The Uncanny Aura of the Femme Fatale’s Icon in Byron’s DonJuan

Savo Karam


The femme fatale trope, the incarnation of the artistic ideal of the writer’s creative imagination, is one of the most captivating female facades to haunt the Western literary tradition. Defined by her liminality, the femme fatale embraces an uncanny appearance that is terrifying but concurrently enthralling. Such oxymoronic combination defines her threatening and sublime representation which echoes Freud’s phenomenon of the uncanny that Lord Byron incarnates through his portrayal of the fatal woman motif.

As a dark Romantic poet, Byron perceived beauty in the bizarre, unrestrained attitude of the fatal woman’s figure which shakes the rigid moral dimension of Victorian literature. What is intriguing about Byron’s depiction of his fatal woman is the supernatural, eerie power of her erotic appeal which she adroitly deploys to consume and haunt her victim’s imagination. Many researches tackled Byron’s contribution to the Gothic lore such as the initiation of the male vampire theme; other areas that were of interest to scholars depicted Byron’s homme fatal (the Byron seducer) trope. However, little critical attention pertaining to Byron’s femme fatale motif has been paid, and since his delineation of the femme fatale remains ambivalent and incomplete, this untouched area deserves substantial attention. Although Byron did not initiate the fatal woman figure, it is feasible to study how he conceives this archetype and the extent to which he incorporates Freud’s theory of the uncanny in his Gothic portrayal of two fatal females, Adeline and Catherine, in Don Juan.

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