The white noise coming through one of my students’ mics is deafening. And while we sort through the tangle of online issues, the frozen screens and intermittent WiFi that has replaced the usual teenage shuffle into my classroom, things begin to stabilize. The shouts of ‘Hi Miss!’ by sixth formers still bemused at seeing their teacher in a video call begin to reverberate through my studio flat, as we get ready for the new normal: remote teaching. This article follows a class in lockdown reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In our discussions, the vampire emerges as a figure for the ease with which fear of infection can morph into the rejection of that which is branded as “foreign.” Using Dracula as a prism for the current pandemic, therefore, sheds light on the collateral damage of this pandemic which many might choose to ignore in the short term, but which will certainly come back to haunt us in the long term – after all, Bram Stoker closes in a post-virus world of re-erected borders, with a short note depicting the survivors almost in the fashion of a still life, petrified and static. Reading Dracula in lockdown therefore not only brings the eerie shivers of Gothic literature that go so well with a present that seems to be holding its breath. It also contains a warning about the world to be shaped anew once the lockdown is over.

published Monday, April 27 2020, on