Ruby Lips and Whitby Jet: Dracula’s Language of Jewels
in Gothic Studies
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This essay proposes that a number of the concerns expressed in Dracula can be read through Bram Stoker’s employment of the imagery of precious metals and jewels. Focusing on the materiality of place – the treasure-laced landscape of Transylvania and the cliffs of Whitby famous for their reserves of jet – and the association between these materials and vampirism, I argue that analysing the symbolism of precious materials leads to a fuller understanding of many of the novel’s key anxieties. Not only does this analysis demonstrate Stoker’s elaborate use of jewel imagery in developing the notion of the female vampire as a hard, penetrative woman, it identifies the imperial implications of the trade in precious materials. In doing so, it claims that Stoker employs a ‘language of jewels’ in Dracula, through which he critiques the imperialistic plundering of Eastern lands, and demonstrates how these monsters – intimately entwined with these materials – attempt a rejection of Western appropriation.

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