restricted access “The Ecstasy of the Martyr”: Lesbianism, Sacrifice, and Morbidness in The Bostonians

This article explores the metaphysical erotics of The Bostonians (1886), reading the novel with and through the works by Henry James Sr. and William James. Rather than read Olive Chancellor’s “morbidness” as a sign of suppressed lesbianism, I read it as a reflection of William James’s concept of the “sick soul.” This recasting enables me to see Olive’s relation to Verena as a quasi-religious ecstasy charged with “passion” in the word’s original sense: the suffering of martyrdom. With this genealogy in place, I contend that the text theorizes an identificatory erotics with the trope of sacrifice.