Date of Award

Summer 8-4-2017

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

Committee Chair

Dr. Alexandra Valint

Committee Chair Department

English

Committee Member 2

Dr. Nicolle Jordan

Committee Member 2 Department

English

Committee Member 3

Dr. Katherine Cochran

Committee Member 3 Department

English

Abstract

Although not an immediate commercial success, Dracula has since become a seminal example of Gothic horror at the fin-de-siècle, leading not only to film, stage, and television adaptations, but also to literary reimaginings and a plethora of scholarship. I argue that the vampires in Dracula do not fit into the traditional critical understandings of the vampire; rather, they belong in two different but related categories recently theorized by science fiction studies and related to human evolution: transhuman and posthuman. I suggest that a reading of the novel that prioritizes the pervasive influence of evolutionary theory on Victorian literature encourages a reading of vampires as a posthuman species. Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871) challenged and troubled the Victorians, who now had to consider humans as a species that not only evolved over time but that could also, like other species, go extinct. Humans in a state of transhuman evolution and vampires as posthuman call into question a common belief that Victorian fin-de-siècle literature echoes contemporary fears of regression post-Darwin. Instead, the vampires in this new reading highlight Victorian fears of the progression of another species that will naturally overtake homo sapiens. Having read the text as an expression of a fear of the vampire’s evolution, I will then argue that rather than limiting the discussion of Stoker’s novel to fin-de-siècle Gothic horror, we can also read Stoker’s novel as a work of science fiction.

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