This paper considers Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, published in 1897, as a window into techno-scientific and sociocultural developments of the fin-de-siècle era, ranging from blood transfusion and virology up to communication technology and brain research, but focusing on the birth of psychoanalysis in 1897, the year of publication. Stoker’s literary classic heralds a new style of scientific thinking, foreshadowing important aspects of post-1900 culture. Dracula reflects a number of scientific events which surfaced in the 1890s but evolved into major research areas that are still relevant today. Rather than seeing science and literature as separate realms, moreover, Stoker’s masterpiece encourages us to address the ways in which techno-scientific and psychocultural developments mutually challenge and mirror one another, so that we may use his novel to deepen our understanding of emerging research practices and vice versa (Zwart 2008, 2010). Psychoanalysis plays a double role in this. It is the research field whose genealogical constellation is being studied, but at the same time (Lacanian) psychoanalysis guides my reading strategy.
Dracula, the infectious, undead Vampire has become an archetypal cinematic icon and has attracted the attention of numerous scholars (Browning & Picart 2009). The vampire complex built on various folkloristic and literary sources and culminated in two famous nineteenth-century literary publications: the story The Vampyre by John Polidori (published in 1819)2 and Stoker’s version. Most of the more than 200 vampire movies released since Nosferatu (1922) are based on the latter (Skal 1990; Browning & Picart 2009; Melton 2010; Silver & Ursini 2010). Yet, rather than on the archetypal cinematic image of the Vampire, I will focus on the various scientific ideas and instruments employed by Dracula’s antagonists to overcome the threat to civilisation he represents. Although the basic storyline is well-known, I will begin with a plot summary.