Episode 345 : It’s Pronounced “Fambly”

Tonight, we solve climate change! And Tony gives sage advice that everyone should heed. Also, lots and lots of literary criticism. And secret fantasies. It’s really just a heck of an episode, folks. Enjoy!

 

QUESTIONS:

In this “post-factual” world, what steps can be taken so that people can reach a consensus on any issue? –Jas

 

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2 Responses to Episode 345 : It’s Pronounced “Fambly”

  1. jas says:

    I think most literary texts don’t have single positions on issues like the New Woman. And so to the larger point that I think Will was concerned about (does he know whether his own writing might contain some message he doesn’t want to be there), I’d say that I think it’s good to be conscious and make an effort, but it still might happen. I think our culture is going to affect us, and we can’t always control what happens. For instance, I took some of those implicit bias tests through Harvard and found that despite years of writing & thinking about feminism, I still have an unconscious bias associating women with the home rather than with work. Another example–I’m trying very hard to be conscious of gendered words/pronouns with friends who do not want to be gender identified, but I still sometimes slip up.

    Stoker’s position on The New Woman to me is a very ambivalent one that is all mixed up with the transition the society was going through from the old Victorian gender categories to newer ones influenced by the rise of professionalism. Professionalism rests on two ideals (at this time anyway)–old hierarchies (race, class, gender) should be superseded by a new hierarchy based on knowledge (expertise); and the professional’s social position is justified by the idea of service to others. So in the first third of Dracula, Harker as a professional must serve Dracula–but in the old Victorian gender categorization this puts him in the female role–and that’s kind of the horror of that first part. Then the middle section is the one that could probably be said to be most critical of the New Woman, as the New Woman was reputed to be openly sexual, and even more generally, openly a consumer–someone out in the public spaces with their appetites on display. So Lucy can be seen as expressing anxiety both about the old female role (the fact that she preys on children), and the newer one (she wonders why she can’t marry more than one of the men proposing to her, she and Mina meet out at one of the new shopping areas to have lunch). And it’s male expertise that controls her. (And her staking I would read as pretty brutally misogynist.) And then in the last third, Mina really steps into the professional role by being basically the secretary of the group. And really you can kind of see the ambivalence that society has about secretaries more generally in her. She has all those nurturing qualities of the Victorian Angel, but they’re being applied to the workplace, not the home. And being of service to all the men, she actually winds up with the most knowledge (as secretaries often do). The heart of a woman, mind of a man split is not only that nurturing/expertise split, it’s also necessary because professional discipline (which used to be thought of as male rationality) is needed to keep those dangerous sexual appetites of the New Woman in check. Then when Dracula bites her, she literally becomes a medium for transmission of information between Dracula and Van Helsing–but it’s under VH’s control so that kind of reaffirms the male/female-boss/secretary hierarchy.

    • William says:

      Those are some excellent points, as usual…

      Even so, I can’t walk away from Stoker without thinking that he may have believed that the “New Modernity” contained its own threats of consumption… consuming people in industrial machinery, consuming people in soulless bureaucracy, consuming people in multiple and even more deeply stacked hierarchies… that the “New Woman” might temper and mitigate some if she were sufficiently represented in society outside the home.

      Stoker’s relationship to the modern world also seemed ambivalent. He seems to celebrate technological promise, but he also seems suspicious as to where it all might lead. The trappings of modernity, after all, are what allowed Dracula to successfully infiltrate London. And without the cleverness of Mina, his plans would surely have succeeded.

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