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'Inspiring a Mysterious Terror'

200 Years of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu


Edited By Jarlath Killeen and Valeria Cavalli

Best known for his Gothic masterpiece Uncle Silas and the vampire story Carmilla, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu was a prolific writer whose extensive body of work included historical, sensation and horror novels, poems and ballads, numerous stories of the supernatural, journalism and a verse-drama. While his name is well known to aficionados of the horror genre, much of his work still remains in the shadows. Indeed, despite his vampire creation, Carmilla, being the best-known female blood-sucker in the world, and despite an enormous scholarly and popular interest in the novella in which this character first appeared (an interest evident in the very large number of cinematic, televisual and even new media adaptations of the story), Le Fanu himself is almost completely unknown outside of the world of Irish Gothic scholarship, and most of his fiction remains difficult to obtain or is out of print.

To celebrate the bicentenary of Le Fanu’s birth, this collection brings together established scholars and emerging researchers in order to shed new light on some of his less famous fiction and celebrate his influential contribution to the Gothic genre. The main aim of the collection is to read Le Fanu in the round, expanding the critical focus away from its current obsession with a small proportion of his work and taking account of the full extent of his writing, from his other Gothic novels, The Rose and the Key, Haunted Lives and A Lost Name, to his short stories and journalism. The collection also considers Le Fanu’s relationship to Victorian Ireland and especially Dublin from a number of different angles, as well as addressing his status as an ‘Irish’ writer of substance.

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6 Hyphenated States: Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu and Settler Gothic Fiction


Irish Protestant Gothic written in the nineteenth century can be considered a version of what has been termed ‘settler Gothic’. Moreover, this article argues that the Gothic fiction of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (1814–1873), can be read through a postcolonial lens as an example of settler Gothic. Mariaconcetta Costantini observes that ‘In particular, postcolonial fiction proves fertile ground for Gothic plots and figures, which well exemplify the tensions and consequences of imperialistic relations’.1 Equally, Gothic fiction proves fertile ground for postcolonial plots and figures, and a postcolonial reading of Le Fanu’s Gothic fiction reveals a persistent unease surrounding land ownership that foregrounds the implications of the Irish Protestant colonial legacy. This article will discuss the conception of landscape in Le Fanu’s Irish-set fiction and argue that the hostility between wild space and the built environment is symptomatic of settler writing.

Postcolonial Studies engages with constructions of identity from perspectives of both colonized and colonizer; settler identity straddles both and settler writing can be considered any text produced from the perspective of a colonial settler. The study of settler writing is an attempt to ‘distinguish different kinds of postcolonial subject positions’, according to Alan Lawson.2 Typically, the colonized perspective attracts much of the critical attention given that this is the voice that is erased from ← 117 | 118 → mainstream cultural representation, wherein postcolonial analysis acts as a method of retrieval. The colonizer perspective is also of sustained interest, particularly in European adventure and romance fiction set in...

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