Desire, disgust and dead women
Angela Carter’s re-writing women’s fatal scripts from Poe and Lovecraft
in The arts of Angela Carter
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Angela Carter’s writing is crucial to the rebirth of Gothic horror in the late twentieth century, and an impetus to read, or re-read, myth, fairy tale and the work of Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft. Her work deconstructs the consistently replayed, cautionary narratives in which (mainly young) women are represented as objects of prurient idolatry, then sacrificed to reinstate the purity and balance which their constructed presence apparently disturbs. Carter tells other stories. Revising and rewriting constraining narratives, Carter’s work draws us into the rich confusions of the language, psychology, physical entrapments, artifices and constraining myths which Poe and Lovecraft play out through their representations of women, and which her work explodes and re-writes. Carter critiques, parodies and exposes underlying sexual terrors, desire and disgust fuelling representations of women as variously dead or deadly. The chapter considers early works, ‘The Snow Child’ (1979), ‘The Man Who Loved a Double Bass’ (1962/95) and ‘The Loves of Lady Purple’ (1974) then later works including Nights at the Circus (1987). Imaginatively re-stirring the potion of myth, fairy tale and horror, Carter’s women reject roles of victims, puppets, pawns, deadly sexual predators or hags, defining and seizing their own sexuality and agency, having the last laugh.

The arts of Angela Carter

A cabinet of curiosities

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