Goto Thread: PreviousNext
Goto:  Message ListNew TopicSearchLog In
Goto Page: Previous123AllNext
Current Page: 2 of 3
Re: Forgotten gems
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 1 February, 2017 05:15PM
I can heartily recommend an old BBC television adaption, from 1968, of M. R. James's ghost story "Oh, Whistle, And I'll Come To You, My Lad", with actor Michael Horden.

[www.youtube.com]

Re: Forgotten gems
Posted by: Ancient History (IP Logged)
Date: 1 February, 2017 07:09PM
Oh yes. The old BBC Christmas ghost story specials were often excellent.

Re: Forgotten gems
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 28 April, 2017 02:56PM
"Carmilla" by Sheridan Le Fanu, is not as much forgotten as remembered for the wrong reasons. It is a Gothic mystery, and to say much more (perhaps even to call it "horror") is technically a spoiler. But it gets spoiled alot.

Another problem is the modern readers' tendency to perceive the story as having something to do with lesbians. But this is largely a cross cultural misunderstanding (150 years of cultural change can make a huge difference) that almost certainly has very little to do with the author's original intent. I have nothing against lesbians, but the misunderstanding tends to detract from the story's proper intent and effect.

It is part of IN A GLASS DARKLY, a 5 story collection that also contains other good stuff.

Re: Forgotten gems
Posted by: Jojo Lapin X (IP Logged)
Date: 28 April, 2017 03:19PM
Platypus Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Another problem is the modern readers' tendency to
> perceive the story as having something to do with
> lesbians. But this is largely a cross cultural
> misunderstanding (150 years of cultural change can
> make a huge difference) that almost certainly has
> very little to do with the author's original
> intent.

Ah, but it almost certainly has a lot to do with the author's intent! Read some more Le Fanu, in particular his novels, and see if you do not start to understand him better.

Re: Forgotten gems
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 28 April, 2017 05:01PM
Jojo Lapin X Wrote:
> Ah, but it almost certainly has a lot to do with
> the author's intent! Read some more Le Fanu, in
> particular his novels, and see if you do not start
> to understand him better.

Well sure. Le Fanu's novels contain a lot of girl-on-girl affection, which Le Fanu, in the context of the 19th century culture to which he belongs, perceives and intends to be normal, innocent and non-sexual. The fact that Jojo Lapin X perceives it differently does not necessarily prove that Le Fanu saw it in those terms.

But do you have any specific examples in mind that we could analyze, from Carmilla or anything else?

But I must say I'm curious about what you mean. I understand why people think "Carmilla" is about lesbians - a combination of factors conspire to make it almost impossible for the modern reader to think otherwise (though it is still wrong). But this is the first time I've heard anyone suggest that this theme occurs anywhere else in Le Fanu's oevre.



Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 28 Apr 17 | 05:24PM by Platypus.

Re: Forgotten gems
Posted by: jimrockhill2001 (IP Logged)
Date: 28 April, 2017 07:10PM
These statements by Carmilla are hardly consistent with standard Victorian "girl-on-girl affection":


“I obey the irresistible law of my strength and weakness . . . I live in your warm life and you shall die — die, sweetly die — into mine. I cannot help it; as I draw near to you, you, in your turn, will draw near to others, and learn the rapture of that cruelty, which yet is love . . .”

“You are mine, you shall be mine, and you and I are one for ever.”

“But to die as lovers may — to die together, so that they may love together. Girls are caterpillars while they live in the world, to be finally butterflies when the summer comes; but in the meantime there are grubs and larvae, don’t you see — each with their peculiar propensities, necessities and structure.”

“Darling, darling,” she murmured, “I live in you; and you would die for me, I love you so.”

One does not even need to refer to the frequent use of the word "die" as a term for orgasm (used notably by Le Fanu's forebear Richard Brinsley Sheridan), or what the French refer to as "la petite morte" to get the point.

Re: Forgotten gems
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 29 April, 2017 03:40PM
jimrockhill2001 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> These statements by Carmilla are hardly consistent
> with standard Victorian "girl-on-girl affection":

Actually, I was asking him about the OTHER novels which he claims support the idea that Le Fanu was preoccupied with lesbians.

