegetarian, and monster theory to examine the construction of monstrosity and species in nineteenth century Gothic literature. I will, at times, use 'nonhuman' in place of 'animal' to underscore a contrast with the terms unhuman, human, and in-human.
(2) Dennis Foster notes that breakfast alone 'is mentioned twenty-eight times in the book'. See 'A Psychoanalytic Perspective', in John Paul Riquelme, (ed.), Bram Stoker, Dracula: Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism (Boston: St Martin's, 2002), pp. 486-7. All subsequent references to Dracula are taken from this edition. References will be given in parentheses in the body of the text.
(3) In contemporary society ethical and environmental concern for our treatment of food animals has sparked vigorous debate over polemical, food-related practices such as killing and butchering one's own meat, veganism, and in vitro or test tube meat.
(4) Massimo Montanari notes about the evolution of eating habits in Europe during industrialization that 'for the first time in many centuries the nutritional role of grains began to decline, while that of other foods, especially meat, increased' (Massimo Montanari, The Culture of Food, Trans. Carl Ipsen (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994), p. 153. Further, Richard Perren states that 'British per capita meat consumption rose from around 80 pounds per person in the 1840s to around 132 pounds per person by the early twentieth century' (quoted in Chris Otter, 'Civilizing Slaughter: The Development of the British Public Abattoir, 1850-1910', in Paula Young Lee, (ed.), Meat, Modernity, and the Rise of the Slaughterhouse (Durham: University of New Hampshire Press, 2008), p. 89.
(5) Paula Young Lee notes this distinctive quality of the modern slaughterhouse. See 'Siting the Slaughterhouse: From Shed to Factory', in P. Y. Lee, (ed.), Meat, Modernity, and the Rise of the Slaughterhouse (Durham: University of New Hampshire Press, 2008), p. 51.
(6) The methods used for slaughtering animals changed radically in nineteenth-century Britain due to 'the development of a new apparatus of slaughter: the public abattoir, which grew up alongside, and partly displaced an older system of private slaughterhouses' (Otter, 'Civilizing Slaughter', p. 90). As a result of this shift, modern urban consumers had significantly less contact with the butchering of animals: 'Until the middle of the nineteenth century, animals for butchering continued to be shipped live to where they would be consumed ... After 1850, the transportation of well-preserved carcasses, ready for sale, began and ... the slaughterhouse of London could be said to have moved to Aberdeen, 800 km from the capital'. Montanari, The Culture of Food, p. 155.
(7) P. Y. Lee, 'Siting the Slaughterhouse', p. 51.
(8) A. Darbyshire, quoted in Otter, 'Civilizing Slaughter', p. 91.
(9) Bram Stoker, The Lair of the White Worm (New York: Penguin, 2006), pp. 266-7. Stoker reinforces this imagery of animal death in Dracula with references to vampire-slaying as 'butcher work' (362), a metaphor that conflates the graveyard, slaughterhouse, and the dinner plate as reciprocal sites of death and by relating it to human death. See also 'that horrible charnel pit' (268), in The Lair of the White Worm and, 'that dreadful charnel-house' in The Lady of the Shroud (Stroud: Sutton, 1997), p. 135.
(10) Animals pose threats to human dominion on numerous levels and so, as B. A. G. Fuller states, we tend to 'shoo [them] out of the house altogether and stop [our] ears against their scratchings at the door'. Quoted in Marian Scholtmeijer, 'The Animal at the Door: Modern Works of Horror and the Natural Animal', in Nicholas Ruddick, (ed.), State of the Fantastic: Studies in the Theory and Practice of Fantastic Literature and Film (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1992), p. 189.
(11) Leonard Wolf, The Essential Dracula (New York: Penguin, 1993), p. 17.
(12) The Count's animal presence remains subject to interpretation, with only a tenuous distinction drawn between the animal forms he may assume--bat, dog, wolf, horse and those he commands--rat, owl, bat, moth, fox, and wolf. As Sarah Goss notes, '[h]e challenges the narrative bounds established by the other characters, continuing to elude their capture by changing shape ... and manipulating the conditions by which they can know him (and hence kill him)'. Sarah Goss, 'Dracula and the Spectre of Famine', in George Cusack and Sarah Goss (ed.), Hungry Words: Images of Famine in the Irish Canon (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2006), p. 101.
(13) The Count plays a similarly voyeuristic role as the driver of the caleche.
(14) Goss points out that Stoker was '[b]orn in the year the Famine was at its worst, "Black '47" ... [and] could not have failed to be influenced by it'. See her 'Dracula and the specter of Famine' for a discussion of Stoker's experience with the Famine and its influence on Dracula.
