Christopher Smart, ‘“Kiss Me with Those Red Lips”: Gender and Inversion in Bram Stoker’s Dracula’, in Elaine Showalter, ed., Speaking of Gender (Routledge 1989), pp.216-42.

Vampirism both expresses and distorts an originally sexual energy [216.]

‘identity of fear and desire’ (Morelli); triple rhytm; generates the monster, houses the monster, nullifies the monster; A book whose fundamental anxiety [is] an equivocation about the relationship between desire and gender … repeats a pivotal anxiety of late Victorian culture [217] As the primary site of the erotic experience in Dracula, this mouth equivocates, living the lie to the easy separateion of the masculae and the feminine. Luring at first with an inviting orifice, a promise of red softeness, but delivering instead a piercing bone, the vampire mouth fuses and confuses what Dracula’s civilised nemesis Van Helsing and his Crew of Light worls so hard to separte - the gender-based categories of the penetrating and receptive, or, to use Van helsings language, the complementary categories of ‘brave men’ and ‘good women’. [218.]

the novel’s opening anxiety, its first articulation of the vampiric threat, derives from Dracula’s hovering interest in Jonathan Harker; the sexual threat that this novel firest evokes, manipulates, sustains, but never finally represents is that Dracula will seduce, penetrate, drain another male. … always postponed and never directly enacted, this desire finds evasive fulfillment in an important series of herterosexual displacements. [218.]

an implicitly homoerotic desire achieves representation as a monstrous heterosexualty , as a demonic inversion of normal gender relations [219.]

[suggests that the ‘final penetration’ of Harker by the vampire’s sisters takes place in the ‘dark interspace’ of Harker’s journal, 219.]

Dracula specifies the process of substitution by which the ‘girls that you all love’ mediate and displace a more direct communion among the males. [220.]

Only through women may men touch men [220.]

desire’s excursive mobility [220.]

Dracula represents a characteristic, if hyperbolic, instance of Victorian anxiety over the potential fluidity of gender roles [220.]

Discussing the rise of homosexual discourses under the terminology of ‘sexual inversion’, ‘intermediate sex’, ‘homogenic love’, ‘uranianism’, as instanced in writings of John Addington Symonds, Havelock Ellis, and Edwad Carpenter, Craft speaks of the ‘intrinsic doubleness’ of their argument for an incompletion of nature’s work of differentiation: ‘its insistence of the simultaneous inscription within the individual of two genders, one anatomical and one not, one visible and one not - represent an accommodation between contrar impulses of liberation and constraint, as conventional gender norms are subtilised and manipulated but never finally escaped.’ [221.]

to this he opposes the idea that ‘desire may not be gendered intrinsically as the body is, and that desire seeks its objects according to a complicated set of conventions that are culturally and institutionally determined …. Unable or unwilling to deconstruct the heterosexual norm, English accounts of sexual inversion instead repeat it’ desire remains, despite appearances, essentially and irrevocably heterosexual.’ [221.]

points out that the ‘interposition of a feminine soul between erotically associated males’ involves a submerged acknowledgement of the sexually independent woman’ [223.]

yet ‘Symonds and Ellis did not escape their cultures phallocentricism; ‘an anxious defense against recgnition of an independent and actie feminine sexuality’ [223.]

‘Sexual inversions and Stoker’s account of vampirism, then, are symmetrical metaphors sharing a fundamental ambivalence. Both discourses … want[ing] to elude or flaunt the conventional prescriptions of gender … by constituting it according to the heterosexual paradigm that leavs conventional gender codes intact.’ [242.]

‘Stoker’s vampirism … imagines mobile desire as monstrosity and then devises a violent correction of that desire … a defensive reinscription of the stabilising distinctions of gender’ [224.]

the theme of alternate paternities [Dracula v. Van Helsing; 225.]

Dracula has a spirit’s freedom and mobility, but the mobility is chained for the most mechanical of appetites … this con- or inter-fusion of spirit and appetite, of eternity and sequence, produces a madness of activity and a mania of unceasing desire … a lurid wedding of desire and satisfaction that parodies both. [225.]

