If you're an undergraduate, stepping into the land of Dracula will seem daunting, and with good reason. While now you may be worrying that 2,500 words are very many, soon you will realise that you're zooming through paragraphs and that it is difficult to say something even remotely original about a text that has been talked about in all of its incarnations for decades. If you're a postgraduate, especially the PhD sort, you'll be able to investigate this novel in great depth, but certain observations (the bird's eye view sort) are best kept at the beginning of a thesis, where you set the scene for your argument.
The purpose of this post is to provide you with specific reference materials that will support you whether you're writing a mere essay, a dissertation or a thesis. I am working on a comprehensive bibliography for vampire literature researchers, so if you have any questions, don't hesitate to drop me a line and I'll do what I can to help you.
There are numerous editions of Dracula out there and only recently I spotted another two hardbacks in my local bookshop. Some are illustrated, comic book-like, others are merely more elegant versions with decorated covers. But if you're working on this novel, and not merely reading it, I find that only two are really necessary.
Dracula Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Maurice Hindle
and Preface by Christopher Frayling, Penguin revised edition 2003, this one.
This includes a preface, chronology, introduction, further reading section, a note on the text and four appendices (Stoker's correspondence with Walt Whitman, Charlotte Stoker's account of 'The Cholera Horror' in a letter to Bram, Stoker's article 'The Censorship of Fiction' and Stoker's interview with Churchill). Obviously, but I'll say this just to be crystal clear, it also includes the full text.
This is the edition that, in a sense, introduced me to a critical appreciation of this novel, as it has been around since 1993, when it was published without the current appendices and preface. So well-acquainted was I with its critical insight that I very swiftly acquired a love and interest for the novel filtered through the critical components explored in the first section of this book. While this alarmed me at the time ('If I say this stuff in an essay, am I plagiarising?!' sort of feeling), I later understood that as a researcher, and as one who had to display an in-depth knowledge of the studies that had taken place since this text was first published, it was necessary for me to address many of the points I so vehemently agreed with.
This isn't copying what some other critic has said, dear student: what you need to do if you encounter a critical piece that says everything you wanted to say (only much better) is to extrapolate important parts, reference them within your work and elaborate on them. If you're new to this type of writing, it may seem both daunting and impossible, while it really is neither. When you come across a great critical piece, do not put it aside, deflated. Use it to your advantage. Sit down with the idea, squeeze your brains and see where your understanding and your enjoyment of the text you're analysing takes you. By utilising somebody else's writing as a springboard for your own interpretation of the work, you'll develop the analytical skills that will become second nature as you practise this type of writing. I promise you, trust the process (and me!).
I particularly like the introduction in this edition because it seamlessly connects Stoker's life to the text and because it first provided me with a list of secondary sources that, to this day, still remains one of the most compact and valuable out there.
Dracula Edited by John Paul Riquelme for Bedford/St. Martin's 2002, this one.
If you're a very skint student and only have funds for one copy, buy this edition. I don't say this lightly, for the Penguin one I discussed above is getting even better as it gets updated, but I've often felt that if I had to take just one Dracula to the proverbial desert island, this is what I would take (and a plane with a pilot to get back home). This edition includes a selection of excellent critical essays that provide different perspectives on the novel, thus demonstrating that its appeal and strength lie in its multifaceted nature.
Part I includes the introduction (biographical and historical contexts, to be precise), as well as a chronological list of Stoker's main works and the complete, authoritative text. The novel is followed by an excellent section of contextual illustrations and documents, which include, among others, an extract from James Frazer's On Certain Burial Customs as Illustrative of the Primitive Theory of the Soul, an absolutely seminal text for anyone studying vampires (together with The Fear of the Dead in Primitive Religion) and one that is about as easy to find as free money.
Part II is where the real fun stuff begins. John Paul Riquelme presents a stellar 20-page critical history of Dracula which starts in the beginning and takes us to the present day. The 'works cited' section alone is worth getting this edition for. This is followed by five sections on
The New Historicism
Each of these sections includes an introduction to the critical perspective, a selected bibliography about it and a critical essay. These are, respectively:
Corruption of the Blood and Degeneration of the Race: Dracula and Policing the Borders of Gender, by Sos Eltis
'The little children can be bitten': A Hunger for Dracula, by Dennis Foster
Ambivalence and Ascendancy in Bram Stoker's Dracula, by Gregory Castle
Doubling and Repetition/Realism and Closure in Dracula, by John Paul Riquelme
Vampiric Typewriting: Dracula and Its Media, by Jennifer Wicke.
Finally, also find a glossary of critical and theoretical terms which, one would hope, would be less useful to an advanced postgraduate, but certainly extremely valuable to an undergraduate.
That's it for Part I dear reader. Next time we will finish the Dracula talk with a round-up of critical essays.