Dracula as Metaphor for Literary Vampire (abstract)
R. Jaeth Pilter

The lascivious Count of Bram Stoker’s unsurprisingly titled shadenfreude piece, Dracula, has enjoyed a long and eventful career as a target of widely varied analyses. His perilous and unapologetically zombonic behavior has inspired critics and devotees alike to cast him in the role of metaphor, symbol, and on several occasions, full blown archetype. Perhaps the most commonly voiced of these guises is the description of Dracula as some variety of sexual ideal. He inhabits the darker reaches of both the conscious and whatever manner of castle in which he happens to physically reside, indicative of Victorian censure of sexual expression. His encounters with the fortunate ladies in the novel, long repressed in their need, are as vivid as they are self-explanatory. By the ingestion of Dracula’s vital fluids, these maidens are given leave to develop the libidinous and impassioned natures that they, as humans, have possessed since their moments most enchoate.

However, it is the contention of this author that there exists another, more meaningful and lucid interpretation of the Count’s interaction with these hapless victorian jackanapes. While the parallels between Dracula and “drive towards sexual awakening” are convincing, and is some cases uncanny, he more closely resembles another literary entity—the literary vampire. Dracula, like the literary vampire, is a vampire. He commands animals, transforms into bat and wolf, loves the night, and has “that way” with the ladies. The data which exists in this regard alone is overwhelming. The count and the literary vampire are virtually indistinguishable in their respective coexistences with the Victorian populace. However, the careful reader is not to be satisfied with these indications alone.

An often overlooked similarity between the count and the literary vampire is their common desire for blood. In fact, they both drink it is great quantities. The smoke ringed cafes of the Champs De Lycees would ring for months sparring over a single question, “Who loves blood more, Dracula or the Literary Vampire.” 1

In the end, there can be little reasonable disagreement concerning the vampiric nature of Dracula and the literary vampire. Closer investigation is necessary, however, if the exact correlation between their natures is to be understood. Specifically, if it can be agreed upon that both are vampires, what then may be divined about the count’s “literary” nature?

First, the Count is in a book.[2] In fact, he is in a long book—a novel. Not only is Dracula in a book, he plays a role in the story there contained. Says the critic Becker, “Dracula is most certainly seen in the novel. He also seems to be a character. He behaves, is spoken to, and in all ways appears to react as though he were a character.”2 The reader inexperienced in these matters will state simply, “He is a vampire in a story, ergo, he is a literary vampire.” This view is convincing, but ultimately naïve.

[2] Of course, this alone does not make him a literary vampire. Footnotes appear with remarkable frequency in books, as do page numbers, appendices and dedications, but none of these are generally considered literary vampires. There was, however, a monograph by Piper and Tupper (Berkeley Press) which mentions that, at least in the late 19th century, epilogues were being treated, for at least the purpose of analytic discourse, as literary vampires.

1 (Ed. Note) Pilter’s band of nasties attempted once to start such a discussion at a trendy Paris cafe'/discussion chamber/hotbed of ineffectual rage called the Diabologue Multicoulaire. Pilter himself stood on a barside table, nearly knocking from his barstool a dozing Henri Malveau, and prepared to unleash on the streets and into the minds of the great city the riddle which would rob the masses of sleep for years to come, but as he spoke the words, his rudimentary French betrayed him. Instead of his intended “Quandry of Relative Bloodlusts” the author shouted, “Who likes Roquefort more than me? Nobody ‘cept that bastard Gaston!” Pilter did cause a bit of unrest in spite of his misquote. Café’s throughout Paris spent the next day or so discussing themes such as “Qui est Gaston?” and “Ou est le fromage?”

2 (Ed. Note) Early proponents of the Dracula as literary vampire position considered this the final nail in the elegantly appointed, and not inexpensive, coffin of their detractors, citing Becker further, “It is nearly impossible for a character to perform his duties as protagonist without first being in the story.” The counterexample to this logic was provided by Pilter in his series of essays Stanzaic Eventuality: L’Agonisme based on an excerpt from his critical thesis on Gareth’s fugue concerning a dashing young wheelwright, Making Time for Atkins. The protagonist in the story is not a character, but the acute sense of discomfort of a character. Torrance, the wheelwright, is approached by a woman he has never seen and given an assignment the likes of which he has seen every day for the whole of his adult life. She asks him to repair a broken wheel, and leaves as payment a sack of coins, which later are revealed to be the very coins his father accepted for a similar job twenty years before. Torrance fails to complete the task, and busies himself for the rest of the story avoiding his shop in order to likewise avoid the embarrassment of admitting failure to the woman. The discomfort he feels with respect to the return of this customer is as compelling a protagonist as has been seen in the genre.

Using this tale as the basis for his theory on the general nature of agonism, Pilter addressed, in the above collection, the birth of the metatagonists, the subsequent insurrection of the pro and antagonists, the western renaissance of neotagonism, and finally, in the piece which defined him, One Night in the Gnascium: Refining the Notagonist.