Angela Carter‘s Exposure of Flesh-Inscribed Stereotypes
The human body is a crucial site for the inscription of cultural paradigms: how people are perceived controls the way they are treated. Postmodernist writers have shown sexual roles, racial inequalities and other forms of discrimination to be parts of a process of reductio ad absurdum, consisting of the identification of the individual‘s social functions with their anatomical features as well as with the habitual marking of their bodies. This article examines Angela Carter‘s The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman where Carter‘s refusal of established body politics is most clearly dramatised. This novel exposes the dreary consequences of power/weakness relations, together with its contradictory exploitation of Gothic devices, making it an esssential testimony to Carter‘s postmodernist reconfiguration of worldviews and narrative modes.
the grand narratives he summons. Much
more than other postmodernwriters, Barker very often summons the narratives
or stories that are instrumental in the constitution of the grand or meta- or
master-narratives. Like other postmodernwriters (Heiner Müller, for instance,
with Medea Material or Hamletmachine), Barker deconstructs these stories (for
example, in Seven Lears). Even when he does stick to the structure of the
hypotext, he undermines its logic: hence Barker writes Scenes from an Execution
in the margins of a humanist story, Claw as a political anti
which human beings form mini-utopias
or subcultural groupings based on a misplaced sense of
‘authenticity’ and, at their most amnesiac, refuse to
entertain the possibility of difference, of contiguous or overlapping
What would be at stake, then, were a literary scholar to
venture by way of conclusion that Lethem might be regarded as a
condition that Jameson once somewhat optimistically named ‘late
capitalism’, is an anxiety represented throughout his fiction.4 However,
for a writer and artist so fascinated by the possibilities of the new,
postmodernism is a problematic label.
Is it even accurate to locate Coupland within the tradition of avantgarde, intellectualism associated with post-1960s American fiction?
Mark Forshaw insists that he ‘has never been a post-modern writer in
the sense that we think of Paul Auster . . . or Donald Barthelme, as
being postmodernwriters’. It
have been logical, since the story concerns twins. Instead of showing the
primacy of heredity, Enright argues, like so many postmodernwriters,
that identity is in constant process. Such a view is at odds with a vision
of nationality founded on ethnic origin, and as a consequence both the
Postnationalism in the Irish novel
characters’ personal search for selfhood and Enright’s deconstruction
of common Irish myths can be linked to a postnationalist position. Hence,
the novel What Are You Like? can be
‘hedgehog’ conception of art
was continued by transition-to-postmodernismwriters like Lawrence
Durrell, Malcolm Lowry, John Fowles, Doris Lessing and Maureen
Duffy, who in their turn have handed it down to postmodernist
writers like Peter Ackroyd, Iain Sinclair, Marina Warner and Jeanette
It is in the light of this transcendentalist tradition that we should
interpret Winterson’s contention that ‘Realism is not a Movement or
a Revolution, in its original incarnation it was a response to a movement, and as a response it was essentially anti-art’ (AO 30–1), as
indulging in a postmodern ‘appropriation of popular
genres’ by more ‘literary’ forms, he treats genres as
serious literature in themselves (Hoborek, 2007 :
238). In truth, Lethem’s engagement with genre is much more
serious than some other contemporary ‘postmodern’ writers,
notably Paul Auster, who are also known for subverting genres. Auster is
similarly self-conscious about his employment of genre
again, a central preoccupation of postmodernwriters.
The notions that ‘fiction’ is untrue, or that identity inheres
in a fixed and sovereign individual consciousness, are part of the
system of knowledge initiated by the intellectual revolutions of
early modern Europe, which crystallised in what has come to be
known the ‘Enlightenment’ of the eighteenth century. Enlightenment conceptions of rationality, knowledge and truth (and,
by implication, their opposites) intensified in the course of the
nineteenth century and became the index of ‘modern
affiliation or familial legacy (even though that traumatic inheritance
may be one of silence and the failure of witnessing), memories so affective they feel as
they have originated in the postmemorial generation’ (Crownshaw 2009: 20).
21 See Anderson (2003: 104–5).
22 See also Denham (2006); Fuchs and Long (2007); etc.
23 On Sebald as modernist and not postmodernist, see also Zilcosky (2004: 102–3). On
Sebald as ‘postmodern’ writer see e.g. Williams, A. (1998 and 2001). See also Kilbourn
(2006: 35; 2007: 139).
24 Cf. Wolff (2009: 318).
25 Long concludes his ‘Roundup’ circa
totalising effect of grand narratives. However, Carter’s
positioning as a postmodernwriter is less than straightforward. Her
fiction is very much concerned with deconstructing the ways in which
patriarchal structures of knowledge and power work to marginalise and
alienate women, but it also insists upon the historical meanings
attached to cultural images and, as Carter puts it in ‘Notes from
the Front Line