Decadent Daughters and Monstrous Mothers

Angela Carter and European Gothic

Author: Rebecca Munford

This book develops insights into the vexed question of Carter's textual practices through the dusty lens of the Gothic. It argues that European Gothic is vital to illuminating and understanding the tension between politics and aesthetics in Carter's work. The book shows how a more concerted focus on Carter's European literary inheritance sheds light on her particular and perverse engagements with androcentric literary and cultural frameworks. It emblematises the tension between her textual extravagancies and her self-declared 'absolute and committed materialism'. Her firm belief 'that this world is all that there is, and in order to question the nature of reality one must move from a strongly grounded base in what constitutes material reality'. The book examines the fraught relationship between Carter's sexual and textual politics. Exploring the ways in which Carter's work speaks to broader discussions about the Gothic and its representations, the book is especially concerned with analysing her textual engagements with a male-authored strand of European Gothic. This is a dirty lineage that can be mapped from the Marquis de Sade's obsession with desecration and defilement to surrealism's violent dreams of abjection. The book not only situates Carter as part of a European Gothic tradition but theoretically aligns her with what Jane Gallop, in her book on Sade, describes as France's "deconstructive" feminism, daughter of antihumanism.

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‘Witty, incisive, and rigorously argued, this book offers a genuinely fresh perspective on the work of Angela Carter by placing it in the context of European Gothic writing by authors such as de Sade, Baudelaire, J.-K. Huysmans and those like Poe who, while not European, were heavily influenced by that tradition. Munford skilfully uses images and motifs from Carter's own work (such as dust, chess, the thorny hedge surrounding the castle of Sleeping Beauty) as points of return and to inflect her argument and these lend her own book a beautiful and elegant coherence.'
Professor Avril Horner

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