The purpose of the discussion forums is to analyze representations of the alien in fiction and film using concepts and terminology drawn from theories of monsters and placing texts in their historical contexts. The objective of this work is to encourage students to develop analytic and interpretive skills and to practice argumentation, including clear presentation of ideas and convincing use of evidence. The forums are designed to help prepare students for writing the two formal essays.
Make sure to read all assigned texts attentively and thoroughly before responding to the topic prompts.
For individual discussions, you will generally be required to post a response of at least 200 words to a topic of your choice. Each prompt includes introductory explanation plus several questions You are not required to answer all these questions; they are simply intended to provoke thought. Each topic response should focus on a relevant issue you wish to examine and should make a thoughtful, well-developed argument. It should engage with the assigned texts (essays, novels, short stories, or films) referenced in the questions and should include detailed analysis and textual evidence. Close reading and use of quotation is encouraged. Use parenthetical page or electronic location numbers for citation, ie. (148). Before responding to the prompts, read prior posts, especially any that have been highlighted by the instructor. If particular questions have already been answered satisfactorily, choose other questions to address. Strive to avoid producing repetitive responses; instead, try to bring something new to the conversation to keep it moving forward.
Topic 2 – Aristocracy, Monopoly Capitalism, Imperialism, Reverse Colonization
Feudalism is an older economic and political system in which the nobility own the land, profiting off the tribute of the peasants that work it. The wealth of the aristocracy, the ruling class in the feudal system, is thus land-based and heritable. Aristocrats are known for their extravagant lifestyle and eschewing all labor. They are often considered decadent, sexually promiscuous libertines. For much of its history, Europe was ruled by aristocrats. However, that began to change after the rise of the middle class and the advent of democracy signaled by events such as the French Revolution (1789).
Capitalism is a modern economic and political system in which a nation’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. The capitalists or bourgeoisie, originally called the middle class because they represented a class in between the aristocrats and the peasants, actually become the ruling class in the capitalist system. The capitalists own the means of production and exploit the labor of the workers in order to create surplus profit. The wealth of the capitalists comes primarily from industry, not inheritance. They are a distinct class from the aristocrats and historically have been at odds with them. At the time Dracula was written (1897), the British aristocracy was in decline, having lost much of its wealth and power relative to the rising capitalist class growing rich off production and trade fueled by the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century.
Monopoly capitalism is an extreme form of capitalism in which normal competition gives rise to giant monopolies that control all resources, production, and/or markets in a given area of the economy and thus inhibit further competition. Monopolies give their owners tremendous economic, political, and social power and are often viewed as unhealthy for the economy so are sometimes regulated against by the state.
Imperialism can function as an extension of capitalism in which the a nation expands geographically in order to gain access to more natural resources, cheap labor, and eventually new markets for products. Imperialist ventures usually begin with the exploration and study of “primitive” regions which enables their eventual subjugation under imperial rule. One form of imperialism is colonialism, in which the imperialist nation sets up colonies of settlers in the conquered region in order to manage the government and economy to better exploit local resources.
Reverse Colonization is the imaginary invasion and conquest of the European metropole by primitive peoples. Reverse colonization is supposedly motivated by base envy for the superior resources of the imperial metropolis. It embodies an unconscious anxiety that primitives may seek vengeance for their historical exploitation at the hands of European imperialists by reversing the process and subjecting the Europeans to their own practices. It also reflects fears about contamination of the national culture and race through immigration. Those who come to the West seeking a better life are suspected of secretly planning to infiltrate the national culture and overthrow it and steal or destroy its most prized possessions. Fantasies of reverse colonization were common in English literature at the turn of the (nineteenth) century, when the British Empire was at its height. It has been read by critics as a manifestation of guilt over the evils of imperialism with the horrors of conquest and exploitation projected away from the self and onto the other.
Consider the following questions.
(1) In what ways does the novel Dracula represent monstrous economic practices? What is the overall economic perspective of the novel? Does it promote one economic class at the expense of another?
(2) What is the novel’s attitude towards the old ruling class, the aristocrats? Which characters could be viewed as aristocratic and what happens to them? How does the novel depict the rising middle class (the capitalists)? Which characters could be viewed as middle class and what is their fate?
(2) Is Dracula a monstrous capitalist? Is he a monopolist? What resources does he strive to control? Does he allow for competition?
(3) Is Dracula an imperialist? Can his invasion of England be viewed as nightmarish depiction of reverse colonization?
Respond to one or more of these questions, including support from the novel in the form of specific examples and quotation with parenthetical citation (page or electronic location numbers).