Bram Stoker's Dracula and the Gothic - Jerrold E. Hogle

When I refer to ‘the counterfeit’ that is recounterfeited by the Gothic, I am borrowing from Jean Baudrillard’s history, in Symbolic Exchange and Death, of how western assumptions about signs have changed in Europe and America since the Middle Ages. By this account, the tacit understanding that signifiers should refer to their referents in ways that are fundamentally ‘counterfeit’ was the most widely assumed conscious or pre-conscious belief about signification from the Renaissance to the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Thinking and articulating in terms of the counterfeit meant viewing signs […] as drawing us towards an image’s ‘appearance that it is bound to the world’ […] yet as finally holding out only a ‘nostalgia for the natural referent of the sign’ to which the image might not really be connected (Baudrillard, 1993, 51) […].
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Walpolean Gothic exploits even more the transferability of the counterfeit signifier by further uprooting the nostalgic references in its Renaissance ‘original’. […] Hence, throughout the ‘Gothic revival’ in the eighteenth century, the remnant of ‘obligatory’ or ‘natural’ meaning is replaced as the sign’s point of reference by counterfeits of that remnant […] The counterfeit, or more precisely the Renaissance counterfeit of the medieval, has now become the evacuated ‘signified’ of the Gothic signifier, which is thus the ghost of the counterfeit. The neo-Gothic is therefore haunted by the ghost of that already spectral past and hence by its refaking of what is already fake and already an emblem of the nearly empty and dead.
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[A]s the counterfeit becomes its ghost [of itself] in western thinking, it is already moving, in the Gothic and elsewhere, towards the early industrial view of the signifier as a simulacrum, as a symbol repetitiously manufactured from a pattern or mould (which is itself a ghost of the counterfeit). The turning of the sign’s past referent into an empty relic, however nostalgic, which then has to be duplicated to be marketed, means that the grounds of signification must eventually become mechanical ‘production’, where discourse is based on the possibility, albeit one that conceals itself, of ‘producing an infinite series of potentially identical beings (object-signs) by means of technics’, ‘the serial repetition of the same object’ (Baudrillard, 1993, 55).
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Moreover, the changes in the Gothic and its ghosting of the counterfeit do not stop with the ascendency of mechanical reproduction. The simulacrum, after all, is inherently inclined, once post-industrial technology permits its transformation, to dissolve itself into sheer simulation, the (un)grounding of western discourse in a hyperreality of signs referring to other signs that cannot root itself even in quasi-industrial moulds.
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[I]n 1897, [Dracula is] a ghost of the counterfeit who is now a series of nearly endless simulations of himself, in large part because he is continually consumed by symbolic technologies that both never seem to quite contain him (either in a mirror or a recording) and finally reduce him to their ever-multiplying signs of his absence in a virtually bottomless ‘mass of type-writing’. The seemingly intensified threats of mixing races, classes, genders and sexual orientations are bound up with the fear of people being ‘bled’ by simulations of simulations of them to a point where all simulations are like each other – and thus exchangeable for one another, thereby interpenetrating each other – in being only signs of signs of signs, the harbingers of technological progress that is both promising and horrifying, especially when these very simulations give way to different versions of them on film.

Jerrold E. Hogle, “The Gothic Ghost of the Counterfeit and the Progress of Abjection”, A Companion to the Gothic, ed. David Punter (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006), 293-304, 297-303. Brackets added by Tudor Balinisteanu.

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