Eleanor Dobson

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.

Gothic Studies
Editor: Eleanor Dobson

This book considers ancient Egypt and its relics as depicted in literature across the Victorian era, addressing themes such as reanimated mummies and ancient Egyptian mythology, as well as contemporary consumer culture across a range of literary modes, from literary realism to Gothic fiction, from burlesque satire to historical novels, and from popular culture to the elite productions of the aesthetes and decadents. In doing so, it is the first multi-authored study to scrutinise ancient Egypt in nineteenth-century literature, bringing together a variety of literary methodologies to probe ancient Egypt’s complex connotations across this era. This collection scrutinises and illuminates the ways in which ancient Egypt was harnessed to question notions of race, imperialism, religion, gender, sexuality and the fluidity of literary genre. Collectively, the chapters demonstrate the pervasiveness of contemporary interest in ancient Egypt through the consideration of narratives and authors held as canonical in the nineteenth century, bringing these into conversation with new sources brought to light by the authors of these chapters. Discussing the works of major figures in nineteenth-century culture including Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Baudelaire, George Eliot, H. Rider Haggard, Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde, this collection extends beyond British writing, to European and American literature. It weaves discussions of understudied figures – such as Charles Wells, Louisa Stuart Costello and Guy Boothby – into this analysis. Overall, it establishes the richness of a literary culture developing across the century often held to have ‘birthed’ the discipline of Egyptology, the scholarly means by which we might comprehend ancient Egyptian culture.

Abstract only
Eleanor Dobson

The introduction to this volume teases out the nuances of the ways in which nineteenth-century notions of taste, gender, religion and empire were shifting across the century, via references to ancient Egypt. It ascertains how the chapters that make up this book provide new readings of canonical authors and texts, and introduce a wealth of new material into a burgeoning critical debate, relating pertinent arguments that emerge in individual chapters to each other to provide a critical framework with which the reader might understand the collection as a whole. It also emphasises how, as the first multi-authored study of ancient Egypt in literary culture, the chapters of the volume collectively suggest that nineteenth-century cultural fascination with ancient Egypt is far more widespread than previously realised.

in Victorian literary culture and ancient Egypt
Pharos the Egyptian and consumer culture
Eleanor Dobson

This chapter considers ancient Egypt’s decadent associations at the fin de siècle, considering how the iconography of elite goods trickled down into mass consumer culture, taking Guy Boothby’s thriller Pharos the Egyptian (1898; 1899) as its starting point. The titular Pharos produces his own cigarettes and perfumes, which heighten sensations and lead to visions during states of semi-consciousness. Negotiating, on the one hand, decadent circles and the associated culture of recreational drug use at the fin de siècle, and on the other, advertising for mass-market products drawing upon ancient Egypt’s increasing attraction, this chapter identifies how Boothby uses cigarettes and perfume in Pharos the Egyptian to navigate the boundaries between the high- and middlebrow. It also incorporates discussion of the materiality of Boothby’s volume itself. Originally published in instalments in the Windsor Magazine in 1898, Boothby’s text was reissued as a novel in 1899. This chapter also argues that, as with cigarettes and perfume whose advertising displayed such imagery, Boothby’s novel becomes itself an object that is part of a broader material culture.

in Victorian literary culture and ancient Egypt