|Ferrier's detailed brain map of a dog|
Stevenson drew upon the latest research on the left and right hemispheres of the brain and on case histories when he wrote The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Research suggested that dual personalities emerged because of a hemispheric imbalance, when the right impulsive, aggressive more atavistic side outpaced the rational, logical left side. (More was known at the time about the left chamber than the right, whereas, today the latter is acknowledged to be the source of our creativity, intuition, empathy and non-verbal communication.) Stevenson’s accomplishment was not merely to fictionalize these case studies – the second more disturbed personality does reveal striking similarities to Hyde – but to fuse the dual brain theory with a subversive rendering of the supposedly objective format of the medical case study by turning Jekyll from an omniscient, respected physician into a desperate, broken-down patient. By writing in the Gothic form, Stevenson has collapsed the boundaries between objective observation and subjective experience. Through this idiom, Stiles writes that “Stevenson questioned the power structures of the nineteenth-century medical establishment, particularly the inflexible divide between observer and observed, practitioner and patient.” (47)
Although Stoker was receptive to the more occult sciences, notably telepathy and evidence that proved the immortalization of the soul, according to Stiles, he was the most resistant of late nineteenth-century authors to the brain science exemplified in the experimental work of David Ferrier. Stoker’s background was scientific; he took an undergraduate degree in science, three of his four brothers were physicians, one of whom Thornley initially supported vivisection because it had clinical application that could save lives. But the religious beliefs imbibed in Bram’s childhood exercised a greater influence on him. To Stoker, scientists such as Ferrier and Thomas Huxley, among others, were soulless monstrosities because they were materialists who argued that people were no more than the sum of our brain functions. According to this reading, the vampire Dracula, who robs his victims of their souls, is a mad scientist demonic and inhuman. Just as physiologists cruelly experimented on animals so Dracula experiments on a different species, human beings, with disastrous results. Conventional scientists were no match for the vampire. The limited Seward is the voice of “normal science” as he applauds the advance in knowledge brought about by the vivisectionists. Yet by overlooking the paranormal sciences championed by Van Helsing, Seward, the superintendent of the lunatic asylum. does not understand the occult influence that Dracula exercised over his minion, the mad Renfield, and he fails to prevent the vampire from attacking his patient and take the necessary precaution to protect Mina who is residing next door. Stiles suggests that Dracula is a stand in for those scientists “who tormented animals in the service of a soulless psychology.” She also quotes a sentence from Stoker’s first novel, The Snake’s Pass that likely encapsulates his view: “For a real-cold-blooded horror, commend me to your men of science.” (73)
How could I have incorporated the insights from Stiles’ study into That Line of Darkness: The Shadow of Dracula and the Great War? I largely alluded to the more dubious sciences such as craniometry that measured skulls and how its practitioners influenced public policy toward crime, immigration and eugenics. Yet there are points of convergence. She demonstrates how commentators used the dual-brain theory to argue that the superior left hemisphere was more likely to be more prominent in upper-class European males. In other words, they too used experimental evidence to support a priori conclusions. Moreover, I think I captured Stoker’s ambivalence toward science by demonstrating the Van Helsing’s more boundary-shaking worldview was more effective in tracking down and killing Dracula than that espoused by Seward even though I emphasized more the right-brain attributes of Mina as we know them today (although I did not use that language). It would not have been difficult to integrate Stiles’ chapter on Stevenson and the double brain theory into my discussion of his novella given the focus on how the primitive Hyde illustrated the thinking of the Italian criminologist Cesare Lombroso and the culture’s bias against those who demonstrated the then-current thinking about the negative right-brain traits. I wish I could have added her brilliant insight into how Stevenson parodied the supposed objectivity of the left-brain scientist. I would have also incorporated her material on the Ferrier trial into my discussion of Well’s The Island of Doctor Moreau because it provides valuable context for deepening our understanding of his novel. In short, Popular Fiction and Brain Research provides a wealth of insight that might have enriched my own work. I might one day wish to write another edition.
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