Le Fanu’s Carmilla: Lesbian Desire in the Lanternist Novella
Carmilla is Sheridan Le Fanu’s most sensual, cunningly constructed and elegant work. The outspoken transgressive lesbian sexuality of this novella is famous, with the sultry vampire being given some of the most famous lines in sapphic fiction such as: ‘In the rapture of my enormous humiliation I live in your warm life, and you shall die — die — sweetly die — into mine.’1 Yet, though the tale has spawned at least 11 major films, perhaps most remarkable a Hammer trilogy, critical studies have almost totally overlooked the author’s explicit insistence on the role of pre-cinematic media in evoking this erotically charged mystery. Indeed there is considerable evidence to support the case that the author structured his tale as the literary equivalent of a phantasmagoria show and that he viewed his sultry vampire, indeed lesbianism itself, as phantasmagorical.
KeywordsFairy Tale Pointed Tooth Beautiful Girl Light Step Magic Lantern
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- 2.J. S. Le Fanu, ‘Ultor de Lacy: A Legend of Cappercullen’, in J. S. Le Fanu’s Ghostly Tales (Five Volumes in One) (Teddington: Echo Library, 2006), p. 81.Google Scholar
- 3.Karen Petroski, ‘“The Ghost of an Idea”: Dickens’s Uses of Phantasmagoria, 1842–4’, Dickens Quarterly, 16:2 (1999), pp. 71–93, p. 90.Google Scholar
- 4.Marsh, ‘Dickensian “Dissolving Views”’; Leora Wood Wells, ‘Lewis Carroll in Magic Lantern Land’, ML Bulletin, Magic Lantern Society of the United States and Canada, 3:4 (1982), pp. 1–10.Google Scholar
- 10.Thomas Browne, Religio Medici (Boston: Robert Brothers, 1878), p. 68.Google Scholar
- 20.Hester Piozzi, ‘Letter to Sir James Fellowes’, 30 September 1816, in The Piozzi Letters: Correspondence of Hester Lynch Piozzi, 1784–1821 (formerly Mrs. Thrale), vol. 5, ed. Edward A. Bloom and Lillian D. Bloom (Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 1999), p. 518.Google Scholar
- 21.Marquise du Deffand, Letters of the Marquise du Deffand to the Hon. Horace Walpole, Afterwards Earl of Orford (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees and Orme, 1810), p. 33 (my translation).Google Scholar
- 22.Terry Castle, The Apparitional Lesbian: Female Homosexuality and Modern Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), p. 32.Google Scholar
- 25.See Denis Diderot, Oeuvres complètes de Denis Diderot, vol. V (Paris: Chez A. Belin, 1819), p. 129 and vol. XIII, p. 160.Google Scholar
- 40.David Robinson, The Lantern Image: Iconography of the Magic Lantern 1420–1880 (Nutley: The Magic Lantern Society, 1993), p. 251.Google Scholar
- 41.Walter Scott, The Heart of Midlothian (Edinburgh: T. C. & E. C. Jack, 1901), p. 6.Google Scholar
- 79.David Robinson, The Lantern Image: Iconography of the Magic Lantern 1420–1880, Supplement No. 2 (Nutley: The Magic Lantern Society, 2009), p. 22.Google Scholar
- 80.Piya Pal-Lapinski, The Erotic Woman in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction and Culture: A Reconsideration (Hanover and London: University Press of New England, 2005), p. 26.Google Scholar