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I am writing a paper on the subject of identity in Le Fanu's "Carmilla," but I can't find many materials. Where should I look?

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Answered By: Robin Mize
Last Updated: Dec 12, 2016     Views: 96

Part of the reason you are having a hard time finding materials may be the way you are searching as much as it has to do with the amount of materials that have been written on the subject.  Try the following:

When searching for Le Fanu, it may help to put “Le Fanu” in quotes in many search engines.  Many search engines will omit words such as “the” or “a” in English, in Spanish “la,” and in French “le,” because these are considered stop words (see definition of stop word).  So search for "Le Fanu" AND Carmilla, and put the word “and” in all caps so that the search engine will recognize that you intend to connect the two terms in your search.

Also, be sure to search a variety of databases.  Some databases that contain material you may find useful are found on the American Literature LibGuide.  Le Fanu is an Irish writer, but the databases found on this page also cover British literature as well as American. 

For example, in Academic Search Complete I found the following two articles:

Michelis, A. (2003). 'Dirty Mamma': Horror, Vampires, and the Maternal in Late Nineteenth-Century Gothic Fiction. Critical Survey, 15(3), 0-22. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

http://ezproxy.brenau.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=12987240&site=ehost-live

(as you can see from quote from p. 7, “The figure of the mother and her impact on the development of identity, in particular gender identity, and subjectivity is positioned as simultaneously central and marginal and furthermore bound into a temporal framework of before and after. This temporal  configuration of the maternal works on two levels…”

 Davis, M. (2004). Gothic's Enigmatic Signifier: The Case of J. Sheridan Le Fanu's ‘Carmilla’. Gothic Studies, 6(2), 223-235. Retrieved from EBSCOhost

http://ezproxy.brenau.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=18041450&site=ehost-live

I did not find anything under “Le Fanu” AND Carmilla” in our online book catalog, however a search for criticism of works by the author
yielded the following:

Irish literature : the nineteenth century  PR8835 .I7565 2006 v. 2

Approaches to teaching Gothic fiction : the British and American traditions  PR830.T3 A67 2003

Another approach you may want to consider is to look for articles in databases representing disciplines other than those related to literature.  If you go to the Psychology LibGuide you will find a number of databases which contain authoritative articles regarding the nature of identity from a psychological standpoint.  PsycARTICLES is an excellent starting point in this area.  If fact you will find so many articles on the topic of identity you will have to decide how you intend to define the topic (i.e. gender identity, ethnic identity, sexual identity, etc.) in order to narrow your results in this database.  Bear in mind that you won't find much, if any, materials on Le Fanu or Carmilla in the psychology databases.

Finally, as a last resort, if you have not found enough resources, you may want to consider searching Google Books.  Google Books provides many books to preview, but cuts off many in mid-chapter so that the content is almost worthless without buying it (which is pretty much the point because the site is sponsored by sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble).  However, there is a feature that makes this search handy for students.

When you click on the preview of a book you will see a list of links on the left side of the content.  Under “Get this Book” you will see a list of vendors and a link that says “Find in a library.”  When you click this link it connects you to Worldcat.org, which is a catalog of millions of books around the world.  Scroll down the page and you will be able to see the locations of the libraries which own the book you need.  Use the Request a Book form and we will be able to send you the item for no charge within a couple of weeks.

So, by using Google Books you are able to preview the book before you order it, which could save you valuable research time.  For this topic, I recommend doing a search for "Le Fanu" AND Carmilla AND identity.

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