Carter, Angela (Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)
Angela Carter 1940-1992
(Full name Angela Olive Carter) English novelist, short story writer, nonfiction writer, scriptwriter, and author of children's books.
The following entry provides criticism on Carter's works from 1988 through 2000. See also Angela Carter Criticism.
Carter is best remembered for writings in which she undertakes a feminist critique of Western history and culture. Combining components of Gothicism, surrealism, eroticism, myth, science fiction, and fairy tales, Carter explores such themes as violence, the distribution of power in contemporary society, and female sexuality. Carter's work is distinguished by its display of unrestrained imagination, colorful imagery, and sensuous prose. Equally notable are the Dickensian eccentricities of her characters and her talent, as one critic noted, for “twining the macabre and unlikely with the possible.” Although alternately praised and faulted for her extravagant Gothic approach, Carter is highly regarded as a writer of unique and imaginative fiction and sharply political and insightful feminist nonfiction.
Carter was born in London, England, on May 7, 1940, but her journalist father, Hugh Stalker, came from Scotland, and her mother, Olive, from a mining district in South Yorkshire. During World War II, Carter's grandmother evacuated herself and her grandchildren to the village of Wath-upon-Deare. A working-class suffragist and radical, this grandmother may have served as a model for Carter's later narrative and public persona. After leaving school, Carter worked briefly as a junior reporter for a London local newspaper and married. From 1962 to 1965 she attended the University of Bristol, studying the traditional canonical works as well as topics ranging from psychology and anthropology to science fiction and horror comics. After graduating, Carter began writing cultural criticism and observation for New Society and the Guardian. In 1969 Carter visited Japan for the first time; she then went to live there for two years, after divorcing her husband. This marked a turning point for Carter both professionally and personally, as she went on to draw from the experience in her writing and found her voice as a woman and a social radical. In the 1980s Carter moved to South London with her partner and began traveling around the world to teach writing and present public readings of her works, which she came to appreciate as a means of dramatizing the power of the narrator and providing an added dimension to the written word. In 1983 Carter had a son, and for the remainder of her life divided her time between her home in South London and her travels. She served as a judge for contests and literary awards, edited collections, compiled anthologies, and wrote introductions and essays. Carter died of cancer on February 16, 1992.
Carter's early novels Shadow Dance (1966), Several Perceptions (1968), and Love (1971) introduce the Gothic elements in her work. Carter's vivid descriptions of Great Britain's counterculture create a surreal atmosphere in which strange incidents are commonplace. The protagonist of Shadow Dance is portrayed as the embodiment of the apathy and amorality of his generation. Acting on impulse, he disfigures his beautiful girlfriend and eventually commits murder. Several Perceptions concerns a suicidal young man and his encounters with various eccentric individuals. Love, a bleak story of the obsessive nature of love, centers on a young man whose suicidal wife and drug-abusing brother are dependent upon him. Carter's feminist and philosophical concerns are woven into her fantasy novels. The Magic Toyshop (1967) depicts the sexual coming-of-age of a young woman who loses her parents and must live in a household of eccentric relatives. Heroes and Villains (1969) is a futuristic tale of Earth a century after atomic devastation has splintered its population into antagonistic factions. The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (1972) recounts the efforts of the protagonist to restore reality in a world where machines give unconscious images concrete form. In The Passion of New Eve (1977), a fervent denunciation of sexism and machismo, a man experiences rape and other brutalizations after being surgically transformed into a beautiful woman. A number of the characters in Nights at the Circus (1984), winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, are archetypes for female oppression and liberation. Here Carter offers a symbolic portrait of the female condition, placing her story amidst the bizarre characters of a traveling circus and focusing on the personal liberation of a six-foot-tall winged woman. Carter's short stories have been collected in three volumes: Fireworks: Nine Profane Pieces (1974), The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories (1979), and Black Venus (1985). Each volume contains thematically linked stories, many derived from fables, fairy tales, and mythology. In her nonfiction work The Sadeian Woman: An Exercise in Cultural History (1979) Carter examined the two feminine stereotypes of pornographic literature: the dangerous temptress and the innocent victim. Carter argues that the writing of the Marquis de Sade, whose characters Justine and Juliette embodied these stereotypes, can be read as feminist satire of the sexual roles men create for women. Ultimately, however, Carter finds de Sade's quest for the limits of acceptable behavior a failure, believing that he succumbed to an acceptance of traditional sexual roles. Nothing Sacred (1982) is an anthology of Carter's feminist and political articles, and Come Unto These Yellow Sands (1985) collects various scripts she adapted from her fiction. Carter's final novel, the posthumously published Wise Children (1991), is also considered her most thematically joyful work, recounting the attempts of its narrator Dora—an elderly dance-hall girl writing her memoirs—to reconcile with her father, a famous Shakespearean actor.
While writers as diverse as Anthony Burgess, Salman Rushdie, and John Hawkes expressed great admiration for Carter's writing, other reviewers were unimpressed, greeting it with incomprehension or revulsion. The elements of the fantastic upon which she focused her narratives were confusing and unbelievable to many critics. Additionally, while Carter's revisions of traditional fairy tales were lauded overall, some commentators have lamented the absence of concrete alternatives for her heroines. Such critics argue that because Carter rewrote the tales within their original structures, she robbed her protagonists of any real sense of choice and actually perpetuated patriarchal precepts. Feminist critics, however, have embraced Carter's unwavering honesty and commitment to her social and political standards in her works.
Shadow Dance (novel) 1966; also published as Honeybuzzard, 1966
Unicorn (poetry) 1966
The Magic Toyshop (novel) 1967
Several Perceptions (novel) 1968
Heroes and Villains (novel) 1969
The Donkey Prince (juvenilia) 1970
Miss Z, the Dark Young Lady (juvenilia) 1970
Love (novel) 1971; revised edition, 1987
The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (novel) 1972; also published as The War of Dreams, 1974
Fireworks: Nine Profane Pieces (short stories) 1974; revised as Fireworks: Nine Stories in Various Disguises, 1981
The Passion of New Eve (novel) 1977
The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories (short stories) 1979
The Sadeian Woman: An Exercise in Cultural History (nonfiction) 1979; also published as The Sadeian Woman and the Ideology of Pornography, 1979
Nothing Sacred: Selected Writings (essays) 1982; revised edition, 1992
Nights at the Circus (novel) 1984
Black Venus (short stories) 1985; also published as Saints and Strangers, 1986
Come Unto These Yellow Sands: Four Radio Plays (broadcasts) 1985
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SOURCE: Carter, Angela, and Anna Katsavos. “An Interview with Angela Carter.” Review of Contemporary Fiction 14, no. 3 (fall 1994): 11-17.
[In the following interview, which was conducted in New York City in 1988, Carter discusses her thoughts on myth, narrative, and modern literary theory.]
Crammed in with all the other gear packed for a ski trip was my copy of Angela Carter's newest novel, Wise Children. Because sheer exhaustion made it difficult for me to stay awake past nine o'clock, I didn't get to finish the book, which in a sad kind of way turned out to be a good thing.
A week later I returned home to a stack of unread newspapers and very sorrowful news; while I had been struggling with moguls, Carter had succumbed to cancer. Though my dealings with her were limited (a few letters, phone calls, and two personal meetings), the sense of loss that I experienced was deep-felt. I immediately went for my copy of Wise Children, and for a long time gazed at the picture of the author's smiling face on the inside jacket; it was the same picture as the one in the Times's obit. Mixed in with my numbness was a peculiar sense of gratitude that there was something new she could say to me still. I began to read, but my thoughts kept reverting to that crisp November morning in 1988 when I had the pleasure of chatting with this woman over breakfast.
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SOURCE: Gass, Joanne M. “Panopticism in Nights at the Circus.” Review of Contemporary Fiction 14, no. 3 (fall 1994): 71-6.
[In the following essay, Gass explores the image of the panopticon and its relation to the containment of women in Nights at the Circus.]