BEWARE SPOILERS

In Carmilla, the situation is more complicated. In Carmilla, there is not one factor, but MANY factors, that lead to misunderstanding. One of these factors is that Le Fanu deliberately introduces a quasi-erotic or pseudo-erotic red herring, which is also a backhanded clue.

And unlike the rapturous affection between females expressed in other Le Fanu novels (like Maude and Cousin Millie, who are just being normal Victorian girls) there is DEFINITELY something weird about the "love" that Carmilla has for Laura. Gee! I wonder what that could possibly be?

What, I ask you, does Le Fanu EXPLITICLY present as the solution to the mystery, in the final chapters? I'll give you a hint. He never says anything about lesbians.

> “I obey the irresistible law of my strength and
> weakness . . . I live in your warm life and you
> shall die — die, sweetly die — into mine. I
> cannot help it; as I draw near to you, you, in
> your turn, will draw near to others, and learn the
> rapture of that cruelty, which yet is love . .
> .”

Yes, that definitely sounds weird. Laura explicitly ponders the weirdness of Carmilla's outbursts. She actually notices a certain RESEMBLANCE to erotic passion. But to RESEMBLE is not to EQUATE. For she also notices that Carmilla's outbursts are UNLIKE erotic passion in many ways. She thereforeexplicitly concludes that Carmilla's weird passion is NOT erotic; or as she puts it, is not "the passion of a lover".

The modern reader assumes that Laura is being naive, because, in concluding that Carmilla's passion is not erotic, she only considers the "cross dressing man" theory, and fails to consider lesbians. But this is merely the attitude of Le Fanu and his Victorian readers. The fact that Carmilla and Laura are the same sex, is meant to be taken as strong evidence (and perhaps even irrefutable evidence) against the idea that their passion is erotic in nature. "Sapphic love", assuming it was not completely unheard of, was regarded, at least, as extraordinarily rare. Almost any other explanation would have been regarded as more probable.

Yes, this attitude is incomprehensible to modern readers. But the culture really has changed that much. As far as I can tell, nobody seems to have noticed anything "lesbian" about "Carmilla" till about 1951, when Nelson Browne wrote "Not the least horrible thing about Carmilla is the strain of lesbian perversity in her passionate declarations of affection for Laura." But this was nearly 80 years after the story was written! Le Fanu's readers would have scratched their heads at this statement. "Lesbian? What his he talking about? Carmilla is not from Lesbos; she's from Styria! And this is the first I've ever heard about the good people of Lesbos being blood-drinking cannibalistic ghouls."

So riddle me this! What resembles erotic love, but is not erotic love? Come on man. You finished the story. Can you really say that Le Fanu does not DIRECTLY address this question? Her "passion" is the "passion" of an "epicure". She is hungry, and she wants to eat Laura.

> “You are mine, you shall be mine, and you and I
> are one for ever.”

Yup. Rather like the yummy roast duck that I eat.

> “But to die as lovers may — to die together,
> so that they may love together. Girls are
> caterpillars while they live in the world, to be
> finally butterflies when the summer comes; but in
> the meantime there are grubs and larvae, don’t
> you see — each with their peculiar propensities,
> necessities and structure.”

This has nothing to do with lesbianism. She is hinting at different stages of existence and the concept of other stages of "life" that may follow death.

> “Darling, darling,” she murmured, “I live in
> you; and you would die for me, I love you so.”

Yup. Like a yummy roast duck.

> One does not even need to refer to the frequent
> use of the word "die" as a term for orgasm

This is your interpretation, and of course not one Le Fanu intended. Le Fanu is not using "die" as a term for "orgasm". He is using "die" as a term for "die".

This is a mystery. And the solution to the mystery is: Yes, Carmilla really does want to kill (and consume) Laura. She "loves" her in the way a hungry man "loves" a nice juicy steak. She is, as the denouement explicitly explains, an "epicure" who (like any epicure) "loves" to savor her food.

> (used notably by Le Fanu's forebear Richard Brinsley Sheridan)

Richard Sheridan did not use "die" to mean "orgasm". He used "the little death of love" to mean orgasm, and the meaning (which still might have gone over some readers heads) was clear from context because he was referring to a woman who was lying in bed next to her husband at the time. If he had merely said "die", no-one would have understood him.

