Don Juan and His Daughter is a study of the creative power of illicit desire. While Melville's Gay Father dealt with fathers' erotic feelings for their sons, here Tuman ventures into the realm of female longing. In sections one and three, the focus is on women's romantic feelings for their own fathers or male stand-ins: in works by Edith Wharton, Anaïs Nin, Joyce Carol Oates as well as Freud's study of Dora; and then in novels by Elizabeth Inchbald, Jane Austen, and Mary Shelley, as well as memoirs of Kathryn Harrison. In section two, the focus shifts to the desire for an otherwise unavailable partner: in Emily Brontë, for an avenging brother; in Charlotte Brontë, for a misogynistic mentor; in George Eliot and Olive Schreiner, for an aloof female beauty. The books thus attempts to see the role incestuous desire plays within the imaginative process, or, as Tuman says in The Preface, "to draw as close as possible to the white-heat of literary creation, without ourselves being singed."