115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Undead Archival Documents: Hustler Magazine’s (Porn) Dracula

Mercedes Trigos, New York University

Challenging strict concepts of “archival document,” this paper argues that taking the NYPL’s copy of a Hustler issue, an article it contains, and its representation of Dracula as archival documents allows us to perform what Mbembe refers to as engaging in an inquiry into time inherited in co-ownership, rooted in the event of death.

Proposal: 

Challenging narrow concepts of what constitutes an archival document, this paper argues that taking the New York Public Library’s copy of the HUSTLER Magazine January 1976 Special Holiday Issue, an article it contains (“The Lust of Dracula”), and its representation of the figure of Dracula as archival documents allows us to perform and problematize the performance of what Achille Mbembe refers to as engaging in an inquiry into time inherited in co-ownership and rooted in the event of death. The process through which this particular issue came to be part of the NYPL’s erotica collection enables researchers to “consult” it as they would an archival document following Mbembe’s description of how a document becomes archival. “The Lust of Dracula,” an eight-page spread that narrates a night when Dracula visits the burgermeister’s daughter in Transylvania, offers a further interpretation of how the vampire is “a monster that looks like us,” citing critics Joan Gordon and Veronica Hollinger. In less than three-hundred words and in line with the magazine’s aims, the article makes use of the vampire-as-hero trope and describes a man-, not creature-like other that functions to reinforce a stereotypical white, heterosexual fantasy of power with which the imagined general reader of HUSTLER can identify—a vampire that is not feared but is rather excessively desired by his prey. After the lifting of regulations such as the Comic Ban of 1971, which prohibited depictions of vampires (among other creatures), HUSTLER awakens (a version of) Dracula that arrives to its pages both to consume (his victim) and to be consumed (by the magazine’s readers) during a decade that witnessed the increased popularity of Dracula Studies and popular representations of vampires and vampire-like creatures. This time period, marked by a notable curiosity regarding Dracula and vampires more generally, also coincides with the “golden age” of the porn industry, in which films were shown in theaters to mainstream audiences. Dracula—as document—is also not dead but undead; regardless of the censorship and prejudices regarding the value of erotic material for collections and archives and the NYPL’s cataloguing of the magazine under the obscure categories of *** and Sex--Periodicals, this Dracula is—in Mbembe’s terms—“as if woken from sleep and returned to life” every time a researcher consults and interprets the January Special Issue. 

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