Authors Name: 
Thomas Godfrey
University: 
Trinity College, University of Dublin
Category: 
Literature
Highly commended

From victim to victor: an examination of female relationships in Sheridan Le Fanu’s ‘Carmilla’

Sheridan Le Fanu’s ‘Carmilla’ is often read as a lesbian vampire story; as a result, it is assumed that the monstrosity of Carmilla’s vampirism is located in her sexuality. I will argue that the male characters in ‘Carmilla’ seem less disturbed by the sexual intimacy of Carmilla and Laura than they do by their experience of the power of a separate and exclusively female commmunity. This community of hypnotists, witches and vampires controls men easily, and does not have a great need for them. By reading Carmilla as a liberator rather than as a sexual predator, the language of vampirism can be seen as part of Cixous’ “écriture feminine” and her actions become more than sexual: they are a coded language, detailing an alternative life. Carmilla removes the need for fathers, husbands and doctors, allowing the female an escape route. Vampirism itself comes across sympathetically in ‘Carmilla’, as comfortable, intimate and soothing. The female community, presented as supernatural, is shown to be able to provide comfort for children and independence for young women, despite being under constant threat from old men.