The Vampire as the Specter of Madness in Stoker’s Dracula

In Victorian England, which considered itself the pinnacle of rationality and technological development, illnesses of the mind were terrifying. In his 1897 novel, Dracula, Bram Stoker crafts horror not only by realizing the Victorians’ prudish, proper, xenophobic nightmares, but also by threatening them with madness.

Count Dracula is an aristocrat from Transylvania, an Eastern European country that is considered primitive and superstitious—supposedly the complete opposite of nineteenth-century England. What’s more, Dracula has a special affinity with madness: one of his first recruits when he arrives in London is Renfield, an inmate in the asylum where a good portion of the novel takes place.

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