Dracula the Uncanny and the Abject Essay Paper

Dracula the Uncanny and the Abject There are many psychoanalytic interpretations of the novel Dracula.

Dracula the Uncanny and the Abject
Dracula the Uncanny and the Abject

They take as their starting point the observation that the monster is not purely other but is actually strangely familiar because it recalls for us (on an unconscious level) some aspect of ourselves that we have repressed.  Psychoanalytic interpretations focus on applying the following concepts.

Dracula the Uncanny and the Abject Essay Paper

The uncanny is the return of the repressed.  Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory maintains that social pressures on the developing child lead to the rejection of unacceptable anti-social desires and thus the spitting of the self into the conscious mind (the ego) and the unconscious mind (the id).  Forbidden drives do not disappear, they are instead repressed into the id and pushed out of consciousness, but they have a tendency to erupt again.  The (re)appearance of repressed desires creates the sensation of the uncanny.  Aspects of the self that may be repressed include the primitive thought processes of early childhood (such as belief in omnipotence, magic, talking animals, etc.), the unmediated desires of early childhood (perverse sexuality, orality, aggression, vengeance, etc.), and the threatening anxieties of early childhood (being cannibalized, castrated, buried, lost, split, doubled, etc.).  The uncanny is never gone for good; it is the monster that always returns.

Dracula the Uncanny and the Abject Essay Paper

The abject is similar to the uncanny and comes from the psychoanalytic theory of Julia Kristeva, building on Freud, but focussing more on the child’s relation to the mother.  According to Kristeva, as the infant develops, the mother becomes the original other, the first not-me by which the infant becomes an individual separate from the world.  This splitting off from the mother and and the world is a primal loss, but also enables the creation of the self.  The attraction of returning to the smothering embrace of the mother, of returning to oneness with the world, persists but, since it would lead to the extinction of the self, is violently rejected.  Dracula the Uncanny and the Abjectargues that the boundaries of the self and the individuality of identity must be constantly reasserted.  The abject is that which threatens these boundaries of the self; that which disturbs identity, system, order; that which does not respect borders, positions, rules; that which is in-between, ambiguous, composite, hybrid. The abject produces both fascination and revulsion.  The feeling of abjection is produced by that which undermines the integrity of the self and the body: maternity, orality (breastfeeding and pre-verbal communication), and other primitive elements related to early childhood development, as well as blood, vomit, and corpses.

Dracula the Uncanny and the Abject Essay Paper Questions

Consider the following questions.

(1) How do vampires in Stoker’s novel embody aspects of our own psyches?

(2) How are vampires in Dracula not purely alien for the characters and/or the reader?  In what ways are vampires uncannily familiar?  How does the vampire embody repressed desires and fears?  Does the novel contain any mirroring or doubling of characters?  What is the symbolic relationship between Jonathan and Dracula?  Or between Mina and Lucy?

(2) What makes the vampire abject for the reader?  In what ways does the vampire cross borders, disrespect boundaries, and disturb identity, system, and order?  In what sense is the vampire hybrid and ambiguous?  How is the vampire associated with orality, infancy, and maternity?

Interpret the figure of the vampire through a psychoanalytic model, using the concept of the uncanny or the abject as defined above.  Include support for this interpretation in the form of specific examples and quotations from the text with parenthetical citation (page or electronic location numbers).

Source: Bram Stoker: Dracula (1897)

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