Monday, October 17, 2011

Back to the Bite: Dracula's female predecessor

wiki from; carmilla; by Sheridan Le Fanu Carmilla selected exclusively female victims, though only became emotionally involved with a few. Carmilla had nocturnal habits, but was not confined to the darkness. She had unearthly beauty and was able to change her form and to pass through solid walls. Her animal alter ego was a monstrous black cat, not a large dog as in Dracula. She did, however, sleep in a coffin.

 Some critics, among them William Veeder, suggest that Carmilla, notably in its outlandish use of narrative frames, was an important influence on Henry James' The Turn of the Screw. Although Carmilla is a lesser known and far shorter Gothic vampire story than the generally-considered master work of that genre, Dracula, the latter is heavily influenced by Le Fanu's short story.

 In the earliest manuscript of Dracula, dated 8 March 1890, the castle is set in Styria, although the setting was changed to Transylvania six days later. Stoker's posthumously published short story "Dracula's Guest", known as the deleted first chapter to Dracula, shows a more obvious and intact debt to "Carmilla": Both stories are told in the first person. Dracula expands on the idea of a first person account by creating a series of journal entries and logs of different persons and creating a plausible background story for them having been compiled.

 Stoker also indulges the air of mystery further than Le Fanu by allowing the characters to solve the enigma of the vampire along with the reader. The descriptions of Carmilla and the character of Lucy in Dracula are similar, and have become archetypes for the appearance of the waif-like victims and seducers in vampire stories as being tall, slender, languid, and with large eyes, full lips and soft voices. Both women also sleepwalk. Stoker's Dr. Abraham Van Helsing is a direct parallel to Le Fanu's vampire expert Baron Vordenburg: both characters used to investigate and catalyse actions in opposition to the vampire, and symbolically represent knowledge of the unknown and stability of mind in the onslaught of chaos and death.[5]

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