Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Thursday's Class: Gothic Storytelling

Remember, Thursday's class is devoted to the four stories chosen from our Gothic Storytelling assignment.  The stories were distributed in class on Tuesday, so please see me if you missed class and are still without a copy.  The stories are:

Jim Brockman, "Walton; or A Modern Prometheus"
Holly Fipps, "Excerpts from the Diary of Mr. Peterson" (she didn't give it a title, so this is mine)
Patricia Anderson, "Immortal Sleep"
Steward McCoin, "Abigail"

Please read the stories BEFORE coming to class so we can discuss them and give them their due as bona fide Gothic works of art.  

Friday, April 23, 2010

Last Questions for Dracula! Rejoice!

(at right: Caspar David Friedrich, A Walk at Dusk, 1835)

1. Find other instances in the text where Dracula is linked to the fear of the colonial “other,” who could infect or invade England. How does Stoker play on this very real cultural anxiety (which we discussed in class on Thursday)?

2. In Chapter XXVI, pge 349, Dr. Seward remarks, “…it made me think of the wonderful power of money! What can it not do when it is properly applied; and what might it do when basely used.” In these final chapters of the novel, how does money become a key element of the text? How do the vampire hunters use money (or in Marxist terms, capital) to foil Dracula’s plans, and how is he, too, associated with money?

3. Though Dracula is clearly a supernatural creature, Van Helsing continually tries to reduce him to a type, either a devil, a child, or a common criminal. In these final chapters, how does he try to explain Dracula’s motives through the study (a very recent one) of criminal psychology (Chapter XXV)?

4. In Chapter XXVI, page 347, Dr. Van Helsing admits that “Our dear Madam Mina is once more our teacher. Her eyes have seen where we were blinded.” Does the novel end with a sense of a feminine vision (or authority) carrying the day? Or is she yet again dismissed as one with a “man’s brain,” and a “woman’s heart”?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Close Reading Questions for Dracula, Chs. XVII-XXIV (pp.225-307)

(at left: Whistler's Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket (1875), a work which captures the mysticism and nocturnal deeds of the novel)

1. Van Helsing theorizes about Dracula quite a lot in these passages, speaking at one point of the “mighty brain and…iron resolution [which] went with him to his grave” (Chapter XVIII, pg. 245), and later on, that “in some faculities of mind he has been, and is, only a child; but he is growing, and some things that were childish at the first are now of man’s stature” (Chapter XXIII, pg.300). How is Dracula both mighty and childish—and how is he growing to a “man’s stature”?

2. How does Renfield develop as a character in these chapters? How might Stoker position him against the vampire hunters and ally him with Mina?

3. Chapter XXI contains one of the most disturbing scenes in the book—that of Dracula forcing Mina to “feed” on his blood. Consider how this passage is written and witnessed, and why this might be among the most uncanny (and nightmarish) scenes in the novel.

4. How do the men’s (and specifically Van Helsing’s) relationship with Mina progress in these chapters? Does she become one of the gang—and integral member of the vampire hunters—or is she left on the margins as a woman to be protected? Why do the men come to either conclusion—what makes them either accept or banish her from the fold?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Close Reading Questions for Dracula, Chs. X-XVII (pp/134-225)

(at right: Gustav Klimt's Judith II (1909), a painting that conjures up the decadent, voluptuous world of late 19th/early 20th century Europe--a world embodied by Dracula and the vampiric Lucy). 

NOTE: See the Final Exam instructions in the previous post if you missed Thursday's class! 

1. How is Van Helsing’s portrait drawn in these chapters? Is he a near relation to Dr. Hesselius, or does he lend more authenticity to the practice of “metaphysical medicine”? Consider his method of treating Lucy as compared to Hesselius’s plan of treatment for Mr. Jennings in Green Tea.

2. Note the specific transformation of Lucy from virginal Victorian to voluptuous vampire vixen (gotta love alliteration!). How does Stoker mark this change, and what words and images surround the “new” Lucy?

3. In Chapter XIII, from Dr. Seward’s Diary, Van Helsing takes him aside and says, “Friend John, there are strange and terrible days before us. Let us not be two, but one, that so we work to a good end. Will you not have faith in me?” (177). What do you make of the male relationships in the novel? Do they reinforce a “homosocial” order (that is, a world of men, for men, by men), or are these relationships critiqued from an almost feminist perspective?

