Tag Archives: papers

Bram Stoker – Dracula (1897)

Joanthan Harker goes to Transylvania as a young solicitor and is held captive by Count Dracula. He is prevented from writing to his boss and his wife-to-be, Mina Murray. Meanwhile Lucy Westerna, best friend of Mina Murray, becomes engaged to Arthur Godalming, after turning down John Seward (director of an insane asylum) and Quincey Morris (an impetuous but kind American). Soon after Harker escapes, and goes to convalesce, Dracula starts to suck Lucy’s blood. Van Helsing is called from Holland by Sward to help. Eventually, Lucy becomes a vampire and they have to cut off her head. Dracual has come to London and they start to track him down, sterilizing the 50 coffins that he has imported from Transylvania (full of that native earth). He eventually flees to Romania, but not before vamping on the angelic Mina Murray, now married to the fully recovered Harker. They set off, using hypnotism on Mina to discover that Dracula is traveling by water. They eventually find him in Romania, and Harker kills him just before sundown, but not before Quincey is killed by a gypsy.

Language – attention give to different languages, speech impediments, shorthand, translation, etc.

Life – where does life reside? In blood, earth, mind? Different answers given thtoughout.

Modes of writing – Stoker runs the gamut of recording devices: diary, journal, phonograph, typewriter, traveler typewriter, “angelic recorder.” In the end, after compiling the compulsively written documents, they decide that no document is authentic except for the original written diaries.

The Press – Press clippings are often pasted into journals and used to speed along events. In short, everything is seen and able to be written about by someone.

Knowledge/Power/Concealment – This often breaks down along gendered lines. When mina is left out of conversations, Dracula starts to vamp her.

The Host – use of Christ’s signified body as defense

Ships – connect with Sign of Four and Moonstone – the ocean, sea is a wily mode of transportation, slower but more effective than trains, coaches, etc. for evasion

Euthanasia – read as arch-word (357)

Stuff on child-brain and man-brain – Child-brain is slave to empirical training and testing, and is highly selfish. Interesting Humean discourse here.


Wilkie Collins – The Moonstone (1868)

A “family paper” opens the novel, describing the theft of a precious yellow diamond during a siege of India in late 18th C. Three Indians are committed to restoring diamond at costs.

Gabriel Betteridge opens narration, having been requested by Franklin Blake to write out his perspective on events. His daughter Penelope is a servant to Rachel Verinder, daughter of the august Lady Verinder. Rahcel’s suitor Franklin Blake is told to give her the diamond for her birthday. He does, but diamond is stolen. Sergeant Cuff investigates and suspects Rachel to be in cahoots with a servant Rosanna Spearman, who commits suicide in the Shivering Sands (supposedly has a crush on Franklin Blake). Cuff resigns job after suspecting Rachel. Franklin leaves for Africa or something. Godfrey Abelwhite, another suritor, becomes engaged to Rachel. Franklin returns, intent on clearing his name from his involvement with the Moonstone, but finds out that he in fact stole the diamond. Ezra Jennings proposes an experiment with opium, b/c his master Dr. Candy had drugged Frankling the night of the birthday and he had stolen the diamond under the influence of opium. Cuff, Jennings, and lawyer Bruff meet to watcht he experiment, which works. Rachel is there, too, and is convinced of his innocence even before it goes off. Menawhile, the diamond is taken out of the bank by Mr. Luker and folks try to track various people, and eventually find Godfrey Abelwhite dead in his hotel room in disguise. Novel finishes with a travelers tale in India, the Moonstone has been replaced and there’s a huge ceremony. Rachel and Franklin get married.

A lot of the same narrative issues as Woman in White; same troubles finishing. Why the opium experiments after they discovered Godfrey Abelwhite? Goes deep into questions of sensation and impression. Can be read as a “Humean” experiment…

Structure: two periods and an epilogue. The first period is comprised of one narrative completely given by Gabriel Betteridge, the second contains eight different narratives, and the epilogue contains the authoritative official account of Cuff and two reports from abroad, recounting the diamond’s restoration. Interesting arch of fragmentation and restoration.

