Angela Carter‘s (Post-)feminist Gothic Heroines

Carter‘s fiction sits uneasily in relation to both Gothic and feminist discourses, especially as they converge through the category of the ‘female Gothic’. Owing to her interest in pornography and her engagement with the sexual/textual violence of specifically ‘male Gothic’ scripts – for example, the Gothic scenarios of Sade, Poe, Hoffmann, Baudelaire and Stoker – Carter‘s Gothic heroines have frequently been censured as little more than objects of sadistic male desires by feminist critics. This article re-reads Carter‘s sexual/textual violations – her defiance of dominant feminist and Gothic categories and categorisations – through the problematic of (post-)feminist discourse and, especially, the tension between ‘victim’ and ‘power’ feminisms as prefigured in her own (Gothic) treatise on female sexual identity, The Sadeian Woman (1979). Mapping the trajectory of her Gothic heroine from Ghislaine in Shadow Dance (1966) to Fevvers in Nights at the Circus (1984), it re-contextualises Carters engagements with the Gothic as a dialogue with both the female Gothic and feminist discourse.

Gothic Studies
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body and sexuality in reverse motion

’s cinema that are simply left out of such exclusively thematic accounts of sexuality and (sado)masochism, however compelling. Nor do these zones correspond neatly to the usual norms of gay aestheticism, for example, the exaltation of the false as beautiful as proposed by Marcel Eck in Sodome (1966). Resisting the temptation merely to search for hidden or repressed gay images and symbols in Cocteau’s work, an approach that can

in Jean Cocteau
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Female body hair on the screen

encouraged to identify with and be sympathetic to Ruth in the opening scenes, by the end she is callous and evil: the final episodes can be seen as constituting a betrayal or trick in terms of the earlier characterisation. The change in direction has important ramifications for the semi-otic meanings attached to Ruth’s physical presentation, as it implies that her facial hair, which may originally have elicited pity, comes to allude to a range of ‘sexual perversions’: bestiality; lesbianism; transvestism; trans-sexuality and sado-masochism. Along with the editing style

in The last taboo
Open Access (free)

-cutting problems presented by cultural-political agendas that need certain modernist tropes to validate their ascendancy.Roper’s feminist account of male–female relations benefits a great deal from the discovery/existence of an oppressive, patriarchal psychosexual dynamic of sado-masochism in witch trials; in the case of modern analyses of martyrdom, modernist views of religion benefit even more by reducing martyrdom to psychological and

in Male witches in early modern Europe
Tenebrae(1978)

’ sonnet with his ‘trim-plugged body, wreath of rakish thorn’ ( CP p. 148). The seductive complexities of the image of blood-sacrifice, its implicit sado-masochism, the sly calculation in that phrase ‘dealing his five wounds’, the eroticism that lies behind its offer of selfless love is all a part of the complex mythology that is Christ. The martyr’s self-wounding that can, through obsessive self-regard, become self-seeking extends even to Christ, as I seek to argue in my accompanying essay on ‘Lachrimae’. The second of the two epigraphs that preface the complete ‘The

in Acceptable words
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conference provoked ‘instant outrage’ when she suggested that ‘teenagers should be taught about masturbation as an integral part of safe-sex education’. 23 President Clinton ‘demanded and received [Elders’] resignation the same day’. 24 In an age when the sexual practices of gay men, lesbians and devotees of sado-masochism, as well as some of the more extreme forms of paraphilia such as bestiality, have been laid bare, or at least discussed, in television documentaries, autoeroticism remains a facet of sexuality that remains relatively under-explored. Masturbation may be

in The secret vice
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promote the feminist cause by presenting more positive images of women, but her great subject is women’s attempt to confront and work through the negative images of themselves that they have internalised: ‘My own position is that a woman must be a militant feminist in life, but when she is making a work of art, things are different. Real life is confused. As a feminist artist, it is difficult to take responsibility for feelings such as unease, 8 catherine breillat confusion, shame, self-destruction, sado-masochism – all these are human feelings you can claim as an

in Catherine Breillat
The broken body and the shining body

the two postures are closely allied can be seen in the way he even spoke of ‘sado-masochism’. 8 Deleuze challenges that assumption, arguing that sadism and masochism have fundamentally different aesthetics and textual forms. Aesthetics have been core to an understanding of sadism and masochism ever since the terms were coined: the very terms are derived from the authors of literary texts

in Open Graves, Open Minds
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all the time about anything is unsexy’; and to perform a docile benevolence: ‘smiles are sexy’ (Cited in Jeffreys 1990 : 106). In the course of his career, Roman Polanski’s directorial output has been associated with a glorification of sado-masochism, a satanic vision and misogyny. He is not the most obvious candidate to exemplify the radical anti-heterosexual, anti-S&M agenda of Sheila Jeffreys. Moreover, critical analyses

in From perversion to purity
Clotilde Escalle’s tales of transgression

, unnatural or perverted to some readers. In many ways, her novels are challenges to, even attacks on, the power of the normal. It is, however, important to remember that the normal is not, and should not be, equated with the natural, but that it is the normal which holds sway in society. Furthermore, we should remember that even the natural is a category that is suspect and invariably context-dependent. As Phillips argues, in psychoanalytic terms, when a woman chooses masochism in a relationship, sado-masochism can be seen as representing masculine domination and feminine

in Women’s writing in contemporary France