J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla and the Austro-Hungarian Ausgleich (1867)

  • Matthew Gibson


There is little surviving documentary evidence that J.S. Le Fanu showed any enthusiasm for the Eastern Question. While articles from the era of his tenancy as owner and editor of Dublin University Magazine (1861–69), show that he may have harboured an interest in Irish politics, particularly from July 1867 onwards,1 no references to Hungary, the Austrian Empire or the Ottomans survive which might provide us with an insight into his views on events in Eastern Europe and beyond. The Austro-Hungarian setting for his vampire story Carmilla can, therefore, easily be dismissed as no more than a convenient one for a supernatural tale exploring lesbian sexuality (made necessary by the increasing redundancy of Catholic Italy and Spain as sites for the marvellous and superstitious), or else as a projection of his enduring interest with his own Irish situation. Certainly few scholars have paid attention to the geography or contemporary politics of the region in which the story is set (Styria), not even the group of Slovenian scholars like Dolar and Copjec who themselves hail from close to the unfortunate Laura’s castle.2


Black Woman Austrian Emperor Slavonic Language Mother Figure Polish Word 
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© Matthew Gibson 2006

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  • Matthew Gibson

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