“To Believe in Things That You Cannot”: Dracula and the Unthinkable

Abstract:

Among the many challenges produced by the Anthropocene, the proposed geological epoch that places humans as the central agent impacting the ecological structure of the earth, none is perhaps more pertinent than the epistemological and ontological crisis that has arisen since the term’s formulation. How do we comprehend a new humanness that is theoretically inseparable from nature? Amitav Ghosh argues that this crisis, along with anthropogenic climate change, is culturally unimaginable because modern novelists have failed to incorporate it into their fictions. When it is present, it is either bound to non-fiction or belittled to the “non-serious” genres of gothic or science fiction. This paper challenges Ghosh’s conceptualization of “serious” fiction by reading Bram Stoker’s gothic text Dracula as a novel that grapples with crises that are indistinguishable from those of the Anthropocene. While Ghosh argues that the modern novel must incorporate themes related to the Anthropocene for the epoch to culturally exist, the “non-serious” works in which these concerns are already present should not be excluded; rather, they should be the focus of examination. Approaching Dracula in this way not only demonstrates the interconnectedness of past and present cultural concerns, but further provides a praxis for reconsidering Dracula and other works of “non-serious” fiction as valuable components of contemporary Anthropocenic and ecocritical discourse. Doing so allows for a reconceptualization of what “serious” literary work may be.

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