Summary Edit


Following the narrative of a woman named Laura, the tale is centered around two female lovers. Carmilla, a vampire, pursues a relationship with Laura by attempting to seduce her. When the women from surrounding villages soon begin to fall mysteriously ill, Laura also becomes sick with the same symptoms shortly thereafter and constantly dreams of being attacked and bitten by a large cat-like creature. It is later revealed that Carmilla is the cause of the spreading sickness, as it happens to be a malady afflicted to her victims when she feeds on them. When a general eventually comes to Laura's town and recognizes Carmilla as the Countess Karnstein who was responsible for the dying women, Carmilla is immediately killed by a stake through the heart and Laura, upon recovering shortly after her death, is left struggling to overcome the effects Carmilla had left on her. [1]

Historical Context Edit


Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s novel Carmilla was written in the early 1870’s—a time period that coincided with the Victorian era, which bore drastic influence on the work’s themes and inner matrix. As is likely well-known, or can at least aptly be concluded, the Victorian age was renowned for its strict stereotypes on women and society’s rigid standards of propriety. Women were thought to be the “Angel in the House,” meaning that remaining chaste was a domestic and highly expected virtue. Indeed, for it was thought that “the majority of women (happily for them) are not very much troubled by sexual feelings of any kind.” [2] Thus, Le Fanu’s work, which introduces themes of Gothicism and vampirism and homosexuality, comes at no surprise as it attempts to push the limits that were set by the Victorian era. Women having sexual relations of any kind were highly discouraged, let alone having one concerning the same associative genders such as Carmilla did with Laura. This is part of why Le Fanu’s work was regarded as a horror story for its time, because it attempted to expose that which was considered taboo and rejected by the early Europeans. [3] 

Relation to Bram Stoker's Dracula Edit


Carmilla predates Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula by several years and served as, what many scholars have come to conclude, one of the primary sources of influence for Stoker’s famous masterpiece. From the nearly identical features in gothic imagery throughout both novels, to the similar shapeshifting abilities of the main characters (Carmilla’s ability to shift into a cat and Dracula’s ability to shift into a dog), to the eerily similar roles and appearances that the characters from the two books seem to share. [4] [5] [6] However, while Carmilla seems to delve into the forbidden world of lesbian lovers, Stoker’s Dracula shifts the focus to a purely heteronormative stance [4]. Nonetheless, both works seek to provoke earlier fears and superstitions of the 1800's by invoking themes of vampirism, gothicism, and sexuality.

Sources for Further Reading Edit

  1. Wikipedia:
  2. Carmilla:
  3. Dracula:

References Edit

  1. Le Fanu, J. Sheridan. "Carmilla." N.p, 1872. PDF file. 
  2. Furneaux, Holly. "Victorian Sexualities." The British Library. The British Library, 28 Mar. 2014. Web. 12 Apr. 2017.
  3. "Before Dracula, There Was Carmilla." Before Dracula, There Was Carmilla - Article - Book Reviews Bram Stoker Dark Romance Film and Television Horror J. Sheridan Le Fanu Sexuality Sin Taboos Vampires - Victorian Gothic. Victorian Gothic, 10 Dec. 2011. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Zapata, Mariana. "The Lesbian Vampire Story That Came Before Dracula." Atlas Obscura. Atlas Obscura, 19 Oct. 2016. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.
  5. "#shortanalysis ‘Carmilla’ by Sheridan Le Fanu." Insaneowl. Word Press, 09 Mar. 2013. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.
  6. Stoker, Bram. Dracula. London: Penguin House, 2003. Print.

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