The trope of the Host, latent in fin-de-siecle Gothic narratives, presents the characteristic of multiplicity, as personified by the vampiric figure who flies from victim to victim (host to host) while at the same time acting as a vessel for the victims’ intermingling blood. Dracula’s imported boxes of earth are testament to this multiplicity, signaling also the temporality of a host as a resting place. The ‘Host’ trope alludes to a turn-of-century London as a Capitalist society fuelled by the practical profit motive, whilst operating as a hub for business dealings by people who come and go without putting down roots.
The ‘Host’ trope is ineluctably linked to its other, the Foreign Body, and we find the Gothic narrative the metaphorical Host site for playing out its underlying tensions. The elusive yet definite presence of the foreign body is epitomized by Dracula who as an unidentified shadowy figure is the implicit orchestrator of events in London. It alludes again to an apprehension towards the phenomenon of Capitalism and of its invisible hand in restructuring Victorian society. The unease towards the dormant existence of foreign bodies within the Host is represented by the irreconciliable personalities of Dr Jekyll, which is in Freudian terms, the suppression of the Super-ego by the Ego. Such a psychoanalytical aspect of the ‘Host’ trope also borrows the language of the colonizer, underlying a sense of territoriality and the desire to demarcate and maintain boundaries. Dracula’s view of being a stranger in a strange land too is influenced by a Hegelian wisdom; he states, “I’ve been so long master that I would be master still or at least that none other should be master of me.”
The contamination of the Host as the main body bears also religious undertones—as perversions of holy communion, the consumed wafer that symbolizes the body of Christ is also known as the Eucharistic Host, which becomes warped in a parallel to Dracula who declares that Mina will become “flesh of my flesh.” Overall, there is an anxiety of displacement and a need for a sense of belonging that which iconic Gothic characters like Frankenstein and Dracula, whose existence in a liminal space within their unwilling host societies represent.
Courtesy of Yap Tshun-Min, National University of Singapore
The Knight of the Broom Flower; Or, The Horrors of the Priory [Transcript], Unknown