> or what the French refer to as "la petite morte" to get the point.

Le Fanu's audience was Victorian English, not French. Le Fanu never mentioned "la petite morte", but even if he had ... a 19th century Frenchman would not necessarily have understand "la petite morte" as a reference to orgasm, unless that was clear from context. It literally means "the little death" and can refer to any fainting spell or momentary loss of consciousness; or a shiver; or a shudder. It does not imply sex unless the context makes it sexual.

"Carmilla" also contains a scene which describes, fairly accurately, the symptoms of strangulation and blood loss. A modern reader often reads this and assumes that what is being described is sexual excitement and orgasm (even though it is not really a very good fit). But no. He literally is describing the symptoms of strangulation and blood loss. That really is what is happening.

The final explanations really do explain the mystery. All that is necessary is to apply Occham's Razor.



Edited 10 time(s). Last edit at 29 Apr 17 | 04:32PM by Platypus.

Re: Forgotten gems
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 29 April, 2017 06:02PM
Before anyone else goes thumbing through their copy of "Carmilla" for evidence that it is about lesbians, you might want to read the following first. It may immunize you against possible misunderstandings

BEWARE SPOILERS

Why Carmilla is not About Lesbians
(1) The Victorians had no concept of “lesbianism” (by any name) that matches anything portrayed in “Carmilla”. They frowned on "indecency" of course, but no such behavior is described or even hinted at.
(2) The only way Laura can conceive of one girl being sexually attracted to another girl, is one of the girls were a disguised boy. She, at least, is not “lesbian”.
(3) When Carmilla’s mask slips, Laura finds her outbursts to be hateful, unpleasant, and devoid of any positive aspect. Laura concludes that it is not the “passion of a lover”. This is confirmed by the final revelations.
(4) The weirdly pleasant feelings Laura associates with Carmilla’s touch are numbing, sedative and paralytic in nature, like a drug. This is the opposite of erotic stimulation. It is, in fact, a manifestation of the same vampiric superpower Carmilla uses to paralyze the General's hand.
(5) Laura and Carmilla have clearly never groped each other’s privates, as proven by Laura’s speculation that Carmilla might be a disguised boy; and by Laura’s belief that Carmilla’s “passion” is not erotic.
(6) “Carmilla” is a mystery. “She’s a vampire” is the solution to the mystery. This fully explains her weird “passion”. She is a predator who wants to devour and kill Laura. Any quasi-resemblance to erotic love is merely a red herring and backhanded clue to the final revelations.

Why the Modern Reader Thinks “Carmilla” is About Lesbians
(1) He is told it is about lesbians before he starts reading it.
(2) He is told it is about a vampire before he start's reading it; and therefore fails to appreciate that it is a mystery story. He therefore reads too much into the clues and red herrings that point to, or distract from, this final solution.
(3) He associates girls hugging & kissing with “lesbianism” even if no sex acts occur.
(4) He associates the words “passion”, "romance/romantic", "aroused" with erotic desire, due to changes of language.
(5) He thinks the word "wonderful" has strong positive connotations, due to changes in language.
(6) Le Fanu uses the word "lust" as a red herring in the General's vaguely worded letter, to mislead the reader into thinking Bertha's murderer was male. Like the Victorians, the modern reader sees the word "lust" as having erotic connotations, but unlike the Victorians, he cannot imagine the word having its older non-erotic meaning; and is unable to adjust his thinking after the mystery is solved.
(7) He starts reading already knowing Carmilla is a vampire and forgets that Laura (and Le Fanu's intended Victorian reader) is clueless. When Laura wonders what Carmilla’s weird “passion” could be, he ignores the correct solution (vampiric hunger for her blood and her life) because it is too obvious to him.
(8) He is used to the modern “sexy vampire” trope.
(9) When he sees the word “breast”, he thinks “boobs”. In fact, the wounds are just below the neck. Le Fanu is merely trying to avoid saying "neck" because he is trying not to be too obvious (his readers may be familiar with the habits of Sir Varney and Count Ruthven).
(10) He mistakes the symptoms of blood loss for those of erotic excitement/orgasm.
(11) He takes the quasi-erotic red herring at face value, & when Laura rejects it, he think's she's naive.
(12) He does not believe in vampires, but he does believe in lesbians. If he takes the tale at face value as a supernatural horror mystery, he cannot take it seriously as "literature".
(13) Eroticism is in the eye of the beholder



Edited 5 time(s). Last edit at 29 Apr 17 | 06:41PM by Platypus.

