Bram Stoker’s Dracula: Vampires, Class, Colonialism, Discourse

Note: The purpose of this post is more analytical than evaluative. Therefore it assumes familiarity with the plot of the novel and includes a reasonable amount of spoilers. The Coppola movie keeps quite close to the original story, so if you have seen it you can consider yourself immunized against spoilers.

There have been more than enough reviews of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, this post is not yet another one. Rather, in it I want to focus on some textual aspects of the novel that captured my attention and convinced me in its greatness. Yes, Dracula fully deserves its place among the classics, not merely for having spawned a whole genre of writing, but for its literary merits. Who would want to read a book about vampires that is over a century old, some might ask, it surely must be so old-fashioned. Well it is and there is so much beauty in that. Dracula is an epistolary novel and thanks to that it has preserved its appeal over the decades. While narrative structure, authorial function and point-of-view techniques have evolved tremendously in the last century, a letter or a diary entry from 1897 will always be authentic and a fictional document from the period will always retain the same amount of verisimilitude. So yes, Dracula is old-fashioned but in a very good, window-into-another-time kind of way. Continue reading

The Writer as a Squad of Cognitive Designers

OK, I am going to stretch some analogies here. No pretense for comprehensive overview or scientific method, just plain hypothesizing about the nature of story writing. The reason – it’s fun. Also, I have found out for myself that relating writing as a process to cognitive theories helps me think more clearly about the former and more enthusiastically about the latter. The post is a bit technical, but I have tried to provide brief explanations and relevant links where needed.

Sitting in a series of lectures on cognitive robotics and spatial cognition this week, I have been bouncing around my brain various sporadic thoughts, only vaguely related to the courses in question. So, here follow, very sketchy and somewhat amorphous, a few ideas about writerly roles.

Writing as astral projection (in your own brain)

 What does it take to write good sensory descriptions, to help the reader walk in the shoes of a character, to wrest emotions of fear and disgust out of her, to pump some adrenaline in her bloodstream? Samuel Delany wrote in an essay (either in The Jewel-Hinged Jaw or in About Writing; too bad I don’t have the books to check and provide quotations) that the first step of the writing process is that of imagining a scene as fully as possible. Continue reading