The Case of J. Sheridan Le Fanu‘s ‘Carmilla’

This article proposes a reading of Le Fanu‘s ‘Carmilla’ in relation to the ideas of the French psychoanalyst Jean Laplanche, particularly Laplanche‘s notion of the enigmatic signifier. Laplanche refigures the inauguration of human sexuality as a failure on the infant‘s behalf to meaningfully translate the enigmatic messages received from the adult world, which, Laplanche argues, are freighted with unconscious sexual meaning. Unable to fully metabolise these enigmatic signifiers, the infant is prone to trauma, as the un-translated residues of the adults address sink into the unconscious to form powerful unconscious fantasies that continue to trouble the subject. A parallel is drawn here with Laura‘s relationship with the mysterious but alluring Carmilla, whose enigmatic desire both fascinates and repels Le Fanu‘s narrator from the moment of Laura‘s childhood trauma but whose enigmatic language remains indecipherable. Carmilla herself is finally seen as the allegorical figure of the Gothic itself: profoundly enigmatic and potentially traumatising.

Gothic Studies
Vampires, lesbians and masturbators

fictional union between Laura, the only daughter of a retired diplomat, and Carmilla Karnstein, in J.S. Le Fanu’s ostensibly supernatural tale ‘Carmilla’ (1871–72), first published in the periodical The Dark Blue and later in Le Fanu’s collection, In a Glass Darkly . This Victorian vampire novella, unlike Dracula , has seldom been subject to analysis by way of medical discourse, though Robert Tracy has asserted that ‘Le Fanu usually hints at the possibility of … mental or even physical illness in his victims’. 4 In Bram Stoker’s Dracula , vampirism is mistakenly

in The secret vice

with a vampire’s presence in the house, the short story ‘The Mysterious Lodger’ (1850) and the novel ‘Carmilla’ ( 1872 ). My analysis attends to the resonances among these texts and Ireland’s medieval history, reading that history as available for continual resurrection. I wish to posit that the great attraction between Irish writers and vampire narratives lies in the

in Open Graves, Open Minds
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Karl Marx observed somewhere that Capitalism is the ghost story of reality. Assuming he intended no compliment, where does this leave the ghost story? Best known of the five long tales which make up In a Glass Darkly (1872) is ‘Carmilla’, a covert account of lesbianism, lusciously filmed with Ingrid Pitt and Kate O’Mara under the drably

in Dissolute characters
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, ourselves and our contributors) cover more recent manifestations of the undead and aim to trace a narrative of how they mediate contemporary political and epistemological concerns. We also revisit earlier, more familiar texts (‘Carmilla’ and Dracula , for instance) via this new perspective. Our approach is dominated by the figure of the undead as political metaphor in the realm of identity and difference

in Open Graves, Open Minds
An anatomy of Alan Moore’s doubling strategies

appear in uncanny scenarios that borrow heavily from the Gothic tradition, and are themselves unsettling figures, both for the diegetic characters and for the reader. The key features of the Gothic motif of the doppelgänger are neatly illustrated in Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1872 vampire tale, ‘Carmilla’, and it is notable that the function of the double in this Victorian novella

in Alan Moore and the Gothic Tradition
Open Access (free)
Chantal Chawaf ’s melancholic autofiction

the male vampire story tends to involve violent seduction, the female vampire tradition is rooted in an intimacy and identification between women that is often associated with the relationship between mother and daughter; the female vampire is often portrayed as a melancholic mother figure. This is exemplified in a founding text of female vampirism, Sheridan Le Fanu’s nineteenth-century novella, Carmilla, in which the vampiric Carmilla is likened to the dead mother of the narrator, Laura.9 Although it is Laura’s mother who is dead, it is Carmilla who seems melancholic

in Women’s writing in contemporary France
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Lesbian Gothic horror

vampirism, their vampirism both an excuse for and a projection of what is considered deviant. Once viewers have finished wallowing, they can sit in judgement alongside the director and the storyline, and condemn and despatch the doubly evil transgressors. This Hammer horror movie resembles the trajectory and normalising imperative of that first lesbian vampire tale, Sheridan Le Fanu’s ‘Carmilla’ (1872) which

in Queering the Gothic
Two tales of 1861–2

human dimensions’. 8 As a specifically female image, this may remind us of the picture in ‘A Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter’ (1839) or even prompt anticipations of ‘Carmilla’ (1871–2). The stories of 1862, however, also refer specifically to miniature and anonymous works, portable images of apparently malevolent character. Their

in Dissolute characters
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Mimicry, history, and laughter

noted, such imagery foreshadows that of the carriage and the black woman in Carmilla (1872), in a tale which also focuses on the attempted vampiric abduction of Laura (the tale’s narrator). 16 What is also significant in the tale is that throughout there are repeated references to laughter. The arrival of the coach interrupts ‘the hilarity and eagerness’ (p. 54) of the

in The ghost story, 1840–1920