In her “Polemical Preface” to The Sadeian Woman Angela Carter writes,
All the mythic versions of women, from the myth of the redeeming purity of the virgin to that of the healing, reconciling mother, are consolatory nonsenses; and consolatory nonsense seems to me a fair definition of myth, anyway. Mother goddesses are just as silly a notion as father gods. If a revival of the myths of these cults gives women emotional satisfaction, it does so at the price of obscuring the real conditions of life. This is why they were invented in the first place.1
Carter's point is that myths belong to a system of discourses, the purpose of which is to console women by convincing them that their place in society belongs to a “natural order.” Acceptance of that “natural order” results in being controlled by it. Carter rejects out of hand any appeal to metaphysical constructs, calling them “consolatory nonsense.” Instead, she insists that metaphysical constructs, indeed all discourses, are material elements, like language, that have no basis other than the...
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SOURCE: Britzolakis, Christina. “Angela Carter's Fetishism.” Textual Practice 9, no. 3 (winter 1995): 459-75.
[In the following essay, Britzolakis examines Carter's fascination with the performance, or spectacle, of femininity.]
Like so many girls, I passionately wanted to be an actress when I was in my early teens and I turn this (balked, unachieved and now totally unregretted) ambition over in my mind from time to time. Why did it seem so pressing, the need to demonstrate in public a total control and transformation of roles other people had conceived? Rum, that.1
It is understandable, I suppose, that someone could approach the fantastic and exotic surface of your fictions and not be able to bridge the gap to the central point that your theatricality is meant to heighten real social attitudes and myths of femininity.2
Her two favourite periodical publications were Vogue and The New Statesman.3
If there is a single theme that appears central to criticism of Carter's writing, that theme must surely be theatricality. This is not surprising, since dramatic performance in all its varieties—masquerade, carnival, burlesque, travesty, cross-dressing, drag—leaps out at the reader from the pages of Carter's...
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SOURCE: Michael, Magali Cornier. “Fantasy and Carnivalization in Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus.” In Feminism and the Postmodern Impulse: Post-World War II Fiction, pp. 171-208. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996.
[In the following essay, Michael examines Carter's utopian feminist vision in Nights at the Circus.]
With extravagant playfulness, Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus (1984) weaves together elements of the carnivalesque and fantastic with those of harsh material realism as vehicles for feminist aims. Carter's novel is the literary heir of Virginia Woolf's Orlando and Djuna Barnes' Nightwood, both of which engage the fantastic and the carnivalesque, and indeed is more literary or fully artificial than the novels of Lessing, Piercy, and Atwood. Set in 1899, Nights at the Circus purports to usher in the twentieth-century. Carter's depiction of the past is strikingly familiar, however, which suggests that the present is effectively her target and that 1899 and the 1980s are not worlds apart. The novel is set not only in the past but also in places that are out of the ordinary—a whorehouse, a museum for women monsters, a circus, St. Petersburg, and Siberia—which enables Carter to engage in flights of imagination that do not directly contradict the immediate context of the contemporary reader.
The feminism of Nights...
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SOURCE: Wyatt, Jean. “The Violence of Gendering: Castration Images in Angela Carter's The Magic Toyshop, The Passion of New Eve, and “Peter and the Wolf.” Women's Studies 25, no. 6 (1996): 549-70.
[In the following essay, Wyatt argues that Carter rewrites Freud's theories on female sexuality in The Magic Toyshop, The Passion of New Eve, and “Peter and the Wolf.”]
In an essay on life in the '60s, Angela Carter describes how she became committed to “demythologising” “the social fictions that regulate our lives”: “I began to question … the nature of my reality as a woman. How that social fiction of my ‘femininity’ was created, by means outside my control, and palmed off on me as the real thing” (“Notes,” [“Notes from the Frontline”]71;70). Her novels and short stories take on some of the master narratives that continue to construct femininity in Western culture—giving us, for instance, in The Bloody Chamber, reconstructed fairy tales that transform the original tales' helpless virgins into active sexual subjects. The best defense against a social myth is, perhaps, another myth: by telling the old stories differently, Carter both points up the age-old patriarchal preference for certain kinds of heroines—passive, inert—and sets an alternative model of womanhood in place of the old. If fairy tales are among the “mind-forged manacles”...
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SOURCE: Berni, Christine. “Taking an Axe to History: The Historical Lizzie Borden and the Postmodern Historiography of Angela Carter.” CLIO: A Journal of Literature, History, and the Philosophy of History 27, no. 1 (fall 1997): 29-55.
[In the following essay, Berni reads Carter's short story “The Fall River Axe Murders” as a commentary on traditional literary and historical representations of the past.]