Van Helsings’s reading of Mina, like a dozen other instances in which his interpretation of the sacred determines and delimits the range of activity permitted to women, encodes woman with a ‘natural’ meaning composed according to the textual imperatives of anxious males. Precisely this complicity between masculine anxiety, divinie textual authority, and a fixed conception of femininity - which may seem benigh enough in the passage above - will soon be used to justify the destruction of Lucy Westenra, who, having been successfully vamped by Dracula, requres a corrective penetration. [216.]

‘her insolent disregard for the sexual and semiotic constraint encoded in Van Helsing’s exegesis of ‘God’s women’’ [227.]

cites John Stuart Mills’s on The Subjugation of Women [217.]

Dracula, after all, kisses these women out of their passivity and so endangers the stability of Van Helsing’s symbolic system [217.]

Dracula’s authorising kiss, litke that of a demonic Prince Charming, triggers the release of the latent power and excite in these women a sexuality so mbile, so aggressive, that it thoroughly disrupts Van Helsings compartmental conception of gender. Kissed int a sudden sexuality, Lucy grows ‘voluptuous’ … [228.]

To save Lucy from the mobilisation of desire, Van Helsing and the Crew of Light counteract Dracula’s subversive series of penetrations with a more conventional series of their own, that sequence of transfusions intended to provide Lucy with the ‘brave man’s blood’ which is ‘the best thing on earth when a woman is in trouble.’ [229.]

ftn. cites David Jones assertion that in ‘the unconscious mind blood is commonly an equivalent for semen …’ (On the Nightmare, London 1931, p.119). [does not cite ‘sperm’ in text.]

on the staking of Lucy:] here is the novel’s real - and the woman’s only - climax, its most violent and misogynistic moment, displaced roughly to the middle fo the book, sot that the sexual threat may be repeated but its ultimate success denied … The murderous phallicism of this passage clearly punishes Lucy for her transgression of Van Helsing’s gender code, as she finally received a penetration adequate to ensure her future quiescence. Violence against the sexual woman here is intense, sensually imagined, ferocious in its detail. … masking murder as ‘high duty’ [231.]

Lucy’s ‘post-penetrative peace dentes … the corresponding stabilisation of the dangerous signifier whose wandering had so threatened Van Halsing’s gneder code [232.]

in a by now familiar heterosexual mediation, Lucy receives the phallic correction that Dracula deserves [233.]

compares Mina’s drinking of Dracula’s blood to fellation [‘blood began to spurt out’, and notes blood, milk, semen relationships; 231.]

Craft remarks that the novel moves ‘mechanically to repudiate [the] fear’ occasioned by his most explicit erasure of the demarcation separating the masculine and the feminine’ [231], and calls the ensuing hundred pages ‘rather tedious’; NOTE that it is precisely these pages which most intrigue the Irish critics; by way of conclusion: ‘of course the plot of Dracula, by granting the ultimate victory to Van helsing and a dusty death to the Coutn, emphatically reatifies the simplistic opposition of competing conceptions of force and desire, but even abreif reflection upon the details of the war of penetrations complicates this comforting schema … the morphine injection whci subdues the woman and improves her receptivity, curiously imitates the Count’s strange hypnotic power; both men prefer to immobilise [234] a women before risking penetration [234-35.]

refers in detail to Freud’s account of the interpenetration of id and superego; focuses on the sublimated homosexuality of the men who, in effect, gang-rape Lucy and Mina - in the latter case producing a son who bears all their names (‘his bundle of names links all our little band of men together’); .’the real curiosity here is the novel’s last-minute displacement, its substitution of Mina, who ultimately refused sexualisation by Dracula, for Lucy, who was sexualised, vigorously penetrated, and consequently destroyed; ‘successful filiation implies the expulsion of all “monstrous” desire in women [while] all desire … moble and omnivorous as it may secretly eb, must subject itself to the herterosexual configiuration that alone defined the Victorian sense of the normal.’ [257.]

argues that the relations of all the characters in Dracula with Lucy and Mina ‘displaces a more direct communion among males’ [258]

[ back ]
 
[ top ]