The novel by Carmilla by J. Sheridan LeFanu entails the features of a Gothic as a genre
and creates emotional attachment with the audience due to the virtual imagination of the fictional
storyline. According to the theories of genre as demonstrated by Dirk and Devitt in their works,
the form of literature in the social context is significant in inspiring positive reactions in the
audience and also delivering lessons that can be used to improve issues facing humanity. LeFanu
opens his novel with a mysterious description that demonstrates the existence of a lone
environment, where the vampire deeds occur. This literature piece seeks to establish a
connection between LeFanu’s creativity of the Gothic genre and its relation to Dirk and Davitt’s
theories of genre.
LeFanu’s background setting leaves the audience with a visual figuration of a mysterious
place where Carmilla is heading and her course creates typical expectations about the place.
Basically, LeFanu creates different settings that are stereotypically gothic, such as the description
of the road used by Carmilla and its mysterious course that is primitive (LeFanu, 1872). As
described by the theory of genre, LeFanu successfully creates a gothic fiction that is effectively
related to the environment and plot, and the expectations of the audience can be described as
typical (Dirk, 2010). LeFanu’s introduction of the character Carmilla gives the audience a
reflection about whether she represents good or bad. The social context created by the novel is
effective in the visualization of a horrific environment, where bad things are expected to occur.
The use of a forest and abandoned house that is within a forest and the lack of an
accessible road is a clear indication that the character in the plot is either in danger, or is a
dangerous individual. The audience has the chance to reflect on the aspects of security in the
society and the importance of character judgment in preventing social ills. LeFanu’s gothic
GENRE ANALYSIS 3
fiction facilitates the definition of monsters (vampires) and their related environments, in
addition to the activities committed by such monsters against humans (LeFanu, 1872). The
theory of genre indicates that literature requires prior understanding of the topic in a social
context for eased understanding of the text (Devitt, 1993). For instance, LeFanu’s piece requires
a general understanding or perception about monsters and their way of life for the audience to
connect and follow the plot. In gothic fiction involving monsters, the writer should focus on what
people are afraid of in a specific society, such as the fear of being swallowed alive by a monster
or inability to escape when in a dangerous situation.
The plot taken by LeFanu in the creation of Carmilla as an engaging novel is based on
the general understanding of vampires as monsters who harm humans and the environment that
they are likely to live in. In a society that celebrates Halloween, there is the prevalence of
knowledge or facts about monsters and perceptions about their existence. People may not be
scared of death but they might be very frightened about the process of death, such as being
buried or burnt alive. LeFanu seems to understand several fears in the society that relate to
violence and ruthless murder, and she successfully sensitizes the society about the hidden
monsters living within the society. The unpredictability of monsters is also demonstrated by
LeFanu’s plot, as opposed to the anticipation of human behavior. Furthermore, Carmilla
demonstrates the disturbing capacity for violence that is linked to monsters, which can also apply
to social situations such as ethnic cleansing that characterizes genocide. LeFanu has defined
monsters and their ways of life, and it is evident that she objects at imparting knowledge about
monsters rather than frightening the readers.
GENRE ANALYSIS 4
Devitt, A. (1993). Generalizing about genre: New conceptions of an old concept. College
Composition and Communication, 44(4), 573-586.
Dirk, K. (2010). Navigating genres. Writing Spaces, 1, 249-262.
LeFanu, J. (1872). Carmilla. Retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org/files/10007/10007-