Steerforth's seduction of Emily instead of David is an example of “troilism,” of homosexual desire displaced onto a more acceptable third party. In this, it resembles, but is different from, the “homosociality” introduced into critical discourse by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. Notably, it intersects with another triangle, that of Rosa Dartle, Emily, and Steerforth, in which homosexual desire is not in play. The storm that kills Steerforth originates in Rosa's thwarted desire for him and, especially, in her resentment of his affair with another woman, Emily, who, from the same motive, she tracks down and threatens to pursue and have killed. Her wish to have Emily “branded” on her “face” comes from a defining trauma, the scar that Steerforth inflicted on her face. The storm is, explicitly, a meteorological version of similar dynamics in play in the triangles of Our Mutual Friend and Edwin Drood. Addressing these novels along with David Copperfield requires addressing and confuting what I believe to be Sedgwick's erroneously “homosocial” readings of all three.

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