These Things of Darkness – Part 1
Dismembered Bits and Pieces of an Introduction;
A Fingerpost Pointing in Various Directions, Some Wiser to Travel Than Others
It would be obvious and banal to repeat the observation, employed by every hack journalist tasked with writing some bit of Dracula fluff, that “the Count will never lie down”. Similarly, it would be obvious and banal to liken the spread of Dracula around the world and throughout culture to the exponential, viral expansion of vampirism that would ensue if vampires were actually real. It would be no more than stating the fact that Dracula is a successful commodity or brand. That is what successful commodities or brands do. They reproduce. Seemingly without human input and out of human control, to the point of threatening people. They seem to do this despite the fact that their reproduction is actually a result of human production. As with vampires, commodities are reproduced by the parasitism upon, and negation of, the human subject. Capital is the vampire battening on us, as Marx saw. Commodity production hollows people out. Capital expands as humanity shrinks. The similarity between the viral commodity and Dracula is a tautology, since it has been so successful precisely because it expresses the underlying mechanism of its own success.
Dracula and Frankenstein are inextricably linked. Mutually dependant. But like many things that are inextricably linked and mutually dependant they are also irresolvably separate and antagonistic. About the only thing they have in common is their moment of conception. As David McNally pointed out, both were conceived in the course of a single night in 1816, during which Mary Shelley became heavy with Frankenstein and Lord Byron with Dracula. It is tempting to look at the evening as a copulation between these two, from which both came away pregnant. Dracula, it is true, gestated longer than Frankenstein. He was born almost immediately (in authorial time) whereas Dracula took longer. He was transplanted from Byron into Polidori, and then into Stoker, with much genetic material contributed along the way by Le Fanu and others. Ironically, it was Dracula who had to be assembled from the bits and pieces of other characters.
Franco Moretti – great Marxist critic and himself, it transpires, predatory monster – wrote a famous essay, ‘The Dialectic of Fear’, interpreting Dracula and Frankenstein as representing – to describe his argument crudely – bourgeoisie and proletariat.
Frankenstein assembles his creature from many human parts, the parts of the dismembered poor, as the proletariat was constructed in the era of primitive accumulation during which the book was written. The creature is corporate, its individuality and selfhood the subjects of contestation. It is now called ‘Frankenstein’s Monster’ in the same way that a worker is said to be ‘a Ford worker’ (Moretti’s analogy). Its creator draws back from it in horror, recognising his future gravedigger in his own creation. It is feared that the creature will be the progenitor of a ‘new race’, a ‘race of devils’, much as the new global proletariat was constructed using new racial categories, and seen as a new and terrifying phenomenon that threatened to override the world by breeding too much, or by more consciously political means.…