Mummy Issues: Representations of the Man of Science and the Monstrous Mummy in Bram Stoker’s the Jewel of Seven Stars


May 2023


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In this dissertation, I examine fictional representations of nineteenth-century men of science in conflict with a monster that emerged from Western meddling in Egypt: the mummy. While my primary focus is on Bram Stoker’s novel The Jewel of Seven Stars (1903, 1912), I begin by tracing the development of the cultural and literary trends that ultimately led to the rise of the monstrous mummy: the British obsession with ancient Egyptian culture, the public unrolling of mummies as ostensibly scientific spectacles, the publication of the first British mummy novel in the early 1800s, and the late-century popularity of the mummy romance, a genre featuring beautiful female mummies as objects of romantic desire. My analysis of Stoker’s Jewel consists of three parts. In the first part, I examine the novel’s representations of men of science: male characters who work as amateurs or paid professionals in fields of specialized knowledge and who attempt to reach conclusions using the faculty of reason. Together, they represent multiple specialties in the areas of law, medicine, and Egyptology. I examine each character from the perspectives of status, scientific methodology, and character as revealed through physiognomy. I also provide historical context for the many disciplines referred to in the novel: forensics, neurology, hypnotism, archeology, and linguistics. The second part focuses on the mummy, Queen Tera. With reference to the theoretical works of Noël Carroll and Jeffrey Cohen, I argue that Tera is a “monster” who possesses both forbidden knowledge and supernatural power—specifically, the power of astral projection. In the third part, I break down the “Great Experiment” that is intended to reanimate the mummy, from the scientific space in which it is performed to the contradictory outcomes of the experiment in the 1903 and 1912 editions of the novel. Stoker creates a complex scientific narrative for the experiment that reimagines a supernatural process in terms of contemporary science, which I place in historical context. Ultimately, I argue that Jewel’s mummy is a monster created by a man of science—the feminine Nemesis to masculine scientific Hubris.



Literature, English, History of Science