Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Dracula and the iPhone

In chapter two of Bram Stoker's Dracula, we read the following description given to the eponymous Count of the estate in England he is purchasing through the young English solicitor's clerk, Jonathan Harker:

The house is very large and of all periods back, I should say, to mediaeval times, for one part is of stone immensely thick, with only a few windows high up and heavily barred with iron. It looks like part of a keep, and is close to an old chapel or church. I could not enter it, as I had not the key of the door leading to it from the house, but I have taken with my Kodak views of it from various points.

The notes at the back of the book explained that Kodak was 'a trademark name for the portable photographic camera invented by George Eastman in 1888 which has a continuous roll of sensitised film upon which successive negatives are made.'

According to David Roger's introduction to the novel, Bram Stoker first began taking notes for the book that came to be known as Dracula in 1890 -- that is, only two years after this version of the camera was invented. The novel was finished in 1896 and published the following year. Dracula abounds with relatively new technologies: journal entries are dictated onto phonograph (which, the notes tell us, was invented by Thomas Edison in 1877) and transcribed onto portable typewriters (which Jonathan's wife Mina praises as a very handy invention). The young solicitor's clerk writes his own entries in shorthand when incarcerated in Dracula's castle to escape the diabolical but traditionally schooled intelligence of the Count.

Even so, the Kodak stood out as I read the book, and not least for the reason that it has no real role in the plot. Jonathan Harker tells the Count that he has taken photos of the English estate with this Kodak, but there are no explicit references to these photos: it is not even clear that he brought them with him. The only relevant images referred to directly in the castle are maps. Jonathan, too, might have taken his Kodak along on his journey to Transylvania, but if he had he must not have got round to developing the photos, since we learn later in the novel that the characters find their way through Dracula's native country by following the descriptions transcribed from Jonathan's shorthand account of his first visit.

A collision of the very new with the ancient and little understood seems to be very much at the centre of the Gothic.

From googling, I have learned that the iPhone was released in mid 2007 -- that is, only three and half years ago. I've been thinking it's possible that, if Stoker had been working on Dracula now, he might have had Jonathan taking photos on his iPhone and, forgetting to upload them onto his computer or to print them out before his journey, finding that his iPhone battery has run out in the castle (which is still many centuries behind) and so, being unable either to show the Count the pictures of the English estate or to take photos of where he is for future reference, has him writing in phone text abbreviations in his boss's once trendy Filofax that is now little more than a leather-bound collection of dog-eared shopping lists for the firm -- very glad that this late 1980s bit of pre-computer equipment can come to his aid when all else fails.

No comments:

Post a Comment