Mesmeric rapport: The power of female sympathy in Bram Stoker's Dracula

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Scenes of mesmerism and hypnotism in Gothic novels are commonly read as symbolic of sexual assault that reinforce traditional hierarchies of gendered power. In contrast, Bram Stoker rejects the trope of the helpless woman controlled by the all-powerful mesmerist in his depiction of Mina Harker’s psychic connection to Dracula. Rather, he presents this connection as a means by which Mina can regain power after a traumatic assault, and does so by employing nineteenth-century feminist rhetoric which presented telepathy as a powerful extension of women’s natural faculty for sympathy. The word ‘sympathy’ appears an unusual number of times in Dracula, compared to other Gothic or invasion fiction of the period. In his use of this word, Stoker engages with a number of nineteenth-century discourses, including moral philosophy, feminism, and mesmerism. Each of these branches of thought viewed sympathy as an inherently female virtue. In the novel, feminine sympathy is presented as the means by which the vampire can be fought and destroyed without compromising the humanity of those that fight. Thus, a consideration of the depiction of sympathy in Dracula suggests that Stoker was far more receptive to New Women and the feminist movement of the 1890s than is often allowed.
LanguageEnglish
Pages366-380
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Victorian Culture
Volume23
Issue number3
Early online date31 May 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jul 2018

Fingerprint

sympathy
assault
nineteenth century
invasion
feminism
rhetoric
moral philosophy
Dracula
Sympathy
Rapport
discourse
Mesmerism

Keywords

  • mesmerism
  • telepathy
  • Gothic fiction
  • feminism
  • new woman
  • history of feminism

Cite this

@article{c1d50d90ad284ff2a9cf79753c59fc30,
title = "Mesmeric rapport: The power of female sympathy in Bram Stoker's Dracula",
abstract = "Scenes of mesmerism and hypnotism in Gothic novels are commonly read as symbolic of sexual assault that reinforce traditional hierarchies of gendered power. In contrast, Bram Stoker rejects the trope of the helpless woman controlled by the all-powerful mesmerist in his depiction of Mina Harker’s psychic connection to Dracula. Rather, he presents this connection as a means by which Mina can regain power after a traumatic assault, and does so by employing nineteenth-century feminist rhetoric which presented telepathy as a powerful extension of women’s natural faculty for sympathy. The word ‘sympathy’ appears an unusual number of times in Dracula, compared to other Gothic or invasion fiction of the period. In his use of this word, Stoker engages with a number of nineteenth-century discourses, including moral philosophy, feminism, and mesmerism. Each of these branches of thought viewed sympathy as an inherently female virtue. In the novel, feminine sympathy is presented as the means by which the vampire can be fought and destroyed without compromising the humanity of those that fight. Thus, a consideration of the depiction of sympathy in Dracula suggests that Stoker was far more receptive to New Women and the feminist movement of the 1890s than is often allowed.",
keywords = "mesmerism, telepathy, Gothic fiction, feminism, new woman, history of feminism",
author = "Jordan Kistler",
note = "This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in Journal of Victorian Culture following peer review. The version of record: Kistler, J. (2018). Mesmeric rapport: The power of female sympathy in Bram Stoker's Dracula. Journal of Victorian Culture, 23(3), 366-380. https://doi.org/10.1093/jvcult/vcy034.",
year = "2018",
month = "7",
day = "30",
doi = "10.1093/jvcult/vcy034",
language = "English",
volume = "23",
pages = "366--380",
journal = "Journal of Victorian Culture",
issn = "1355-5502",
number = "3",

}

Mesmeric rapport : The power of female sympathy in Bram Stoker's Dracula. / Kistler, Jordan.

In: Journal of Victorian Culture, Vol. 23, No. 3, 30.07.2018, p. 366-380.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

TY - JOUR

T1 - Mesmeric rapport

T2 - Journal of Victorian Culture

AU - Kistler, Jordan

N1 - This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in Journal of Victorian Culture following peer review. The version of record: Kistler, J. (2018). Mesmeric rapport: The power of female sympathy in Bram Stoker's Dracula. Journal of Victorian Culture, 23(3), 366-380. https://doi.org/10.1093/jvcult/vcy034.

PY - 2018/7/30

Y1 - 2018/7/30

N2 - Scenes of mesmerism and hypnotism in Gothic novels are commonly read as symbolic of sexual assault that reinforce traditional hierarchies of gendered power. In contrast, Bram Stoker rejects the trope of the helpless woman controlled by the all-powerful mesmerist in his depiction of Mina Harker’s psychic connection to Dracula. Rather, he presents this connection as a means by which Mina can regain power after a traumatic assault, and does so by employing nineteenth-century feminist rhetoric which presented telepathy as a powerful extension of women’s natural faculty for sympathy. The word ‘sympathy’ appears an unusual number of times in Dracula, compared to other Gothic or invasion fiction of the period. In his use of this word, Stoker engages with a number of nineteenth-century discourses, including moral philosophy, feminism, and mesmerism. Each of these branches of thought viewed sympathy as an inherently female virtue. In the novel, feminine sympathy is presented as the means by which the vampire can be fought and destroyed without compromising the humanity of those that fight. Thus, a consideration of the depiction of sympathy in Dracula suggests that Stoker was far more receptive to New Women and the feminist movement of the 1890s than is often allowed.

AB - Scenes of mesmerism and hypnotism in Gothic novels are commonly read as symbolic of sexual assault that reinforce traditional hierarchies of gendered power. In contrast, Bram Stoker rejects the trope of the helpless woman controlled by the all-powerful mesmerist in his depiction of Mina Harker’s psychic connection to Dracula. Rather, he presents this connection as a means by which Mina can regain power after a traumatic assault, and does so by employing nineteenth-century feminist rhetoric which presented telepathy as a powerful extension of women’s natural faculty for sympathy. The word ‘sympathy’ appears an unusual number of times in Dracula, compared to other Gothic or invasion fiction of the period. In his use of this word, Stoker engages with a number of nineteenth-century discourses, including moral philosophy, feminism, and mesmerism. Each of these branches of thought viewed sympathy as an inherently female virtue. In the novel, feminine sympathy is presented as the means by which the vampire can be fought and destroyed without compromising the humanity of those that fight. Thus, a consideration of the depiction of sympathy in Dracula suggests that Stoker was far more receptive to New Women and the feminist movement of the 1890s than is often allowed.

KW - mesmerism

KW - telepathy

KW - Gothic fiction

KW - feminism

KW - new woman

KW - history of feminism

U2 - 10.1093/jvcult/vcy034

DO - 10.1093/jvcult/vcy034

M3 - Article

VL - 23

SP - 366

EP - 380

JO - Journal of Victorian Culture

JF - Journal of Victorian Culture

SN - 1355-5502

IS - 3

ER -