Immortalized in the grisly economy of a children's rhyme, Lizzie Borden's legend continues to fascinate. Since the axe murders occurred in 1892, Borden's story has been dramatized on stage and screen, in novels, short stories, and poems. She has achieved the status of cult figure and feminist heroine, her name adopted by radical film-makers and rock bands alike. Feminist film-maker Linda Borden, for example, of Working Girls fame, has long adopted Lizzie's first name, and the all-female rock band “Lizzie Borden and the Axes” made the rounds in Boston in the 1980s. Some unknown admirer even left geraniums and silk violets on her tomb upon the 100th anniversary of the crimes, while the tombs of the victims remained bare. On this same centennial, five hundred people attended the first ever Lizzie Borden Conference, hosted by Bristol Community College, in Borden's native Massachusetts.1
The story of this officially unsolved crime has also been explored in dozens of...
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SOURCE: Finney, Brian H. “Tall Tales and Brief Lives: Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus.” Journal of Narrative Technique 28, no. 2 (spring 1998): 161-85.
[In the following essay, Finney discusses Carter's assertion that Nights at the Circus is about the nature of narrative.]
Nights at the Circus (1984), Angela Carter's penultimate novel, epitomizes her wildly inventive, highly idiosyncratic mode of fiction, centered as it is on Fevvers, a Cockney artiste who claims to have grown wings. Most critics and reviewers have seen the main thrust of the novel to reside in the portrayal of Fevvers as a prototype of the New Woman whose wings help her to escape from the nets of a patriarchal nineteenth-century culture into a twentieth-century feminist haven of freedom.1 The novel ends with Fevvers astride her American lover, Walser (she now playing the missionary role), enjoying apparently two triumphs—sexual and psychological—in one: “‘To think I really fooled you!’ she marveled. ‘It just goes to show there's nothing like confidence’” (295). Yet when Carter was asked by John Haffenden what Fevvers means by this, she replied, “It's actually a statement about the nature of fiction, about the nature of her narrative” (90). The more you look closely at this novel, the more you realize just how literal Carter was being in that reply. More than any other of her...
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SOURCE: Benson, Stephen. “Angela Carter and the Literary Märchen: A Review Essay.” Marvels and Tales: Journal of Fairy Tale Studies 12, no. 1 (1998): 23-51.
[In the following essay, Benson explores the perception in literary criticism of Carter's use of fairy tales.]
ANGELA CARTER AND THE LITERARY MäRCHEN: A REVIEW ESSAY
It is perhaps fitting, given Angela Carter's interest in all aspects of folklore, that her work has itself become the subject of a modern legend, albeit one whose truth is very much ascertainable. This is the legend of the “Carter effect,” identified by The British Academy Humanities Research Board, which distributes postgraduate studentships. Lorna Sage states the facts, as reported by the President of the Academy: in the year 1992-93, “there were more than forty applicants wanting to do doctorates on Carter, making her by far the most fashionable twentieth-century topic” (Flesh and the Mirror 3). Paul Barker, editor of the magazine New Society, which published the bulk of Carter's essays from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, recounts a more detailed version, given at an academic conference devoted to Carter's work: the Academy received “[f]orty proposals for doctorates on her writing in 1992-93 … more than for the entire eighteenth century.”1 Barker thus nominates Carter as “the most read contemporary...
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SOURCE: Zipes, Jack. “Crossing Boundaries with Wise Girls: Angela Carter's Fairy Tales for Children.” Marvels and Tales: Journal of Fairy Tale Studies 12, no. 1 (1998): 147-54.
[In the following essay, Zipes examines Carter's early fairy tales for children for elements she would use later in her postmodern revisionist tales.]
Long before Angela Carter had conceived the tales for her remarkable collection The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories (1979), she had begun experimenting with the fairy-tale genre in two highly sophisticated picture books for children, Miss Z, the Dark Young Lady (1970) and The Donkey Prince (1970), both illustrated by Eros Keith. Neglected by critics and unknown to most readers, these two tales actually laid the groundwork for Carter's future work and reveal some of her basic concepts with regard to the revisionist fairy-tale tradition. All this makes Carter's stories worth reconsidering. But even more than shedding light on her development as an innovative fairy-tale writer, they also indicate how much she esteemed children, and how much the child in her gave expression to a mischievous humor that stamps the “postmodern” quality of her fairy tales.