(15) The Beefsteak Club was a private entertainment club known for its eclectic array of guests, male bonding and meat-based meals where members, 'impressed with a gridiron and the motto Beef and Liberty ... were blindfolded during an initiation rite that included kissing the "book", a beef bone concealed in a napkin.' Barbara Belford, Bram Stoker and the Man Who Was Dracula (Cambridge: Da Capo Press, 1996), p. 125. Relatedly, William Hughes states that Stoker's biography of Henry Irving and their days at the Lyceum attests to the male bonding that occurred in the Beefsteak Room, depicting 'a masculine world of theatre management, after-dinner speaking, gentlemen's clubs and intimate, same-sex friendships'. See William Hughes, Beyond Dracula: Bram Stoker's Fiction and its Cultural Context (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2000), p. 2. On a similar note, H. L. Malchow refers to Stoker's 'exaggerated heartiness in his dealing with men', a reaction to his intense homosocial relationships. See H. L. Malchow, Gothic Images of Race in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996), p. 132.
(16) Peter Haining, (ed.), Bram Stoker: Midnight Tales, Introduction (London: Peter Owen, 1990), p. 9.
(17) Paul Murray states that 'Stoker makes no mention of the explanation of the origins of Dracula given by his son, Noel, to Harry Ludlam and accepted by early biographers, that Dracula was born of a nightmare following a supper of dressed crab. Stoker himself meant this as a joke, as is clear from the first draft of a letter from Noel Stoker to Ludlam in which he states that "in a flippant mood (original italics), my father attributed the genesis of Dracula to a surfeit of dressed crab" ... This phrase was removed from the letter actually sent'. See Paul Murray, From the Shadow of Dracula: A Life of Bram Stoker (London: Jonathan Cape, 2004), p. 171. Whether or not the dream is a credible source of Dracula, Haining states the novel 'had first begun to take shape in his mind at one of the many evening meals he shared with Irving' and that other works by Stoker were the product of 'supper-time conversation' (original italics, p. 9). Lending credence to Stoker's dream as an influence on Dracula, Belford notes that Stoker sometimes based his characters on personal experience, suggesting that 'Harker's dream could well be Stoker's' (256). For a discussion of autobiographical sources for characters in Dracula see her Bram Stoker and The Man Who Was Dracula; for autobiographical fragments in Stoker's biography of Henry Irving see Hughes, Beyond Dracula, pp. 1-2.
(18) Hughes contemplates a parallel between a 'circularity of nutrition', based on scientist T. H. Huxley's theory of protoplasm (a vital substance that Stoker discusses in his short story 'The Bridal of Death') and a nutritional pattern based on blood in Dracula and crab consumption in Stoker's dream. Such a discussion is relevant to my theory of the in-human, that it is invariably consumption and cross-species bodily assimilation, whether in meat eating or vampirism, that lead to hybrid corporeal states and monstrous cycles of revenance. See Hughes 'On the Sanguine Nature of Life: Blood, Identity, and the Vampire', in John S. Bak, (ed.), Post/modern Dracula: From Victorian Themes to Postmodern Praxis, (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007), pp. 5-6.
(19) In this regard Carol J. Adams states: 'Animals in name and body are made absent as animals for meat to exist' (original italics). See Carol J. Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory (New York: Continuum, 1991), p. 40.
(20) The recipe for paprika hendl, that Stoker may have based on contemporary travel narratives, contains a hidden degree of suffering that tacitly reinforces the association between animal slaughter and vampirism. See John Paget, Hungary and Transylvania (London: John Murray, 1839, v. 2), p. 512. The recipe that Paget describes portrays chickens--their 'necks wrung, and while yet fluttering, immersed in boiling water' often 'under the traveler's immediate observation'--in a prolonged state of agony similar to the undead, evoking the neck bite, initial resistance, and ultimate subordination of the vampire victim. Here both meat eating and vampirism 'provide narratives about the trauma that death poses once it is returned to the living, inscribed within the community, on the bodies of its members'. See Elisabeth Bronfen, Over Her Dead Body: Death, Femininity and the Aesthetic (New York: Routledge, 1992), p. 314.
(21) Paula Lee Young, 'Siting the Slaughterhouse: From Shed to Factory', in Paula Lee Young, (ed.), Meat, Modernity, and the Rise of the Slaughterhouse (Durham: University of New Hampshire Press, 2008), p. 51.
(22) Benjamin Ward Richardson, 'Public Slaughter-Houses: A Suggestion for Farmers', The New Review, 8 (1893), p. 635, as quoted in C. Otter, 'Civilizing Slaughter: The Development of the British Public Abattoir', 1850-1910, in Paula Lee Young, (ed.), Meat, Modernity, and the Rise of the Slaughterhouse (Durham: University of New Hampshire Press, 2008), p. 89.
(23) Riquelme, (ed.), Dracula, p. 288. Such a remark is part of the anti-Christian symbolism in Dracula, a perversion of Genesis 2.23, 'this is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh', and of 1 Corinthians 15:39, 'All flesh is not the same: animals have another, birds another and fish another'. The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1978), pp. 2, 878.
(24) Athena Vrettos, Somatic Fictions: Imagining Illness in Victorian Culture (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995), p. 165.
(25) Maggie Kilgour, 'The Function of Cannibalism at the present time', in Francis Barker, Peter Hulme, and Margaret Iversen, (eds), Cannibalism and the Colonial World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 239.
(26) By this I mean that if we are what we eat, and what we eat is monstrous, for example, dead bodies, then consumption is coded as a formula for monstrosity.
