In which an extracurricular project coalesces

Remember that idea I had for a project dealing with Dracula and information technology some months back? I think it may turn into an actual article, or at least the makings of one. I’d been thinking, over the winter break, about which of my various research ideas (some library-related, some more literary, some, like this one, in-between) that I might want to pursue in the new year, and the Dracula project suddenly started calling to me. I’ve been using some of the downtime before spring semester starts to pull together a bibliography, and I’m rereading the novel with a steadily increasing level of interest in what it has to say about documents and their circulation.

What’s intriguing me right now is the parallel between Dracula’s self-replication (by making more and more vampires) and the replication of documents by everyone else (by copying, transcribing, and typing out in triplicate). Dracula himself is a sort of oral register of Transylvanian history. The very last paragraphs of the novel call attention to the scarcity of “authentic” documents, e.g. handwritten ones, among the fictional archive of records out of which Jonathan Harker claims to have assembled the narrative. Lots of people turn out to have already written about Dracula and the telegraph, the phonograph, and other communication technologies of the 19th century, but I think there’s something I can add.

I keep having to remind myself that even though I’m not by training a Victorianist, the great advantages of being an independent scholar are not having to produce at the speed of the tenure clock (and hence more time for research into new subject areas) and being able to work on whatever one wants to. If something good enough to publish or present comes out of it, I’ll be very pleased; but it’s also a nifty project that unites a bunch of things I’m interested in—history of the book, technologies of writing, supernatural literature—but haven’t really had a chance to write about yet. It may take a while to finish, but I’m remembering just how much fun a good research jag can be.

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