4. Provide a close reading of Lucy's death in Chapter XVI: what interesting images of themes emerge in this passage? How might this compare with Carmilla’s end—and where might Stoker surpass his famous predecessor?

FINAL EXAM: see below

To prepare for your final exam, I want you to thoroughly read (and re-read?) one of the following critical articles in the back of the Bedford St. Martin’s version of Dracula. The ones I want you to choose from are:

 Sol Eltis, Corruption of the Blood and Degeneration of the Race: Dracula and Policing the Borders of Gender (pg.450)

 Dennis Foster, “The Little Children Can Be Bitten”: A Hunger for Dracula (pg.483)

 Jennifer Wicke, Vampiric Typewriting: Dracula and its Media (pg.577)

Your final exam will be a series of questions based on one of the above articles and its application to Dracula. You MAY bring your book to class, and the book may be annotated (underlined, circled, notes in the margins) but you may not bring any notes or pre-writing with you. The exam will test not only how well you read and have thought about Dracula, but how you can examine the work from a theoretical point of view and entertain some more esoteric readings. You do not necessarily have to agree with the author’s thesis or reading, but you must attempt to understand it, and be able to use it to examine Dracula—while at the same time considering your own point of view.

The Final Exam will be held on WEDNESDAY, MAY 5, FROM 3:00-6:00pm in our normal classroom. Bring paper and your book!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Close Reading Questions for Dracula, Chs.IV - X, pp.83-134

(at left: Turner's The Slave Ship (1840), which we discussed in class; a vision of the Demeter's last days at sea?)

1. How does Lucy Westenra’s illness compare to Laura’s in Carmilla? How does she record her descent into vampirism, and what images or symbols document this journey? You might particularly consider the dream she relates to Mina in Chapter VIII.

2. Why might Stoker introduce the character of Renfield and Dr. Seward’s copious notes on Renfield’s behavior and condition? Though a literal character, how might he reinforce ideas of the “uncanny” and the Gothic?

3. In Chapter VIII, Mina mocks the so-called “New Women” of late 19th century society, writing, “Some of the “New Women” writers will some day start an idea that men and women should be allowed to see each other asleep before proposing or accepting. But I suppose the New Woman won’t condescend in future to accept; she will do the proposing herself” (Bedford, 109). From these early chapters, what kind of woman does Mina strike you as? On the scale of traditional Gothic heroine (aka Walpole’s heroines) to the “New Woman” where does she fall? Is she contrasted with Lucy Westenra, or are they both conservative women waiting to be rescued by the virile men in the novel?

4. Stoker (or Mina, if we take the narrative literally) often includes bits of tangential information from outside sources, such as the Letter from Samuel F. Billington & Son (Chapter VIII), and the Log of the ill-fated ship, the “Demeter” (Chapter VII). Why do you think he wants us to see these narrative tidbits? While many modern readers might skim over them (especially the shipping receipts!), why should the English scholar take careful notice of them?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Class Schedule Revision

Somehow I added two days to our class!  I didn't do this in any other of my classes(!).  To fix this, I've re-arranged the schedule slightly.  Basically, I removed the article I planned to have you read on the 29th, and will use that day to do Gothic Storytelling (only one day instead of two, sadly).  However, the articles in the back of your Bedford book will return to haunt you on the Final Exam, which I will discuss in class on Thursday, so be sure you have that edition (if not, we can make arrangements to photocopy for you--but you must tell me before hand).

ALSO: The Creative Paper is due on the last day of class (the 29th); however, if you would like a chance to discuss your story on the last day of class, please submit it earlier, by the 22nd.  I will read through these stories and chose the most "Gothic" ones to read in class on the 29th (we'll probably be limited to 4 at most, depending on length). 

The new schedule:

T 13 Stoker, Dracula (26-81)
R 15 Stoker, Dracula (81-134) (Paper #2 due on FRIDAY)

T 20 Stoker, Dracula (135-203)
R 22 Stoker, Dracula (204-270)

T 27 Stoker, Dracula (270-330)
R 29 Gothic Storytelling

FINAL EXAM WEDNESDAY, MAY 5th, 3:00-6:00 pm