(27) J. E. D. Stavick, 'Love at First Beet: Vegetarian Critical Theory Meats Dracula', The Victorian Newsletter, 89 (1996), p. 25.
(28) Vrettos, Somatic Fictions, p. 165.
(29) Kilgour states that 'imperialism justifies it own desire to absorb others by projecting that desire onto a demonised "other"': 'The Function of Cannibalism at the present time', p. 240.
(30) As Stavick notes 'all of Jonathan Harker's recorded meals are meat-centered' ('Love at First Beet', p. 24).
(31) Harker is referring to 'horse flesh prepared by street dealers as food for domestic cats'. Riquelme, (ed.), Dracula, p. 31.
(32) In his Typed Research Notes, Stoker makes other comparisons to Irish and British cuisine, referring to gulyas (goulash), made with beef, veal, pork, or lamb, as a 'sort of Irish stew', and to mamaliga as having the 'consistency of hasty pudding'. Robert Eighteen-Bisang and Elizabeth Miller, (eds), Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula, a Facsimile Edition. (Jefferson: McFarland, 2008), p. 213, 223.
(33) J. Burnett and V. Knapp, quoted in James Gregory, Of Victorians and Vegetarians: The Vegetarian Movement in Nineteenth-century Britain (New York: I. B. Tauris, 2007), p. 19.
(34) Anita Guerrini, 'A Diet for a Sensitive Soul: Vegetarianism in Eighteenth-Century Britain', Eighteenth-Century Life, 23 (1999), 38.
(35) It is intriguing to speculate that the paprika hendl may have constituted some sort of conceptual testing ground for blood and the development of bodily possession in vampirism.
(36) Just as the fictional cloak of the supernatural palliates a representation of the red and white, flesh and blood cannibalistic aspects of vampirism euphemistic convention, for example, disguising consumed flesh as meat, sanctions an non-ideological, chromatic juxtaposition of paprika with animal blood and carnivorism.
(37) In Romanian Transilvania is derived from Latin ultra silvam.
(38) The Hungarian peasant diet consisted mostly of vegetables, fruit, and grains and little meat. Wolf notes that Transylvania was a 'chiefly a land of wheat fields, orchards, and vineyards' (The Essential Dracula, p. 3).
(39) As Adams states about the gender constructs of meat and vegetables: 'Meat is king [and] denot[es] male power. Vegetables, a generic term meat eaters use for all foods that are not meat, have become as associated with women as meat is with men ... Since women have been made subsidiary in a male-dominated, meat-eating world, so has our food' (The Sexual Politics of Meat, p. 33).
(40) Harker's diet is, in fact, disturbingly, similar to Renfield's. As Stavick notes, 'The Victorians may be repulsed by Renfield's diet, but he is eating on the same level on the meat hierarchy as the "sane" people are. Harker eats chickens, while Renfield eats sparrows: both men eat birds' ('Love at First Beet', p. 27).
(41) That the Count may eat rats further distances him from the Victorians and inscribes his nutritional alterity since humans, to avoid tabooed cannibalistic associations, mostly refrain from eating other carnivorous animals.
(42) Harker eats only meat at the castle.
(43) Similarly, Dracula harbors two related types of flesh-based, male fantasies. In one case Harker is the object of passive sexual consumption with the vampire sisters and, in another, he participates in 'passive' alimentary consumption, eating animals that have been slaughtered for his consumption. Regarding frustrated sexual appetite, Foster states that the Victorian men in the novel seem to 'not want sex with these women' (Riquelme, (ed.), Dracula, p. 486).
(44) Furthering this carnal anxiety is a rhetoric of butchery in the novel targeting both women and animals and based on a corresponding association between phallically shaped instruments such as stakes and knives.
(45) Kilgour states that in the film The Silence of the Lambs the character of Hannibal Lecter draws on the 'traditional association of homosexuality with cannibalism, both conventionally feared as involving a loss of differences': see 'The Function of Cannibalism at the Present Time', p. 252.
(46) Christopher Craft states about same sex desire that '[it] seeks a strangely deflected heterosexual distribution'. See '"Kiss Me with Those Red Lips": Gender and Inversion in Bram Stoker's Dracula', in Glennis Byron, (ed.), New Casebooks Dracula: Contemporary Critical Essays, (New York: St Martin's Press, 1999), p. 98.
Notes on Contributor
David Del Principe is Associate Professor of Italian at Montclair State University. He is the author of the book Rebellion, Death, and Aesthetic in Italy: The Demons of Scapigliatura and various articles on nineteenth-century Italian and European Gothic literature. His research interests focus on the EcoGothic, especially Vegetarian Theory and speciesism, Ecofeminism, and Posthumanism. His forthcoming article 'The Monstrous Meal: Flesh Consumption and Resistance in the European Gothic', will be published in 2014 in the volume Thinking Italian Animals: Human and Posthuman in Modern Italian Literature and Film. His current project is a manuscript tenatively entitled 'EcoGothic Allegories of Consumption in nineteenth-century Italian and European Literature and Culture.'
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|Title Annotation:||Bram Stoker|
|Author:||Del Principe, David|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||May 1, 2014|
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