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Michaela Mudure

Emily Gerard: Transnational Perspectives and Connections


Emily Gerard (1849-1905) was a writer of Scottish origin famous for her novels set in Eastern Europe as well as for her friendship with Mark Twain. Emily got married to a Polish nobleman who served in the Austrian army and lived in the Transylvanian town of Sibiu for many years.

Like many other eighteenth- or nineteenth-century female writers married with a foreigner, she tried to cope with the problems arising from her alien matrimony by writing. Her writing became a subliminal escape activity that allowed her to forget her own alienation and gave her a purpose and an existential meaning.

The result of Emily Gerard’s trans-mutation to a remote province from the Austrian Empire was her best-known work The Land beyond the Forest. Facts, Figures, and Fancies from Transylvania (1888). Gerard got very familiar with the Transylvanian people, the landscape and the folklore inspired by this location and she described them for the Western public re-inventing, revisiting the Eastern border of Europe as a place of Gothic horror and attraction.

The nomadism of Emily Gerard did not end here. Her work had a decisive influence upon Bram Stoker who initially wanted to locate his vampire in the Tyrol. Upon reading her book, Stoker located his well-known Dracula in Transylvania. Still, typical of the way in which literary history is written, Emily Gerard became a shadowy literary personality and the canon only retained Stoker and his novel. She is another one of those cases where literary history is ungrateful to women writers and simply erases their work and contribution, their merits for the benefit of some more fortunate male colleagues.

SvD, November 2012

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