Carter was a sly writer in the best sense of the word. Perhaps cunning might be an even more apt description, and she passed on this cunning quality to the heroines in her two fairy tales...
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SOURCE: Moss, Betty. “Desire and the Female Grotesque in Angela Carter's ‘Peter and the Wolf’.” Marvels and Tales: Journal of Fairy Tale Studies 12, no. 1 (1998): 175-91.
[In the following essay, Moss analyzes female desire in Carter's wolf tales.]
Angela Carter's artistic evolution moves toward the realization of an alternative vision of creative desire as positive and productive rather than driven by Lack—as in the dominant traditions of Western thought since Plato; Carter develops a fictional idiom adequate to the expression of such desire. This distinctly Carterian idiom participates in the aesthetic of the grotesque and inflects the grotesque in a specifically feminine and feminist way, maximizing its potential as an instrument of social and personal transformation. Integrating the feminist discourse of Hélène Cixous, French writer and critic, with the theory of the grotesque advanced by Mikhail Bakhtin, renowned Russian literary and cultural critic, opens a useful way to explore Carter's fiction.1 Carter's admiration for, appropriation of, and reinvention of wonder tales demonstrate her regard for realms of the fantastic, a category intrinsically connected with the grotesque. While any of her tales can be approached through the lens of the grotesque, her wolf stories offer one of the most elemental of grotesque figures: the part-human, part-animal; as Bakhtin points out,...
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SOURCE: Langlois, Janet L. “Andrew Borden's Little Girl: Fairy-Tale Fragments in Angela Carter's ‘The Fall River Axe Murders’ and ‘Lizzie's Tiger.’ Marvels and Tales: Journal of Fairy Tale Studies 12, no. 1 (1998): 192-212.
[In the following essay, Langlois discusses narrative similarities in Carter's stories about Lizzie Borden.]
Angela Carter's works are new to me.1 Although I had seen the 1984 film, The Company of Wolves, I had not read her “Little Red Riding Hood” rewrite on which it was based until recently. Although I have used Robert Coover's and Ann Sexton's revisions of literary Märchen in my courses on “Folklore and Literature,” I had never assigned students any of Carter's tales until recently. I wonder now at my own resistance. Letting go and reading her short story collections has catapulted me, somewhat late, into Angela Carter fandom. I am particularly intrigued with her apparent move away from literary fairy tales, represented in her classic 1979 The Bloody Chamber, toward other narrative forms in her later collections, notably her 1985 Black Venus (published in 1986 in the United States as Saints and Strangers) and her 1993 American Ghosts & Old World Wonders.2 “These stories, written late in Angela's life, are about legends and myths and marvels, about...
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SOURCE: Christensen, Peter G. “Farewell to the Femme Fatale: Angela Carter's Rewriting of Frank Wedekind's Lulu Plays.” Marvels and Tales: Journal of Fairy Tale Studies 12, no. 1 (1998): 319-36.
[In the following essay, Christensen examines Carter's “demythologizing” of the Lulu character in her revisions of the Lulu plays.]
In her book The Sexual Circus: Wedekind's Theatre of Subversion (32-35, 60-65), Elizabeth Boa notes the importance of fairy-tale motifs in Wedekind's major plays, Spring Awakening (Frühlingserwachen, 1891), and the Lulu plays, Earth Spirit (Erdgeist, 1895) and Pandora's Box (Die Büchse der Pandora, 1904). She writes that “in fairy tales—Rumpelstilzchen is the best known example—naming gives power over demons” (60). The eponymous heroine of the Lulu plays is the “demonic” character whom men try to control by naming. Given Angela Carter's work as a collector, translator, and adapter of fairy tales, it does not come as a complete surprise that one of the most vital of the new pieces made available in the posthumous collection, The Curious Room: Plays, Film Scripts and an Opera (1996), is Lulu, an adaptation of Frank Wedekind's Lulu plays written in 1987 at the request of Richard Eyre, Director of the National Theatre. The play was not staged at the time because of differences in conception...