Re: Forgotten gems
Posted by: jimrockhill2001 (IP Logged)
Date: 29 April, 2017 07:56PM
God forbid I should disagree with a man who claims to be an authority on Victorian culture and literature under a pseudonym, and this will be the last time I will feed this particular troll, but I rather suspect that the quotations I offered from "Carmilla" were the result of having those passages readily at hand based on years of reading and editing Le Fanu's work, as well as publishing and editing works about it.

The homoerotic element in "Carmilla" has been woefully overplayed (particularly in film) to the extent that many of the novella's other qualities tend to be overlooked, but I think it is just as foolish to pretend that element does not exist as it was for Victorian society to officially fail to recognize that sexuality existed between women. Violet Paget (aka Vernon Lee) was no shrinking violet - nor were any number of other "bluestockings" in the US and Britain - her friends and associates expected discretion, but had few doubts about her inclinations.

The homoerotic nature of Carmilla's attentions has been acknowledged not only by
* writers and critics of a Freudian bent such as V.S. Pritchett and Peter Penzoldt, but also by
* respected genre scholars like Jack Sullivan (ELEGANT NIGHTMARES (Ohio University Press, 1978) or Richard Dyer (“Children of the Night: Vampirism as Homosexuality, Homosexuality as Vampirism,” SWEET DREAMS: SEXUALITY, GENDER AND POPULAR FICTION, ed. Susannah Radstone (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1988)
* and widely published academics specializing in Gothic and Victorian literature such as Dr. William Veeder of the University of Chicago (“‘Carmilla’: The Arts of Repression,” in GOTHIC: CRITICAL CONCEPTS IN LITERARY AND CULTURAL STUDIES, ed. Fred Botting and Dale Townshend [London: Routledge, 2004]) and Dr. Jarlath Killeen of Trinity College, Dublin ("In the Name of the Mother: Perverse Maternity in 'Carmilla' " in REFLECTIONS IN A GLASS DARKLY: ESSAYS ON J. SHERIDAN LE FANU, ed. Gary William Crawford, Jim Rockhill and Brian J. Showers [Hippocampus Press, 2011]).
Etc., etc., etc.

Re: Forgotten gems
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 29 April, 2017 10:10PM
Quote:
jimrockhill2001 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> God forbid I should disagree with a man who claims
> to be an authority on Victorian culture and
> literature under a pseudonym, and this will be the
> last time I will feed this particular troll, [...]

Ooh! Straight to the ad hominem fallacy.

Good work, Mr. Logical. I'll make a deal with you. Tell me how my real name is relevant to the discussion, and I'll tell you what it is. Until then, you can satisfy your malevolent curiosity by asking Mr. Pugmire. He seems to know what my name is, as he has previously addressed me by it in this forum.

Also I never claimed to be an authority on Victorian culture. I merely stated what I know about Victorian culture. Anyone who feels the facts I have relayed are wrong are free to correct them. That would be called "Ad argumentum" -- addressing the argument, and not the man.

Quote:
> but I
> rather suspect that the quotations I offered from
> "Carmilla" were the result of having those
> passages readily at hand based on years of reading
> and editing Le Fanu's work, as well as publishing
> and editing works about it.

This is the "inappropriate appeal to authority" fallacy.

If you are so familiar with the text, then nothing prevents you from basing your arguments on the text.

Quote:
> The homoerotic element in "Carmilla" has been
> woefully overplayed (particularly in film) to the
> extent that many of the novella's other qualities
> tend to be overlooked

True, but I never mentioned the films. I believe these misunderstandings were inevitable even without them.

