One hundred and twenty-five years ago, Bram Stoker published his seventh novel. An epistolary tale, where the narrative is reported through letters, diary pages and newspaper clippings, in the tradition of writing 19th century travel diaries. Dracula tells of the journey of young Jonathan Harker to Transylvania by order of his boss who asks him to take care of the purchase of a house in London made by a local nobleman, Count Dracula.
“Inside was an old man, tall, clean-shaven but with a long white moustache, dressed in black from head to toe: not a note of color in his whole person.” This is how, in the second chapter, we have our first encounter with the mysterious figure of the Count.
The novel – now counted among one of the most significant contributions to English literature – contributed predominantly to the creation of the archetypal images of the vampire and his nemesis, the vampire hunter (in the book represented by Abraham Van Helsing). The characters created by Stokers thus they became the basis of numerous films and plays, of which the author himself wrote the first adaptation. However, the most important representations on the big screen still remain those of Bela Lugosi (1931) and that of Gary Oldman (1992) in the film directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
Dracula however, it was not the first piece of literature to represent vampires, despite this the novel managed to establish itself in the common imagination so much as to “canonize” some characteristics of the creatures of the night. Stokers in fact, he managed to shape the popular understanding of how vampires “work”, including their strengths, weaknesses and other characteristics. An example. Bats had already been associated with the vampire image before, due to the very existence of a specimen called the vampire bat, but the author was able to elaborate on the association, making Dracula capable of transforming into the animal. This was in turn quickly picked up by studios, at the time looking for opportunities to use special effects.
According to the great-grandson of Bram Stoker, Dacre Calder Stokerfailure to comply with the copyright law of Stokers it contributed to the status of the Count Dracula character, which writers and producers could (and can) use without needing to pay for a license. In 2009, Dacre tried his hand at a tale starring the vampire, titled Dracula: The Un-Dead.
The volume represents the “second official chapter” in the story of Dracula. Dacre Stoker And Ian Holt in fact they would have declared that they based themselves on old notes found in the great-uncle’s library. The novel makes the identity of the Count so clear that it would be none other than Vlad IIIthe Romanian prince who fought against the Turks and was nicknamed “the Impaler”, and explores the love between Dracula and Mina (Jonathan Harker’s wife), the fulcrum of the film directed by Coppola to whom we owe the now iconic quote: «I crossed the oceans of time to find you».
To pay homage to the image of Count Dracula – and his creator – the Mütter Museum has declared 2022 as «The Year of Dracula».
“The book Dracula it started an undying interest in vampires that is still alive,” he said Jacqui Bowman, director of the Center for Education and acting co-director of the Mütter Museum. “We celebrate his place in pop culture, but go deeper into exploring what it means to be dead, the role of tuberculosis in vampire lore, and vampires in historical literature.”
Among the events organized by the Philadelphia museum we thus find the «Dracula and the Incorruptible Body» exhibition which takes visitors inside the coffin where the Count usually rests to discover how people in the Victorian era would have identified a body as something more of a corpse, a vampire. Within the exhibit, the Mütter explores how folklore, embalming and burial practices, and a misunderstanding of diseases such as tuberculosis led to the post-mortem identification of commoners as vampires in the 19th century.
The exhibition is joined by a series of seminars dedicated to the figure of Dracula and how science and the occult found common ground during the 19th century. Using first editions of the novel and handwritten notes by Bram Stokerlooks at how science was incorporated into the book and what it means for vampire development in the years following the publication of Dracula.