Material Culture in Bram Stoker's Dracula
An Academic Resource
Material culture "is a broad term covering all aspects of the material world, including clothing, household goods, tools, buildings, roads, books, periodicals, photographs, paintings, museums, and ornaments. In other words, material culture encompasses everything which involves the design, manufacture, and use of the material world."
Bram Stoker's Dracula, published in 1897, connects its readers to Victorian Great Britain through the inclusion of various material culture. From the tools and products of writing to weapons and the Orient Express, many of the details included by Stoker are real, and were even on the cutting edge of technology at the time. Of course, many things included in Stoker's novel are decidedly fictional, especially the inclusion of vampires. Stoker balances the supernatural with the realistic on a knife's blade, giving readers a chance to fully immerse themselves in the story.
The Victorian era was between 1837 and 1901, the length of the rule of Queen Victoria. The Victorian era experienced some overlap with the industrial revolution, the transition to new manufacturing processes between 1760 and 1840. Thus, Britain transformed from a rural economy to an industrial economy. Thanks to mass-production and the amount of products available to the public, many authors in the period included innovations and new technologies in their work. Stoker is part of this trend, offering an insight into the material culture of the day, while also using these inclusions to the benefit of the themes and characters in his text.
Thanks to the traceable historic contexts of the Victorian period in Dracula and the ability to uncover and explore the objects Stoker invokes in his novel; Dracula has the chance to become a hands-on, living text in the classroom. Research has been done placing material culture as important to study in a hands-on manner in the social studies and history classroom; however, this same importance should apply to the discussion of historical contexts in the literature classroom as well, which can mirror social studies in understanding the background forces as play in a text. The literature classroom just adds another layer of literary analysis to these conversations. While there is focus placed on using physical objects to better understand material culture in a classroom, this might not be possible. Thus the digital format of this resources offers an advantage to help make objects tangible in an academic context without the expense or difficulty that using physical materials could cause.