Quote:
> but I think it is just as
> foolish to pretend that element does not exist

Straw Man Fallacy. I never denied that some element -- vaguely corresponding to the modern notion of "lesbianism" -- might not have existed (privately). The context of the discussion is about what Le Fanu meant, or what he reasonably expected the reader to understand.

If you disagree, point to the book or article that you believe Le Fanu must have read, that would have enlightened him as to your modern notions.

Quote:
> as
> it was for Victorian society to officially fail to
> recognize that sexuality existed between women.
> Violet Paget (aka Vernon Lee) was no shrinking
> violet - nor were any number of other
> "bluestockings" in the US and Britain - her
> friends and associates expected discretion, but
> had few doubts about her inclinations.

This has no relevance whatsoever to the discussion. Violet Paget was 17 years old when Le Fanu wrote "Carmilla", and he was never one of her friends or associates in any event. If she was a lesbian, he knew nothing about it. He certainly would not have called her a "lesbian". The word (with this meaning) had not even been invented yet.

If you went back in time, and told Le Fanu that Paget was a "lesbian", he would have pointed out that she was born in England, not Lesbos. If you claimed she engaged in some form of female sodomy or other indecent private act, he would have wondered how you intended to prove it, and why you cared. If you had pointed out that she seemed to like the company of other women, he would have shrugged and said "What's wrong with that"? If you had admitted you could not prove actual indecent conduct, but had "few doubts about her inclinations", he would have shook his head sadly and walked away.

Quote:
> The homoerotic nature of Carmilla's attentions has
> been acknowledged not only by
> * writers and critics of a Freudian bent such as
> V.S. Pritchett and Peter Penzoldt, but also by
> * respected genre scholars like Jack Sullivan
> (ELEGANT NIGHTMARES (Ohio University Press, 1978)
> or Richard Dyer (“Children of the Night:
> Vampirism as Homosexuality, Homosexuality as
> Vampirism,” SWEET DREAMS: SEXUALITY, GENDER AND
> POPULAR FICTION, ed. Susannah Radstone (London:
> Lawrence & Wishart, 1988)
> * and widely published academics specializing in
> Gothic and Victorian literature such as Dr.
> William Veeder of the University of Chicago
> (“‘Carmilla’: The Arts of Repression,” in
> GOTHIC: CRITICAL CONCEPTS IN LITERARY AND CULTURAL
> STUDIES, ed. Fred Botting and Dale Townshend ) and
> Dr. Jarlath Killeen of Trinity College, Dublin
> ("In the Name of the Mother: Perverse Maternity in
> 'Carmilla' " in REFLECTIONS IN A GLASS DARKLY:
> ESSAYS ON J. SHERIDAN LE FANU, ed. Gary William
> Crawford, Jim Rockhill and Brian J. Showers ).
> Etc., etc., etc.

Well yes. And many more names could be added to the list. Modern people tend to think the story is about lesbians, for all the perfectly-understandable reasons I already listed. An entire critical apparatus has grown up around it, some of it more absurd than others.

It's still an inappropriate appeal to authority. The belief is still wrong, for all the reasons I gave. You see, I can think for myself, no matter how many names you throw at me. If these people have good reasons for their beliefs, you should be able to supply me with those good reasons. Just throwing their names at me is absurd.

Note that none of these publications are older than the 1951 quote from Nelson Browne I provided, with the possible exception of Pritchett. I have not read Pritchett's 1947 introduction to IN A GLASS DARKLY, but if it mentions lesbianism, that only pushes things back 4 years earlier, which is still 74 years after the story was written. It is a very curious phenomenom. Modern readers assume Victorian readers must have been "shocked" by the lesbianism in "Carmilla", when, as far as we can tell, Le Fanu's contemporaries did not even notice.

Also, as I already said, eroticism is in the eye of the beholder. If you are merely going to claim that "Carmilla" is "homoerotic", then that is the sort of subjective statement that can neither be proved nor disproved. If you are not actually arguing from the text that Carmilla and/or Laura are in some quasi-objective sense "lesbians", there is nothing more to discuss.



Edited 12 time(s). Last edit at 29 Apr 17 | 11:06PM by Platypus.

