Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Mother Dearest, Mother Deadliest: Object Relations Theory and the Trope of Failed Motherhood in Dracula
"Bram Stoker’s Dracula has often been understood as a novel that portrays sexuality as unfixed and where gender barriers are invariably broken. The idea of unstable sex roles and gender inversion can indeed be seen in the text of Dracula and is manifest, for instance, in the portrayal of female and feminine characters in the novel. One example of this is the recurring trope of failed motherhood that permeates throughout Stoker’s work. The mother or maternal figure repeatedly fails to protect her children against vampires, and some go so far as to prey upon children once they themselves have become “undead.”
"The object relations theory is an interesting way to examine the maternal characters in Dracula. This approach “favors a model that … concentrates … on the way the self interacts with its social world, especially the initial world of primary caretakers such as the mother …” (Rivkin and Ryan 438). This psychoanalytic approach was co-founded by and is most often associated with the well-known psychoanalyst Melanie Klein. The theory itself is rooted in the disciplines of Freudian child psychology and psychoanalysis. Both past and contemporary object relations theorists may thus be used to shed light on a psychoanalytical examination of the novel."
"While most of the vampire subculture these days is a benign form of role-playing, there have been cases of people who were inspired by the predatory image to kill. To their minds, the vampire mythos provides a framework that inspires and even licenses certain types of violent behaviors. Although this bloodthirsty impulse reaches back centuries and crosses cultures, I want to examine the mythology’s influence on three cases in recent American culture: Roderick Ferrell, James Riva, and Richard Trenton Chase. I will take one case at a time and then discuss how they attach to the vampire frame.
"...These three cases illustrate how a mental illness that evolves into aggression and violence may find a form for these acts within a predatory mythology like the vampire. It is not the case that the vampire image has made them violent, but rather that it has provided a way to organize their self-impressions and to justify their acts. They are “safe” from the consequences. While everyone uses frames in some manner, in this case, the frame becomes pathological because it licenses killers to pull others into their frame and do them harm.
"The vampire is a dangerous creature. Using this mythos for a protective frame heightens excitement but may also inspire aggression, depending on the state of mind of the person involved."
Desire and Loathing in Bram Stoker’s Dracula by
"In addition to being a Victorian Gothic masterpiece, Bram Stoker’s Dracula mirrors the gender and sexual anxieties as well as the cultural fears of the late nineteenth century. Conflicting gender roles present in the novel include the fear of male penetration and extreme male bonding, the mothering instinct and the New Woman, and the logical versus the hysterical male. The novel’s sexual anxiety is revealed through three primary scenes of sexual suppression and release. The character of Dracula not only represents the cultural fear of a foreign threat to British shores, but also serves as the novel’s catalyst of sexual desire. While Dracula can be read merely as an excellent adventure tale of good versus evil, the novel has as many layers as its author. A discussion of the role of gender in Dracula commonly brings up the question of whether or not Irish author and Lyceum Theatre manager Bram Stoker was a misogynist. His biographer Barbara Belford aptly equates him with matryoshki, the Russian nesting dolls comprising layers which, in Stoker’s case, she says lead to an amorphous center...Dracula is at its core a story of male bonding."
Dracula and the Afterlife: A Psychological Explanation by
"Until relatively recently, the primary psychological approach to understanding Bram Stoker’s Dracula and the folklore of vampires has been psychoanalysis. Maurice Richardson asserted in 1956 that Dracula must be seen from a Freudian standpoint, since “from no other does the story really make any sense” (427). However, the psychoanalytic approach shares little with modern, scientifically based psychology. Fascinating though it may be, psychoanalytic theory has almost no measurable attributes and may itself be as mythical as vampires and an afterlife. Rather, psychoanalysis is a creative theory of human cognition and behavior that can be neither proven false, objectively replicated, nor used to predict novel, testable insights. As Clive Leatherdale, having presented such a reading of Dracula, concedes, “psychoanalysis has been to some extent dismissed as a literary fad whose time has come and gone”.
This paper presents an alternative psychological theory that explains how vampirism has captured the imagination of so many people in so many cultures. This theory is called Existential Projection to an Afterlife (EPA) and it incorporates a number of well-studied psychological factors: Object constancy, generalization, fear and conditioning. Some background is needed to see how EPA theory provides a psychological mechanism for humans to reduce existential terror when contemplating death, i.e., non-existence of the self and nothingness. Fear is reduced by the comforting illusion of an afterlife."
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Posted by CZBZ at 10:24 PM