Many scenes of reading Robinson Crusoe dramatizes the act of fitting facts to pre-determined interpretations—the book has supposedly foretold everything to Gabriel.

SHIPS: cf. Dracula and Sign of Four. Travel by sea becomes unsteady.

Convergence of inconveniences: people out of town, sick, lost memory, etc., all right before narrative comes to close.

Wilkie Collins – The Woman in White (1860)

Walter Hartwright opens the novel narrating a strange encounter with a woman in white on the outskirts of London. Helps her find a carriage, and finds out that she has escaped from psych ward. Walter gets a job teaching drawing to Laura Fairlie and Marian Halcombe. He falls in love with Laura (who looks exactly like Anne), but is relieved of post because Laura is engaged to Sir Percival Glyde,a  hot-headed landed gentry who turns out to be quite awful. Walter goes to South America. Mr. Fairlie signs away Laura’s fortune (20.000 pounds). 10,000 pounds have also been left to her, but will go to Countess Fosco if she dies before the Foscos do. Laura marries, goes to Rome, and then returns. Percival spends loads of money. The hugely fat Count Fosco returns with them. Anne begins to come around (wearing white b/c of attachment to deceased Mrs. Fairlie) talking about a “Secret” that will bring Percival crashing down. Turns out her mother has told her about the secret, without giving the content, and Anne used this to advantage in youth and was consequently sent to asylum. Laura and Marian become prisoners—through an ingenious plan, Fosco and Percival switch the dead Anne with the living Laura in order to have Laura put into an insane asylum—but also mange to get the money to pay the debts. Marian breaks her out, Walter returns, and they begin to try to reconstruct the evidence that will reveal Percival’s secret and also prove Laura’s identity (the latter comes down to a matter of dates; the former comes down to a marriage log in rustic church). Percival attempts to burn the log and burns the church down with himself inside. Percival has spuriously inserted his name into the log (a sin), that in fact covers up the original sin of Philip Fairlie who fathered both Anne and Laura by different mothers. Battle continue with Fosco, who si blackmailed into writing his account of the story. He is part of an international secret society (in which Pesca is high-ranking member), he flees but is tracked down and killed in Paris. Laura and Walter are married and their child inherits Limmeridge.

Preface: Lays out form of the story: characters provide narration along a roughly chronological chain—no overlap, so the various perspectives are not complicating the scene described (they rather highlight the characters—and clarify the story)…characters becomes means to a plot. Any overlap is ABOUT PLOT NOT ABOUT CHARACTER.

Narration: both narrator and organizer of evidence.

Story vs. law: acknowledge of “facts” being inadequate to the task of narration.

Discussion of Crime: the perfect crime is one in which no one knows the crime has been committed. Think about this as form for all narrative: SECRET. Secret takes on substance.

Function of the lawyer or man of business – Mr. Gilmore is impersonal recorder of events, as pure functioning machine. Cf. Bruff in Moonstone.

MADNESS enters as medicine into a family crime (no longer associated with larger cosmic determination, but firmly domestic)

Sir Pericval’s crime is a solution to a problem via the limited protocols of marriage.

Inheritance: similar routing of the spurious inheritor as in Wuthering Heights.

Charles Dickens – Bleak House (1852-3)

Esther Summerson, Richard Carstone and Ada Clare are all orphans that have the benefit of being cared for financially by Mr. John Jarndyce, who brings them all together at Bleak House when they come of age. Ada is beautiful and boring, Richard is handsome and aimless, and Esther is diligent and plain. Esther becomes “mistress of Bleak House,” eventually marrying the young doctor Allan Woodcourt, but not before she discovers that she is the daughter of Lady Dedlock, the wife of the very rich and powerful Lord Leicester Dedlock, owner of Chesney Wold. Richard and Ada become engaged at a young age, and Richard devotes his life to unraveling the case, only to die when the case is solved and all inheritance money is taken up in expenses.

Other important characters: the lawyer Tulkinghorn, the detective Bucket, the spontaneously combusted Krook, the hyperbolic Boythron, the loyal soldier Mr. Geroge that turns out to be the son of the maid of Lord Dedlock, the crazy Miss Flite with all the birds, the young and homeless Jo that makes everyone sick, and Henry Skimpole, the “noble savage” that refuses the space-time logic of capitalism.

Property: Esther essentially marries a house. Jarndyce and Jarndyce case is sustained through flow of property—like capital, it requires movement, exchange. Bleak House is also easily transplanted, becomes signifier of traditional bonds, but is not rooted to land. Contrast this to Dedlock’s ideal England and one can see this as story of aristocratic decline, the repeal of the corn laws (the immaculate 53 cf. Barchester Towers), etc. (connect this with Parade’s End and Tietjens as Tory, etc.)

Narration – oscillates between omniscient narrator (present tense, social satire, spans geographical space and geological time) and Esther Summerson (deliberately self-limited, acutely aware of “epistemological limits” that double as socially defined gender conventions.) 3rd person is focused on objective conditions of society, while 1st person becomes increasingly imbricated in those concerns as the narrative progresses…convergence would be similar to something like David Copperfield’s conclusion, but via spatial coordinates.

Comedy – Impetus to produce (alphabetical list of names and other excess, bordering on absurdity)….as desiring-production in contrast to Freudian desire (in terms of construction and resolution of plot). At hinge moments (such as incipient critique of Chancery) the narrative starts to get absurd.

Genre – A peculiar mix of romance, detective story and realist novel. At time chaotic, but more often than not, locked in productive competition, leading towards ambiguous mixture. In general, realism becomes increasingly about character as the 19th century wears on: the psychological or sympathetic mimesis of Eliot and James is in the distance…but for Dickens, institutions, historical, etc. are still recalcitrants objects of representations that cannot be worked out via psychological focalization.

Plot – Chapters strung together like set pieces, plot emerges in small increments at the end of the chapters…as novel progresses, the plot begins to take over more and more of each chapter. Or the describes as inverse, where characters take on the body of the plot as they put on more flesh. Think about plot itself in terms of survival – with Chnacery case as prime example: achievement of steady-state. Further, plot is generated by 3 mysterious absences: the missing legal document, Esther’s past, Jo’s sickness (secret is social system that has given him disease, that then spreads)

Law – Opening sequence describes antediluvian London’s Chancery court system – contrast with Hugo’s description of Notre Dame (both make use of evolutionary language.)

Boythorn is a parody of William Savage Landor – ridiculous hyperbole and chivalry – a good example of Dicken satirical style, along with Chadband’s speechifying—note that all this comes mostly through omniscient narrator, and rarely through the restrained lens of Esther. Chadband is parody of florid novelistic prose that doesn’t go anywhere.

Richard Carstone fits the aimless male type: Deronda, Edward Ferrars, etc…is taken over by labor rather than taking on labor—perhaps because there is no metabolic exchange???

Skimpole – Dickens send up of the socially innocent ‘noble savage’

Bucket – precursor to Sherlock Holmes, disaffected and indifferent, pure plotting machine – terrifying attention to detail, an ability to “plot” which amounts to unraveling the plot – see Peter Brooks on the necessity of repetition.

Individual/System – Dickens shows the friction between individual agency and systematic recalcitrance. In generic terms, one can see the romantic Bildungsroman struggling for life, but being swallowed by Victorian conventions. This stands in reverse relation to otherwise “progressive” social reforms that democratize society and allow for the ascent of Mr. George’s brother, for example, and the marriage that flows from his monetary success… The relating between these vectors (political, economic) is by turns ironic, contradictory, and coincident.