Re: Forgotten gems
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 30 April, 2017 01:04AM
In any event, whether I am right or wrong in my interpretation of CARMILLA, Mr. Rockhill has admirably underscored my point that lesbian interpretations tend to undermine the impact of the tale. He argues that references to death are references to orgasm. But how is it possible for us modern readers to be frightened or horrified on behalf of the protagonist, if we merely think she is being menaced by the threat of orgasm?

Re: Forgotten gems
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 30 April, 2017 01:53AM
Ingrid Pitt is wonderful, quite deliscious!, as Carmilla, in the 1970 movie adaption The Vampire Lovers. And of course there is the great, the one and only, Peter Cushing!, (and John Forbes-Robertson as creepy vampire in ugly hat).
But the story, as a supernatural piece, is far superior to the film. The most memorable moment, and "forgotten gem", of that story, that ought to be the real subject of important matter among weird fiction lovers, is the horse carriage crash; which appears to be a magically cast illusion (one of the most magnificiant, largest of scale, and most impressive, in the history of literature), set up as an excuse for having Carmilla stay at the castle. Le Fanu was truly a master! Whatever sexual implications there be in the story, is merely detail of mundaneness and the common vampiric starvation symbolism.

Re: Forgotten gems
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 30 April, 2017 04:19AM
It was a while now since I read the story, but another memorable moment was how Carmilla moved through the room in a gliding elevated way. Le Fanu was a master of the supernatural. That's what's important. That's what's interesting.

Re: Forgotten gems
Posted by: jimrockhill2001 (IP Logged)
Date: 30 April, 2017 01:21PM
Dissenting opinions are always welcome. Both versions of the delightful Norton Critical Edition of Henry James's THE TURN OF THE SCREW are full of essays that disagree with each other on how to interpret just about every aspect of that work. You will even see Edmund Wilson's nonadulatory essays on Lovecraft, Conan Doyle and Tolkien printed along with other perspectives on those authors. What you will not find printed in publications devoted to the professional discussion of literature are essays that a) assume expertise without supporting documentation, b) present a patronizing or confrontational stance which presumes that anyone who disagrees with them is either a careless amateur or an imbecile, or c) shrug aside expert opinions as "appeals to authority" even when those authorities are recognized leaders in the field and their arguments are relevant to the discussion at hand. That is why on those rare occasions when Rufus Griswold is given center stage rather not merely quoted in discussions of Poe, the editor will offer preliminary correctives or clarifying footnotes to place his remarks within context.

We have seen a lot of trolls on this board in the past, some of whom, like Platypus, have obviously put a lot of thought into their divergent interpretation of a work or the context in which it should be read. What most separates the troll from the contributor is attitude. Te troll will take offense when anyone asks them to back up any of their claims to expertise with evidence, treat with contempt anyone who disagrees with them, claim that anyone who cites another writer holding the same opinion as theirs is making a fallacious “appeal to authority”, and accuse anyone else citing evidence within the text supporting their view of hastily blundering through the text in a feeble attempt to counter them. The troll will almost always cloak their identity under a pseudonym, which they believe permits them to make any claims they see fit and act as rudely as they wish.

In an ideal world, anyone who has put as much thought into their interpretation of a work as this would drop the attitude long enough to reshape their argument into an essay and submit it to a journal for consideration. There are plenty of non-academic journals in print and electronic formats in existence that will publish essays on weird fiction presented with a modicum of clarity and precision.

Re: Forgotten gems
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 30 April, 2017 05:27PM
Jim Rockhill, I read through your latest post, and there is not a word about "Carmilla". You accuse me of things I did not say, and accuse me of implying things I did not mean to imply, or raise other allegations (like my pseudonym) that ought to be irrelevant in a civil discussion. But I don't want to get into a debate whether I really said X or implied Y or whether my pseudonym is relevant, or whether you are justified in calling me a "troll". This is boring. I did not come here for a war of egos. I wanted to discuss "Carmilla". If you have something to say about "Carmilla", say it. I believe I already adequately responded to the points you raised earlier.

Goto Page: Previous123AllNext
Current Page: 2 of 3


Sorry, only registered users may post in this forum.
Top of Page