The Volcano and the Vampire: The Case for a Volcanic Gothic

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Abstract

The original typescript of Bram Stoker’s Dracula features a sensational (and now largely forgotten) volcanic ending, with an eruption swallowing up Castle Dracula after the Count’s demise. Dracula is far from the only nineteenth-century vampire with links to volcanism. I want to set Stoker’s volcanic ending in a longer cultural tradition of vampiric-volcanic connection that stretches back to the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, to the period of the earliest fictional vampires, and a heightened cultural fascination with volcanoes stimulated by increased volcanic activity on Etna and Vesuvius and the excavations at Pompeii. This article charts the connections between the vampire and volcano demonstrates what may have seemed obvious to a nineteenth-century reader but has become obfuscated today: that as Gothic symbols these two are cultural cousins who share much of the same symbolic coding and signifying power. The volcano shares many of the features by which the vampire has been theorised as a Gothic menace. Understanding how the Gothic has been shaped by late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth-century fascination with volcanos affords us a new perspective on some of its key authors, tropes, and thematic concerns, from the horrors of history haunting the present, to theological and psychological unease, or the uncannily undead body as a site of otherness. Appreciating the prevalence of what I term a ‘Volcanic Gothic’ in nineteenth-century culture also enables us to recognise how legacies of such a mode might continue to rumble unnoticed below the surface of later Gothic narratives.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGothic Studies
Volume27
Issue number1
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 4 Mar 2024

Keywords

  • Volcano
  • Vampire
  • Gothic
  • Pompeii
  • Gothic Studies
  • Literature
  • Nineteenth Century
  • Dracula

Research Centres

  • Research Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies

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