Le Fanu’s Carmilla: Lesbian Desire in the Lanternist Novella

  • David J. Jones
Part of the The Palgrave Gothic Series book series (PAGO)


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.


Fairy Tale Pointed Tooth Beautiful Girl Light Step Magic Lantern 
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  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 4.
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Copyright information

© David J. Jones 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • David J. Jones
    • 1
  1. 1.Open UniversityUK

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