The 'Enchanted Garden' or The 'Red Flag': Eastern Europe in Late Nineteenth-Century British Travel Writing
At the turn of the twentieth century, parts of Eastern Europe were yet to be explored by Western travelers, while others had opened to tourist travel. British travel writing of the fin-de-siècle reflected this shift, representing the region alternately as civilized and savage, familiar and alien. Dracula (1897), a novel that continues to influence Western perceptions of Eastern Europe, appears to parody the ambivalence of British travel writers on whose observations Bram Stoker based his opening chapters. When Jonathan Harker, Stoker's protagonist, crosses the river Danube in "Buda-Pest" in search of Dracula, he finds himself in the Orient: "The impression I had was that we were leaving the West and entering the East," he writes in shorthand, and he reminds himself to record a paprika dish recipe (1). Harker's initial reaction is to categorize and, thus, to contain his experience of traveling into "one of the wildest and least known portions of Europe" (1). Harker's strategies of viewing, writing, and mapping, which keep a safe distance between the traveling subject and the native objects, fail him when he encounters Dracula, an accomplished Occidentalist who has already mapped his invasion of London with the aid of "a vast number of English books" (19).1 Dracula's affinity with Harker, which is reflected in a famous mirror scene, presents a nightmarish reversal of the conventional subject and object positions found in British travel writing, for [End Page 292] Dracula's purpose is to prey on English bodies. Although the alternating patterns of similarity and difference are common to all forms of travel writing, Eastern European travel writing depicts a region particularly close to home for British travelers and, thus, generates a characteristic combination of the alien and the familiar that Bram Stoker successfully exploits in Dracula.
Journal of Narrative Theory
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Gephardt, K. "The 'Enchanted Garden' or The 'Red Flag': Eastern Europe in Late Nineteenth-Century British Travel Writing." Journal of Narrative Theory 35.3 (2005) 292-306.