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

Date / Time

  • October 8, 2024
    6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
  • November 12, 2024
    6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
  • December 10, 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 and courses. 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.

Register for Full Series

Register for Wuthering Heights

Register for Summer Sons

Register for The Ballad of Black Tom

Description | Fall 2024: Bad Boys

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 autumn season of the book club, as we engage with the theme “Bad Boys.” The Ladies of the House of Love will bring Queer Theory and gender-informed readings to the study of notable bad boys, in hopes of exploring how various Gothic writers have approached shifting notions of masculinity and sexuality across the centuries. 

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


Meeting 1: Tuesday, October 8, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.  Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights  

First published in 1847, Emily Brontë’s only novel endures as a work of tremendous and far-reaching influence. This foundational text of the Gothic genre also introduces today’s readers to one of the most prominent bad boys in the genre: Heathcliff.  

Lockwood, the new tenant of Thrushcross Grange, situated on the bleak Yorkshire moors, is forced to seek shelter one night at Wuthering Heights, the home of his landlord. There he discovers the history of the tempestuous events that took place years before. What unfolds is the tale of the intense love between the mysterious foundling Heathcliff and the willful beauty Catherine Earnshaw. Catherine, forced to choose between passionate, tortured Heathcliff and gentle, well-bred Edgar Linton, surrenders to the expectations of her class. As Heathcliff’s bitterness and vengeance at his betrayal is visited upon the next generation, their innocent heirs must struggle to escape the legacy of the past. 

As part of this book club session, participants will view a first edition of Wuthering Heights as well as other books and manuscripts related to the Brontë sisters.  


Meeting 2: Tuesday, November 12, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.  Lee Mandelo, Summer Sons 

Lee Mandelo’s debut novel from 2021 is a sweltering, Queer Southern Gothic that crosses Appalachian street-racing with academic intrigue, all haunted by a hungry ghost. 

Andrew and Eddie did everything together, best friends bonded more deeply than brothers, until Eddie left Andrew behind to start his graduate program at Vanderbilt. Six months later, only days before Andrew was to join him in Nashville, Eddie dies of an apparent suicide. He leaves Andrew a horrible inheritance: a roommate he doesn’t know, friends he never asked for, and a gruesome phantom that hungers for him. 

As Andrew searches for the truth of Eddie’s death, he uncovers the lies and secrets left behind by the person he trusted most, discovering a family history soaked in blood and death. Whirling between the backstabbing academic world where Eddie spent his days and the circle of hot boys, fast cars, and hard drugs that ruled Eddie’s nights, the walls Andrew has built against the world begin to crumble. 

And there is something awful lurking, waiting for those walls to fall. 

This book club session will include a special viewing of a literary manuscript written by William Faulkner, an important 20th-century figure in Southern Gothic, to establish context for Mandelo’s work.  



Meeting 3: Tuesday, December 10, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.  Victor LaValle, The Ballad of Black Tom 

People move to New York looking for magic, and nothing will convince them it isn’t there. 

Charles Thomas Tester hustles to put food on the table and keep the roof over his father’s head from Harlem to Flushing Meadows to Red Hook. He knows what magic a suit can cast, the invisibility a guitar case can provide, and the curse written on his skin that attracts the eye of wealthy white folks and their cops. But when he delivers an occult tome to a reclusive sorceress in the heart of Queens, Tom opens a door to a deeper realm of magic and earns the attention of things best left sleeping. 

A storm that might swallow the world is brewing in Brooklyn. Will Black Tom live to see it break? 

The Ballad of Black Tom was named one of NPR’s Best Books of 2016, and it won the Shirley Jackson Award, the British Fantasy Award, the This is Horror Award (for Novella of the Year). It was a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, World Fantasy, and Bram Stoker Awards. 

This book club session will include a special viewing of items from the Rosenbach’s collection connected to the Harlem Renaissance.  

Following the final session of the book club’s fall season, the Rosenbach will host a complimentary wine-and-cheese reception for book club participants, both past and present. The book club 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: Learn more about Harriett’s Bookshop here: