Bram Stoker – Irish writer

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In his review of two texts on Dracula (William Hughes’s Beyond Dracula and Elizabeth Miller’s Dracula: Sense and Nonsense), Andrew Smith asserts that:

It is time that Stoker is accorded a proper place in Irish literature; one that bears testimony to the diversity of his writings. Stoker has a legitimate place in any history of Irish literature precisely because of his complex response to Ireland, a complexity which reflects on his special status as an emigre Protestant Irishman. He was sympathetic to Home Rule and yet such support for this Gladstonian model of Home Rule suggests an opposition to complete separatism. It is these paradoxes which need to be understood in historical rather than biographical terms, and it is a book such as Beyond Dracula which goes some way towards helping to map that history.” (p.245)

“…we need to consider his [Stoker’s] work speciŽfically in relation to Ireland, but also in relation to the wider issue of colonialism. In considerations of a tradition of Irish literature Stoker has tended to be seen as a marginal Ž figure because his sense of being Irish has been perceived as minimal. Whilst he cannot be made to cohere within an Irish revivalist context, and it would be straining a point to suggest that Stoker and Yeats could be sensibly compared, it is the case that Stoker’s sense of Ireland informs his work. His status as an emigre member of the Protestant Ascendancy governed his view of Ireland even as he struggled to construct positive, liberal images of Catholicism. What is surely signiŽficant about Stoker is the way that his work is often betrayed by this position even as it appears to be moving beyond it, and it is here that Dracula (1897) has a much overlooked importance. His most famous novel constructs an implicit debate about the efŽficacy of different types of knowledge. It would appear that the novel celebrates the standing of the bourgeois professions, especially the law and science. This attachment to modernity suggests Stoker’s faith in science to transform a culture, especially a culture that he associates with a superstitious faith in folklore.” (p.241)

How one might locate Bram Stoker’s position in relation to Ireland, rather than solely to the Gothic, has been a relatively recent subject for discussion. Such scholarship has had to combat two seemingly unrelated perceptions of Stoker’s work. One is that after Stoker left Ireland in 1878 to take up the position of Henry Irving’s Acting Manager at the Lyceum Theatre in London, he effectively recanted his Irish background. The second is that Stoker’s work constitutes little more than popular ephemera, and consequently he should be considered as no more signiŽcant than any other writer who aspired to mass appeal. Both of these views are forcibly expressed by W. J. McCormack, who in The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (1991) dwells on the commercial ambitions of Stoker’s work….” (p.241)

“David Glover […] has persuasively argued that Stoker’s work reveals a fascination with territorial rights (both legal and moral) which reflects Stoker’s support for Home Rule.” (p.241)

Stoker is not so much writing pulp as using a popular form in order to develop a serious political agenda.” (p.241)

“An examination of Stoker is important to any account of Irish literature because his views on Ireland, colonialism, and religion are conditioned by his position as an emigre member of the Protestant Ascendancy, a special position that is worthy of continued critical inquiry.” (p.243)

Ref: Andrew Smith (2001): Bringing Bram Stoker Back from the Margins, Irish Studies Review, 9:2, 241-246

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