[SOLD OUT] The Ladies of the House of Love: The Rosenbach’s Feminist & Queer Gothic Literature Book Club

Date / Time

  • April 9, 2024
    6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
  • May 14, 2024
    6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
  • June 11, 2024
    6:30 pm - 8:30 pm


2008-2010 Delancey Place, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19103, United States


  • Admission for In-person Ladies of the House of Love is $20 per session, $60 for series. Members receive exclusive discounts on our programs. Not a member? Learn more.
  • This is an in-person program at The Rosenbach. Please check your spam folder for your email confirmation. If you have questions, please call (215) 732-1600 or email [email protected].
  • This program is for those 18 and older.

Join Waitlist for Carmilla

Join Waitlist for My Cousin Rachel

Join Waitlist for Goddess of Filth


Description | Spring 2024: Bad Girls

As a literary genre, the Gothic is often associated with ominous castles, dark, stormy nights, and people fleeing from unnamed horrors. But the Gothic is—and always has been—much more complicated and interesting than this because it uses gender, ethnicity, sexuality, and the erotic to hint at the radical potential inherent in all of us. The Ladies of the House of Love book club reads historic and contemporary works of Gothic fiction. Each month, the club cozies up in the candle-lit,* historic West Library of the Rosenbach mansion, views objects from the collection, and discusses the Gothic’s connections to gender, sexuality, race, and ethnicity.   

Gothic novels often ask readers to consider–and be suspicious of–social structures. As such, we focus on writers from the “margins”–primarily Queer people, women, and People of Color–grappling with how they question society and their characters’ places in it. Each club meeting will touch on the roots of the Gothic in the 18th and 19th centuries but focus on 21st-century themes. Join us for this special spring season of the book club, as we engage with the theme “Bad Girls.” The Ladies of the House of Love will bring Feminist and Queer analytical lenses to readings of female Gothic villains and transgressors from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries in order to explore how restrictive gender norms inform the actions of the novels’ antagonists and how the idea of what defines a “bad girl” has evolved over time.  

*For the safety of collections, battery-operated electronic candles are used. 


[SOLD OUT] Meeting 1: Tuesday, April 9, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.  J.S. Le Fanu, Carmilla 

Isolated in a remote mansion in a central European forest, Laura longs for companionship–until a carriage accident brings another young woman into her life: the secretive and sometimes erratic Carmilla. As Carmilla’s actions become more puzzling and volatile, Laura develops bizarre symptoms, and as her health declines, Laura and her father discover something monstrous. 

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s compelling tale of a young woman’s seduction by a female vampire was a source of influence for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which it predates by over a quarter century. Carmilla was originally serialized from 1871 to 1872 and went on to inspire adaptations in film, opera, and other genres, including the cult-classic web series by the same name. 

As part of the book club, participants will view vampire-related treasures from the Rosenbach’s Gothic literature collection in the candle-lit West Library.  


[SOLD OUT] Meeting 2: Tuesday, May 14, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.  Daphne du Maurier, My Cousin Rachel 

British author Daphne du Maurier helped keep the British Gothic genre alive and beloved in the 20th century, penning classics including Rebecca and Jamaica Inn. Published in 1951, My Cousin Rachel is a Gothic classic set in beautiful and eerie Cornwall, complete with a fascinating villainess. 

Philip Ashley’s older cousin Ambrose, who raised the orphaned Philip as his own son, has died in Rome. Philip, the heir to Ambrose’s beautiful English estate, is crushed that the man he loved died far from home. He is also suspicious. While in Italy, Ambrose fell in love with and married Rachel, a beautiful, widowed Contessa. But the final, brief letters Ambrose wrote hint that his love had turned to paranoia and fear. 

Now Rachel has arrived at Philip’s newly inherited estate. Could this exquisite woman, who seems to genuinely share Philip’s grief at Ambrose’s death, really be as cruel as Philip imagined? Or is she the kind, passionate woman with whom Ambrose fell in love? Philip struggles to understand Rachel’s intentions, knowing Ambrose’s estate, his future, and his sanity, hang in the balance. 

