As far as I’m concerned, there are few pleasures in this world greater than settling in across from the TV and watching Alex Trebek stump a bunch of nerds with questions (excuse me– answers) that I am all too eager to shout out responses to. Which is why the writing of this article brings me no joy.
You done messed up, Jay-oh-pard-ee.
I was watching the show last night with the last of our Thanksgiving company. The final Jeopardy category was “Classic British Novels.” “Hell yes,” I said out loud. “That sh*t’s my jam.”
Then the clue:
“The title character of this novel says of his home, ‘The wind breathes cold through the broken battlements and casements.'”
Now, I didn’t come up with the correct answer, despite having read the book in question. (For the record, however, I once correctly predicted AND ANSWERED the clue before it even was given, so, I’m still a legend.) Did anyone else? Anyone?
The line is taken from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Don’t feel bad if you didn’t get it; none of the contestants did, either. But some of the failure to figure out the answer might be due to the Jeopardy team themselves, because here’s the problem.
Dracula isn’t Brit lit. It’s Irish.
Here’s why it may be classified as British literature:
- Bram Stoker wrote and published it while living and working in London.
- In 1897, Ireland still belonged to Great Britain.
Here’s why I think that’s a crock of sh*t:
- Bram Stoker was born in Ireland.
- Bram Stoker was educated in Ireland (at Trinity University).
- An exhibition at the Marsh Library in Dublin that displays some of the items Stoker checked out from them as a teenager, and some of them have a direct correlation to the material in Dracula. While this doesn’t definitively prove that the novel was in Stoker’s imagination while he was still in Ireland, it does show that some pretty critical elements to Stoker’s novel and writing ability in general were conceived of and/or developed in Ireland.
- Dracula was published in the midst of the Home Rule movement in Ireland. This is important because it establishes that Irish independence was very much on the forefront of the country’s mind at this time; it’s not like it was written and then aaaages later people started thinking about Ireland as separate from Great Britain. I mean, to be honest, they pretty much always did, but there was a political move at this point in history too.
Britain has a fantastic history of taking things from other countries and saying “this is mine.” They literally built a shrine to it. We can’t undo all the oopsies of British colonialism, but we can be honest about it. And I think it’s important to, especially when it comes to countries whose gripes with Great Britain are still so recent.
Ireland (and Dublin especially) has an amazingly rich literary tradition and history. From the birth of modern satire to devastatingly sharp quips to theatrical classics to, yes, the original (and greatest) vampire novel of all time, these greats deserve the credit they’re due. They are not British. They are Irish, and better for it.
Be better next time, Jeopardy.