The Absence of Amsterdam: Confounding Principles of Presentness in Stoker's Dracula

The Absence of Amsterdam: Confounding Principles of Presentness in Stoker’s Dracula

Doctor Abraham Van Helsing is an intriguing and somewhat problematic character on several levels. According to critic Martin Willis the introduction of Van Helsing represents a new understanding of disease and infection. In Victorian times it was still common for people to think of disease in terms of miasma, that disease was imparted through the inhalation of foul smelling air, so Van Helsing’s understanding of the microbial origins of disease shows his understanding of the latest research (Willis 302). It is somewhat paradoxical, then, that Van Helsing repeatedly invokes the discredited pseudoscience of alchemy as the basis of his knowledge for dealing with Dracula. Van Helsing is also credited with recent research in his interaction with Renfield the asylum patient. The source of Van Helsing’s arcane knowledge is obscured through these eclectic and contradictory references. Also strange about the character Van Helsing are his repeated quick trips back and forth between England and Amsterdam. This could be seen as yet another source of knowledge for the professor, or perhaps the other alleged sources of Van Helsing’s power are metaphors for...

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