Commodification, corporeality and paranormal romance in Angela Carter’s beast tales
Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber is full of metamorphoses, between animal and human, but also of texts. Variants on the same tales and themes allow her to examine the same problems in various ways from different angles. ‘Red Riding Hood’, the wolf and the werewolf are central motifs. This chapter analyses how Carter’s tales depict flesh (usually female) as in the marketplace. Flesh is commodified, but exchange value becomes transformed into use value (that is, following Marx, its sensuous particularity is restored) through her miraculous metamorphoses. There is a vision of utopian mutuality in desire, emancipated and enhanced by immersion into the non-human – a liberation not only from patriarchy but also from the capitalist commodification of those bodies. She initiates the generic hybridity of present-day paranormal romance, where the monster of traditional Gothic becomes a sympathetic lover, forming an architext for the new genre of paranormal romance. The transformations of fairy tale that Carter pioneered work on prior ‘horizons of expectation’ and form one of the devices of that genre. Carter intermodulates genres to create a form that looks back to questions first raised in the Enlightenment about what humanity is and our relation to nature and animality, and bequeathing her explorations to her successors.
Essence, difference and assimilation in Daniel Waters’s Generation Dead
Vampire fiction is enormously popular because of how easily it dramatises contemporary concerns with the politics of difference, in a new demonstration of the adaptability of the Undead as political metaphor. The fascination with the zombie may well be due to the need to fill a monstrous gap left by the assimilation of the vampire into human society. Daniel Waters's significant gesture is to choose zombies as the subject of a teen romance and thriller rather than the over-fashionable vampires. Yet one of the most dialectically subtle of recent presentations of legally undead would-be citizens is to be found in Waters's Generation Dead novel for young adults, and its sequels, Kiss of Life and Passing Strange. The destabilising of life/death is part of the critique of essences which makes Generation Dead a sympathetic, but critical, view on identity politics.
The book explores crucial questions concerning human social existence and its animal substrate, and the intersection between the human and the wolfishly bestial. The collection connects together innovative research on the cultural significance of wolves, wild children and werewolves from a variety of perspectives. We begin with the wolf itself as it has been interpreted as a cultural symbol and how it figures in contemporary debates about human existence, wilderness and nature. Alongside this, we consider eighteenth-century debates about wild children – often thought to have been raised by wolves and other animals – and their role in key questions about the origins of language and society. The collection continues with analyses of the modern werewolf and its cultural connotations in texts from nineteenth-century Gothic through early cinema to present-day television and Young Adult fiction, concluding with the transitions between animal and human in contemporary art, poetry and fashion.
The Open Graves, Open Minds project discussed in this book relates the undead in literature, art and other media to questions concerning gender, technology, consumption and social change. The story of vampires, since their discovery in eighteenth-century Europe, is one of transformations and interbreedings of genre, which mediate shifts in ways of knowing and doubting. It is marked by metamorphoses of the vampire itself, from monstrous to sympathetic, but always fascinatingly Other. Certain tropes, such as optical figures, and particularly that of reflection, recur throughout, calling attention to the preoccupation with epistemology in vampire narratives. The book focuses on various aspects of these themes as the story unfolds to the present day. It shows how the persona of Lord Byron became an effective vehicle for the vampire of fiction as a transformed Gothic mode, and grapples with the figure of the non-reflecting vampire who casts no shadow, moving deftly between Dracula and Wilde's Dorian Gray and the 'vampire painting' and installations of the contemporary artist David Reed. The book gives a luminous account of early vampire cinema as a 'Kingdom of shadows', and explores the undead at the interface, where knowing becomes problematic: 'unsettlement'. The book also unearths the folklore roots of vampire fiction and offers a glimpse of how contemporary writers adapt the perennial figure.
This chapter investigates the relationship, in reality, folktale, literature and popular culture, between wolves and untruth, in various forms. From the fables of Aesop to the cartoons of Disney, the use of the wolf as a metaphor for deception is long and appears deeply engrained in the human psyche. Basing an understanding of this metaphor on the fundamental nature of the animal appears at first sound, but starts to crumble when we appreciate that different cultures have not universally viewed the wolf in wholly negative terms of a ravenous, malevolent predator. Since the wolf appears frequently in hoax stories about feral children, the chapter goes on to study the very validity of the ‘wild child’ and concludes by discussing the obverse of the negative accounts of the wolf’s ‘wildness’. That this beast is free and natural thus appeals to some as a token for a missing link between ourselves and the natural world, which we have largely left behind us.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book shows how the persona of Lord Byron became the effective vehicle for the vampire of fiction as a transformed Gothic mode. It analyses Le Fanu's 'Carmilla', with its seductive lesbian vampire, alongside his vampiric tale 'The Mysterious Lodger'. The book provides a luminous account of early vampire cinema as a 'Kingdom of Shadows', digging up lost cinematic texts which should be better known. It explores the Dracula's exclamation 'I, too, can love', and also examines the complex intertextuality involved with Dracula and Twilight, via Francis Ford Coppola and Anne Rice, drawing on adaptation studies. In addition, the book discusses the autonomy of the Undead, plotting an unusual argument drawing on theology and linking the monstrous with ideas of human agency and moral responsibility.