Dracula and the internet

Partly because of my train commute back in Philadelphia and partly
because one can't knit and read simultaneously, I've become a fan of
audio books, and of LibriVox in particular. My most recent on-the-way-to-and-from-work listening has been LibriVox's recording of Bram Stoker's Dracula, which I'd only previously encountered through movies.* And one of the first things that struck me about it was how much the story depends on characters exchanging information — particularly in the later chapters where each of the narrators has to keep the others constantly updated
— and on the various forms of information technology that came out of
the 19th century.

Between the telegrams that various characters constantly exchange, Mina's typewriter, and Dr. Seward's "phonograph diary," Dracula includes almost as many means of communication as it does types of documents (letters,
diaries, newspaper articles, "memoranda," and on and on). Nearly all of the major characters are obsessed with documenting everything that happens. Even that poor sea captain who has the ill-luck to take Dracula to England not only insists on keeping up his captain's log, but on preserving it in a bottle so it can be read even after he's found dead at the wheel.

I can't help wondering what the story would have looked like if Bram Stoker had written it in this decade instead of in the 1890s. Jonathan and Mina's LiveJournals? GPS to track Dracula's shipping container on its long journey back to the Carpathians? A laptop for Mina instead of a traveling typewriter? Instant messages? Characters researching eastern European vampire lore on Wikipedia? I bet Stoker would have loved the internet.

I'm of two minds whether to write an essay on information technology in Dracula*** or a Facebook feed parody, in the manner of Facebook Hamlet:

Jonathan Harker is thrilled about this new job!
Jonathan Harker added Transylvania to the Places I've Been application.
Jonathan Harker is kind of nervous about staying in this creepy castle.**
Quincey Morris, John Seward, and Arthur Holmwood joined the group We Love Lucy.
Lucy Westenra and Mina Murray are attending the event Sunset Stroll in Whitby Churchyard.

… etcetera.

I was thinking of making a Google map for the novel, but I see that someone has already done so.

* And the "Buffy vs. Dracula" episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
** Although, on second thought, I doubt that Castle Dracula would have internet access. "I am writing this by hand, because I have not been able to locate a wi-fi signal anywhere in the castle. The Count appears to have the oddest notions of how business is conducted in this day and age…"
*** If I ever do, the Rosenbach Museum and Library, which has Stoker's notes for Dracula, would make a lovely research-vacation destination.

7 Responses to “Dracula and the internet”

  1. Jane Dark says:

    I would absolutely have to encourage you to embrace the power of “and” — write both! The idea sounds just fascinating. And I bet that the STS conference in NYC next March would be a perfect place to present it (only if you felt like doing so, of course).

  2. Meilee says:

    I first read Dracula when I was 14; it inspired my love of Gothic novels, which is actually why I originally wanted to work in the nineteenth century. There’s an older essay on the novel (and the hilarious/awesome Coppola film adaptation of it–I love Gary Oldman!) and information networks by Geoffrey Winthrop-Young in a book called Literature and Science which you can read parts of courtesy of Google Books. It’s called “Undead Networks: Information Processing and Media Boundary Conflicts in Dracula,” and it (or its references) might interest you.
    If you’re into mummies, Stoker’s The Jewel of Seven Stars is great fun, too. The film Blood from the Tomb is a nifty adaptation of it. (I wrote a chapter on the novel, and I’m currently working on proofs for the article version, so I have the undead on my mind). 😉

  3. Amanda says:

    Ooh, thanks for the cite! I’ll have to check out that article once I’ve finished my current mini-project (revising a handful of encyclopedia entries). At my current pace, I don’t know if I’d actually have anything written by March, but it would certainly be fun to submit something for STS.
    That Coppola movie is pretty fabulously over the top, isn’t it? I think it’s time to watch it again — it’s been so many years since I’ve seen it.

  4. Jane Dark says:

    Oh yeah, those new job adaptation periods can really take up a lot of energy.
    I haven’t ever seen the full Coppola film. When it came out, I was such a purist snob that I railed against the fact that it was titled “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” when it ought to be called “FFC’s Dracula,” and I didn’t appreciate at all the fact that adaptations are interesting to think about.
    I should go back and watch it.

  5. Amanda says:

    It’s not always a faithful adaptation; FFC sexed up the story quite a bit, or so it seemed to me at the time. But considering how jaw-droppingly suggestive some parts of the novel are, it seems less jarring in retrospect (except maybe for the whole Dracula/Mina love story plotline). There’s some crazily baroque set and costume design, and Anthony Hopkins chews the scenery to bits entertainingly as Van Helsing.
    (Also, having just checked the cast on IMDB: that was Tom Waits as Renfield?! That settles it. I must see it again.)

  6. I have a bloodletting phobia and so could never get all the way through any version of Stoker’s Dracula. The only reason I could watch (most of) Buffy is that they sanitized it for TV.
    I love the Facebook statuses. Do you know that Buffy is on Twitter? Also Oscar Wilde. And many other “fakers” — a nice list here:

  7. Amanda says:

    I didn’t know about TwitterBuffy! Awesome.