Rethinking the New Woman in Dracula
in Gothic Studies
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The existing canon of scholarship on Dracula asserts that the sexually aggressive female vampires are representative of the New Woman, and thus are evidence of Stoker’s conservative reaction to changing gender roles. In contrast, this article offers a reinterpretation Dracula in the light of key writings of the New Woman movement which sought to demonize the Victorian marriage market because of its creation of a class of female parasites: idle middle-class woman entirely dependent on fathers and husbands. A close reading of key sections of the novel demonstrates that the female vampires are characterized as traditionally subordinate Victorian housewives, in contrast to the positive presentation of Mina Harker as a New Woman. This reading reveals a text that argues that work for women is the only antidote to the degeneration inherent in traditional womanhood, through which women are reduced to nothing more than their biological functions.

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