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SOURCE: Peach, Linden. “Pain and Exclusion: The Magic Toyshop (1967) and Heroes and Villains (1969).” In Angela Carter, pp. 71-98. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998.
[In the following excerpt, Peach examines similarities between The Magic Toyshop and Heroes and Villains.]
As I pointed out at the beginning of the previous chapter, The Magic Toyshop (1967) and Heroes and Villains (1969) were Carter's second and fourth novels respectively. In some respects, they recall the Bristol trilogy. For example, Lorna Sage (1994b) has pointed out that Heroes and Villains mocks the cultural landscape of the 1960s such as the glamour of underground, countercultural movements; the siege of university campuses; the rebirth of dandyism; and the power acquired by intellectual gurus such as Timothy Leary who is parodied in Donally (p. 18). However, they are different from the other novels written in the 1960s in ways which anticipate the later fiction. Indeed, both novels may be seen as transitional works, bridging the gap between the Bristol trilogy and the less realistic mode of the post-1970 novels.
While there are good reasons for discussing The Magic Toyshop and Heroes and Villains in a separate chapter from the Bristol trilogy, there is also a valid case to be made for considering the two novels in tandem....
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SOURCE: Henstra, Sarah M. “The Pressure of New Wine: Performative Reading in Angela Carter's The Sadeian Woman.” Textual Practice 13, no. 1 (spring 1999): 97-117.
[In the following essay, Henstra analyzes the acts of reading and revision in The Sadeian Woman.]
Angela Carter's critical essay on the Marquis de Sade entitled The Sadeian Woman is the most notorious of her non-fiction endeavours.1 Its ambivalent attitude towards the pornographic writings of the ‘old monster’ who gave sadism its name—an attitude poised between praise and censure, curiosity and indignance—guaranteed the essay a mixed reception amidst the neophyte feminist debates on pornography at the time of its 1979 publication. The work raises questions about the differences between rereading older texts, as Carter does here, and rewriting them, as she does in much of her fictional work: Which practice is more politically effective? Which is more conducive to imaginative freedom? Which is better at avoiding complicity with the text it sets out to critique? Carter's view of the relationship between reading and writing suggests their mutual contribution to creativity: ‘Reading is just as creative an activity as writing and most intellectual development depends upon new readings of old texts. I am all for putting new wine in old bottles, especially if the pressure of the new wine makes the old bottles...
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SOURCE: Goh, Robbie B. H. “Supernatural Interactions, Eastern Ghosts, and Postmodern Narrative: Angela Carter's Fireworks.” Ariel 30, no. 3 (July 1999): 63-85.
[In the following essay, Goh discusses Eastern, orientalist themes in Carter's essays.]
The work of deconstructing and dismantling “orientalist” discourses by such scholars as Edward Said and Chris Bongie reaches an impasse at the borders of the postmodern narrative. Said's key work, Orientalism, in the first place, is essentially a historiography concerned with “a Western style for dominating, restructuring and having authority over the Orient” (3). This historiography encounters—and sets itself—certain limits in space and time: it is primarily interested in the “Franco-British involvement in the Orient,” particularly “from the beginning of the nineteenth century until the end of World War II” (3, 4). Secondly, Said generally focuses on a relatively straightforward mode of discourse, what he calls “scholarship,” which from a poststructuralist point of view might be seen as an old-fashioned belief in objective “facts” of society, an observation that is true even of more recent versions of orientalism in the 1960s and 1970s. Said himself disparages this “new American social-science attention to the Orient” (4), which reduces Islamic cultures by failing to consider their literary articulations. Said's own...
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SOURCE: Parker, Emma. “The Consumption of Angela Carter: Women, Food, and Power.” Ariel 31, no. 3 (July 2000): 141-69.
[In the following essay, Parker interprets Carter's literature of consumption as a rebellion against patriarchy.]
A great writer and a great critic, V. S. Pritchett, used to say that he swallowed Dickens whole, at the risk of indigestion. I swallow Angela Carter whole, and then I rush to buy Alka Seltzer. The “minimalist” nouvelle cuisine alone cannot satisfy my appetite for fiction. I need a “maximalist” writer who tries to tell us many things, with grandiose happenings to amuse me, extreme emotions to stir my feelings, glorious obscenities to scandalise me, brilliant and malicious expressions to astonish me.
