Date of Award

8-2019

Degree Type

Report

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

English

Committee

Shane Graham

Committee

Phebe Jensen

Committee

Mattie Burkert

Abstract

This Plan B thesis explores the questions: What echoes of the 1845 Potato famine exist in Dracula and how do those echoes impact our understanding of the famine’s cultural impact? Dracula has been studied extensively both as an important example of gothic Victorian literature and as a chance to reclaim a native Irish author from the British. By looking at Dracula through the lens of Ireland’s 1845 Potato famine some of the structural and narrative oddities resolve themselves, such as Stoker’s decision to introduce so many opposing images and ideas to create a sense of uncertainty and rob the reader of an overarching allegory to guide the narrative. Rather than focusing on how a famine lens resolves issues with the narrative, this thesis will focus on three scenes from the novel that display distinct echoes of the famine and what they can teach us about the lasting impact of the violent imagery that surfaced during the tragedy. Each scene is discussed individually with the famine-based image that it reflects and the role of those images in the novel and culturally. Mina and Lucy’s conversation about graves with Mr. Swales echoes the questions surrounding the cultural and psychological impact of being surrounded by the dead and dying during the famine. The discovery of Lucy’s vampirism evokes images of mothers cradling their children during the crisis, but also casts a sinister shadow on the devoutness of those mothers. The arrival of the Demeter in Whitby, the final scene this thesis concerns itself with, has interesting connections to the cultural image of the coffin ships, and the importance of the ship’s log in unraveling the mystery of what happened echoes the weight placed on the diaries of Irish emigrants who traveled on the coffin ships. Examining these three scenes through the historic and cultural sense of the famine allows us to begin understanding not only the famine’s influence on Dracula but also why famine scholars are interested in classifying the novel as part of the famine literature canon. As a whole, this thesis aims to demonstrate the value in further pursuing the role of novels, such as Dracula, that are drawing on famine themes but not necessarily about the famine, in understanding the psychological traumas embedded in the cultural memory as a result of the 1845 famine.

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