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The Theology of Dracula: Reading the Book of Stoker as Sacred Text
Noel Montague-Étienne Rarignac
McFarland, 234 pages

The Theology of Dracula: Reading the Book of Stoker as Sacred Text
Noel Montague-Étienne Rarignac
Noel Montague-Étienne Rarignac has worked as a musician, filmmaker, video artist, traveling fellow for an art museum, and composer. He has studied at la Sorbonne Nouvelle, l'École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Tufts University, and Keele University (U.K.), earning degrees in art, cinema, English and philosophy, and iconography. He lives in Bordeaux, France.

A review by Sandra Scholes

To some, Dracula is just a horror novel, the one that brought the vampire phenomenon to the world and set off many writers using the theme to pen some of their greatest novels to date. Stephen King and Anne Rice are among many who have been inspired by its author, Bram Stoker, and no doubt there will be many more new writers out there who have felt equally inspired by his work.

This is not the only reason for writers being inspired though. The novel is a deep work, a classic tale, yet according to the author Noel Montague-Étienne Rarignac, a lot of what is in Dracula is based on Alchemy, Christian resurrection, and Gnosticism among many things. This, in his eyes, is what makes it a sacred text. To back up this theory, Rarignac cites other texts he believes provide proof that Dracula is indeed a sacred text, not in its own right, but if analysed with other notable works. He must also remember that Stoker was not the first to write of a darkly sinister and erotic vampire; Lord Byron and Dr. Polidori penned their own versions of the long-toothed fiend.

Rarignac takes a lot of his quotes and inspiration from the Bible, which is no surprise as the book title mentions theology and sacred text, so it had to come from somewhere. This is not the only sacred text mentioned though. Pagan, Greek, Norse and Arabic texts are mentioned throughout. What Rarignac tries to say in this novel is that Stoker must have widely researched his ideas in order to provide the setting, characters, feeling, and general story of his novel.

Each chapter of The Theology of Dracula: Reading the Book of Stoker as Sacred Text is themed partly on a chapter of the Bible as some sort of historical significance, while other chapters are different. Interestingly, Stoker made extensive notes before he completed his writing of Dracula, but wrote nothing of the books that might have gone on to inspire him. Rarignac serves to answer that question by going through books on alchemy, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; Byron's The Vampyre among many he supposed had inspired the author.

Of more interest are the accounts of Stoker's writings, thoughts and how he wanted or needed the public to read Dracula in a positive light, even going so far as to send a letter to the then Prime Minister, William Gladstone. He says that the story was not base, and actually intended to "cleanse the mind of pity and terror." Dracula, Stoker noticed had been received rather badly once it had been published and many had considered it a depraved kind of work.

The book explores all the possibilities for the meanings of Stoker's work and the mythology it shows to the reader. It is more possible that The Theology of Dracula: Reading the Book of Stoker as Sacred Text could have been made up, as anyone can take a particular novel and find out how the author might have used bits from several myths, etc. The book is interesting if you are a Dracula fan, but it is not a matter of simply reading it for fun -- it is an immersive novel of several different chapters based around Stoker's book.

Copyright © 2012 Sandra Scholes

Sandra has written articles and reviews for many magazines, websites and blogs including The British Fantasy Society, The Chronicles, Fantasy Book Review, Active Anime and Love Romance Passion.

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