As Guido Almansi suggests, consuming Angela Carter's fiction is simultaneously satisfying and unsettling. This is partly because, as Hermione Lee has commented, Carter “was always in revolt against the ‘tyranny of good taste’” (316). As a champion of moral pornography, a cultural dissident who dared to disparage Shakespeare, and a culinary iconoclast who criticised the highly-esteemed cookery writer Elizabeth David, Carter outraged many people. Yet this impiety also gives her work its appeal.1 Like the critical essays, her fiction is deliciously...
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SOURCE: Pollock, Mary S. “Angela Carter's Animal Tales: Constructing the Non-Human.” Lit: Literature Interpretation Theory 11, no. 1 (July 2000): 35-57.
[In the following essay, Pollock discusses Carter's representation of animals in her works.]
When she died in 1992, Angela Carter's close friend Salman Rushdie wrote that “English literature has lost its high sorceress, its benevolent witchqueen, a burlesque artist of genius and antic grace” (5). Carter disliked serious references to goddesses, sorcerers, and magic, and would have perhaps rejected the first two encomia, but she would have accepted the others.1 Sometimes, she admitted ruefully that the “antic grace” of her stories threatened to obscure and muffle the hard core of meaning that was as important to her as the entertainment offered in stories; and she admired writers whose style did not distract from what they wanted to say—Christina Stead, for example, who taught herself to “compose […] like a blind man throwing paint against a wall” (“Christina Stead” 571).2
Nevertheless, even the first part of Rushdie's assessment rings true: Carter's work seems magically seductive. She had begun to attract an academic following several years before her death and, since then, the response to her work has burgeoned: her stories are overdetermined, resistant to analysis, and yet irresistible to...
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SOURCE: Goertz, Dee. “To Pose or Not to Pose: The Interplay of Object and Subject in the Works of Angela Carter.” In British Women Writing Fiction, edited by Abby H. P. Werlock, pp. 213-25. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2000.
[In the following essay, Goertz addresses the dangers for women of being objects of desire rather than active sexual subjects in Carter's writings.]
Vampires and sleeping beauties, winged trapeze artists and puppets, werewolves and showgirls—the female characters of Angela Carter's exuberant fiction assume a variety of roles, some from the conventions of realistic fiction but most from fairy tale and fantasy. By using magical realism with a feminist edge, she makes up for the rarity of the female perspective in initiation myths and quests for self-discovery. She portrays young women (and, in some cases, mature women) threading their way through their own awakening sexual desires, male desires, male threats, and self-knowledge. The way is filled with beauty and terror, danger and freedom. In story after story, one of the main obstacles that Carter's female characters confront is their treatment as objects, as things for men to look at, manipulate, and possess. Her protagonists learn that being an object of desire is dangerous, leading not only to a diminishing of the self, but sometimes to physical annihilation.
Carter discusses this issue on a...
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Bacchilega, Cristina. “In the Eye of the Fairy Tale: Corinna Sargood and David Wheatley Talk about Working with Angela Carter.” Marvels and Tales: Journal of Fairy Tale Studies 12, no. 1 (1998): 213-28.
Discussion among Bacchilega, Sargood (an illustrator of Carter's works) and Wheatley (director of a production of The Magic Toyshop) about working with Carter.
Bradfield, Scott. “Remembering Angela Carter.” Review of Contemporary Fiction 14, no. 3 (fall 1994): 90-3.
Memorial of Carter, with an interview conducted in 1991.
Clark, Robert. “Angela Carter's Desire Machine.” Women's Studies 14, no. 2 (1987): 147-61.
Questions the extent to which Carter's fiction liberates readers from patriarchy.
Coover, Robert. “A Passionate Remembrance.” Review of Contemporary Fiction 14, no. 3 (fall 1994): 9-10.
Briefly recounts Coover's friendship with Carter.
Pearson, Jacqueline. “These Tags of Literature: Some Uses of Allusion in the Early Novels of Angela Carter.” Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction 40, no. 3 (spring 1999): 248-56.
Examines the connection between Carter's dualisms and her use of allusions in her early novels.
Sage, Lorna. “Angela Carter:...
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