Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Who is Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Le Fanu was an influential figure in the Victorian horror genre so much so that he may have influenced Bram Stocker's Dracula.  As a result, I wanted to find out a little more about him and, maybe, shed some light as to why his writings were so influential.

First a little background on Le Fanu.  He was a college educated lawyer, but never practiced law.  Le Fanu instead pursued a career in journalism after college, remaining in this career until his death in 1878.  He also served as the editor of the Dublin University Magazine; the primary place where his short stories were published.  Many of these short stories became the basis of his later, novel works.
"In the year 1858 Le Fanu's wife Susanna died and he became a recluse, setting to work in his most            productive and successful years as a writer. With two candles for light while nocturnally writing, he was to become a major figure of 19thC supernaturalism. His work turned Gothic's focus on external sources of horror to the inward psychological potential to strike fear in the hearts of men"

After the death of his wife, Le Fanu focused on the horror genre, but more importantly, internal horrors that are shared by everyone.  This is, in part, why he is referred to as the father of Victorian horror.  Le Fanu was able to pray on the fears of almost everyone by focusing on psychological horror; something that subsequent horror writers would continue.  Furthermore, I think it's important to note that much of his writing took place at night.  From our discussion of Polidori's vampyre prototype, night is often characterized as nonhuman.  This  is also the origin of Le Fanu's nickname, the invisible prince.  Because he mainly wrote at night, Le Fanu was rarely seen during the day.  (

One more thing that was interesting from my research was that many of his stories seem to focus on a haunting past.  This stems from past actions, or non-actions, that haunt the main characters throughout the rest of the book.  I am curious to see if these past transgressions lead to redemption for Laura at the end of this novel.

1 comment:

  1. "many of his stories seem to focus on a haunting past."

    It would be interesting to see you or other students comment on this in the novel. Where do you see this idea of a "haunted past" coming through in Carmilla? Can you provide some passages that help support that reading?