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DRACULA and the Romany

Following up on last week’s post regarding whether or not Bram Stoker’s DRACULA was anti-Semitic, a friend pointed out that while the seminal novel might not be guilty of portraying Jews in a negative light, it does feature some unfortunate depictions of the Romany, aka the Gypsies. He’s right. The Gypsies in Stoker’s novel embody the worst stereotypes of the culture, a culture that is far more complex, rich, and nuanced than any cliché could convey. And unlike the allegations that Stoker’s work is anti-Semitic—or, as the person who originally made the claim on social media to which I responded in my article corrected me, “included negative characteristics that are frequently attributed to Jews” (I’m not altogether certain what the difference is, other than that the latter involves, as I stated, people reading into the work things that are not specifically mentioned or even intended by the author)—Stoker *does* make sure to tell his readers that the Gypsy characters are Gypsies. No ambiguity there.

Though the term has passed into common usage today, even “Gypsy” itself has a history as a pejorative term. It originated from the mistaken belief that the Gypsy people came from Egypt. The correct term for such peoples is “Romany” or “Romani.” Like me, you may have learned about the Romani from the old Universal Horror movies and Maria Ouspenskaya (who was actually Russian)—or from reading DRACULA—but there’s a lot more to them.

TheCheezman • April 7, 2019

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  1. woodpecker1925 April 7, 2019 - 6:29 pm Reply

    The trouble with 19th and turn of the 20th century novels is that they tended to represent the racist tropes of the era, ie see the depictions of Jews ( in the works of Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture Of Dorian Gray” or those of Jews and blacks in H.P.Lovecraft(esp his posthumous’s published work, “Medusa’s Coil”)!

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