An atmospheric mystery full of doubt and paranoia, My Cousin Rachel is a suspenseful gothic treat for long-time fans and new readers of Daphne du Maurier. 


[SOLD OUT] Meeting 3: Tuesday, June 11, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.  V. Castro, Goddess of Filth 

One hot summer night, best friends Lourdes, Fernanda, Ana, Perla, and Pauline hold a séance. It’s all fun and games at first, but their tipsy laughter turns to terror when the flames burn straight through their prayer candles and Fernanda starts crawling toward her friends and chanting in Nahuatl, the language of their Aztec ancestors. 

Over the next few weeks, shy, modest Fernanda starts acting strangely—smearing herself in black makeup, shredding her hands on rose thorns, sucking sin out of the mouths of the guilty. The local priest is convinced it’s a demon, but Lourdes begins to suspect it’s something else—something far more ancient and powerful. 

As Father Moreno’s obsession with Fernanda grows, Lourdes enlists the help of her “bruja Craft crew” and a professor, Dr. Camacho, to understand what is happening to her friend. Goddess of Filth is a Latina coming-of-age story that explores the empowering potential of subverting expectations and embracing the monstrous. 

Following the final session of the book club’s spring season, book club participants past and present are invited to join the Ladies of the House of Love at a pub near the Rosenbach for drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and continued conversation. The facilitators will provide more information to book club members via email.  


Book Club Facilitators

Dr. Petra Clark is a librarian, educator, and literary historian. She earned her PhD in English from the University of Delaware in 2019 with a specialization in Victorian literature and art, particularly focusing on magazines created by and for women during the late 19th century. Petra has taught college courses on everything from research writing and feminist literature to comics history and monster media, as well as a recent Rosenbach course on the artist Aubrey Beardsley. She currently works in the Special Collections department at the University of Delaware Library, but when she isn’t haunting the rare books stacks, she can usually be found reading creepy fiction with her cats.

Dr. Samantha Nystrom is an avid fan of reading, painting, baking, playing Scrabble, and analyzing stories. She learned how to do such narrative pondering during her time at the University of Delaware, where she received her PhD in English Literature. While at UD, she taught classes ranging from film studies to British Literature to composition, which focused on how identities are constructed and represented. Her class on British Literature, for example, focused on texts with the monstrous other, asking students:  Who is the true monster? Her research asked questions about the role gardens and landscapes had in constructing personal, national, and imperial identities within 19th-century Britain; her work on Walter Scott and Gothic landscapes and architecture was published in the peer-reviewed journal, Studies in Romanticism. She currently lives in New Jersey with her vampiric cat, Percy, and is a writer at Jefferson. 

Dr. Alexander Lawrence Ames, Director of Outreach & Engagement at the Rosenbach Museum & Library, vividly recalls his teenage experiences with Gothic literature: terrifying himself so thoroughly with J.S. LeFanu’s Uncle Silas that he dared not leave his bedroom, falling under the spell of Mrs. Radcliffe’s enchanting countrysides in The Romance of the Forest, feeling the pangs of youthful longing for the noble young Valancourt in The Mysteries of Udolpho, and hearing Mr. Rochester’s voice on the wind in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Dr. Ames will lead artifact show-and-tell sessions at each meeting of Ladies of the House of Love, to help club members situate book club selections in the context of the Rosenbach’s collections.  When not hosting book clubs or curating Rosenbach exhibitions, Dr. Ames is likely playing haunting melodies on his Celtic harp or strolling pensively across the castle grounds as twilight breaks.  


Book Purchase 

The Rosenbach has partnered with Harriett’s Bookshop of Philadelphia to supply copies of book club selections at reasonable prices. Order your books here: https://bookshop.org/lists/ladies-of-the-house-of-love-book-club. Learn more about Harriett’s Bookshop here: https://www.oursisterbookshops.com/.