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"Gothic fiction is erotic at the root" according to Punter. From your reading of Frankenstein and Dracula how far would you agree with Punter's interpretation.

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Introduction

"Gothic fiction is erotic at the root" according to Punter. From your reading of Frankenstein and Dracula how far would you agree with Punter's interpretation. In your essay you should consider: * The author's portrayal of eroticism and sexuality (in all its forms) through characters. * Relevant social/cultural concerns during the period the novels were written. During the 18th century and for a long time after poetry was regarded as the most sophisticated and accomplished mode of the written word. The Gothic novel, a relatively new form of literature was emerging from the popular romances published to meet the demands of a of a growing literacy population. Its popularity was also fuelled by the accompanying developments in book production and distribution. At that time however, the vast majority of critics regarded the Gothic novel as distinctly inferior although this was certainly not the view of the general public, especially the growing female readership. Furthermore, several of the writers associated with the development of the gothic novel were women such as Mary Shelley, Ann Radcliffe, Jane Austen and Emily Bront�. This development was perhaps one of the largest social and cultural concern during the era, the main focus behind this being the male fear of sexual liberation. Many of the early manifestations of what came to be called gothic were not in the area of literature at all, but in art, architecture, and in landscape gardening, art forms which provided the contexts for literature. These manifestations of the Gothic form were very expensive and, as a result, almost primarily contained within the rich aristocracy. ...read more.

Middle

It is interesting that throughout the novel there is no mention of sex with Mina, perhaps in line with the general consensus in the 19th century. Sex in the 19th century was considered for procreation, not for indulgence or pleasure. Stoker takes this view to the extreme, no sex with the wife but an orgy with three sexual predators. Harker displays fear towards the female vampires, however, as the true identity of these women is unknown to Harker, where does his fear stem from? Along with the various cultural concerns during the nineteenth century, Stoker portrays one which is very controversial; throughout the nineteenth century the role of the woman was to be maternal in a patriarchal dominated society. Therefore we can only assume that the fear displayed by Harker is a fear of eroticism, especially eroticism displayed by women! This current of male sexual terror runs throughout 'Dracula' and is at times far from passive. The Count's violent bloodsucking and Renfield's greedy consumption of insects and small animals can easily be read as substitutes for sexual gratification. In expressing these concerns of the period Cullingford writes: 'The product of male apprehension that women subordinated for so long would in the course of their liberation exact a terrible revenge upon their oppressors'. Stoker when writing the characters of Mina and Lucy certainly tried to incorporate signs of the emancipation occurring at the time of writing of 'Dracula'. Mina is portrayed as a very strong and intelligent woman, with a 'man's brain' in a woman's body. ...read more.

Conclusion

The scene shows the Count forcing Mina to drink from a slit in his chest. This is an unambiguous portrayal of oral sex, a hugely controversial act in itself. Contemporary readers would have recognised oral sex as a method of protection for a bride to be's purity, upholding religious teaching. However, it was also seen as a perverted and unnatural act. The question which poses deeper consideration in this scene regards Mina, was she indeed being forced by Dracula or was she enjoying the act? The sex scenes in Dracula are indeed striking: Jonathan Harker's breathless seduction by three mysterious vampire women; the frantic transfusing of various men's blood into Lucy's ailing body, as well as the later 'phallic' staking of Lucy which produces her orgasmic writhing; and stranger still the scene which has Mina kneeling on the bed before Dracula and swallowing the blood which pours from an open wound in his chest. Elements of the novel undoubtedly pervaded into Stoker's mind and in particular the sexual scenes. In a rather contradictory fashion to this Hindle claims with quite some validity that 'Sex was the monster Stoker feared most'. This view is based mainly upon Stokers rather hypocritical literature criticising sex throughout the different forms of media. Some people have also questioned Stoker's sexuality based on his professional relationship with Henry Irving whereby he was continually thwarted but still returned for further punishment from Irving. Another link to this argument was his link with Oscar Wilde, a self-professed homosexual, whereby Stoker married the same woman Wilde had been pursuing. Shelley's novel whilst being by far the more liberal in terms of its erotic content was the novel which was rewritten. ...read more.

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