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.
contradictory evidence. In addition, Chase-Riboud’s
novel inverts the centre and margins of narrative power, by relegating Baartman’s
white male ‘managers’ and cultural authorities, such as Jane Austen and Charles
Darwin, to bit parts and replacing derogatory cultural constructions of the ‘Hottentot
Venus’ with empowered self-representations, albeit with strains of victim-feminism.
Yet even as it testifies to Baartman’s historical victimisation, Hottentot
Venus also symbolically re-victimises its subject via spectacles of
assertion.” ’ 15
Attendant on this issue is a challenge too to some (mostly popular) feminism to consider more carefully its formulations (referred to earlier) around ‘fun’ feminism and ‘victim’ feminism. The whole idea of make-up and clothing, or other ritual decorative practices, as constituting in any simple way ‘celebrations’ of ‘femininity’, serves to close down important questions around the coercive practices of social ridicule and social exclusion for those not willing or able to participate in this ‘celebration’, never mind around the
Father– daughter incest and the economics of exchange
although this agency is often disregarded. The understanding of Gothic
feminism as a ‘pretended weakness, a pose of innocent victim, a
masquerade of asexual passivity’ overlooks the contrasting
depictions of heroines and their male counterparts in situations of
imprisonment, threats and violence. 78 I refer to ‘Gothic feminism’ as
‘passive feminism’ so as not to confuse ‘victimfeminism’ with the feminist
which are sometimes severe and arbitrary’, in The Orphan
of the Rhine (London: The Folio Press, 1968), p. 127.
Scholarly accounts grounded in heteronormativity
may inscribe these ideologies onto the texts; see particularly Diane
Long Hoeveler’s arguments, influenced by psychoanalysis, that
Gothic writers advocated victim
“Edgy” TV drama Queer as Folk, Sex and the City, Carnivàle
: 140). The excess of the New York lifestyle in which the four
friends luxuriate is seen in such readings in itself to challenge the oppressions of
bourgeois restraint or “victimfeminism”. The guilt experienced in buying a pair
of very expensive shoes is turned not only into pleasure but ultimately into a
“third-wave” feminist strategy (see Henry, 2004: 75 ff.).
Overall, in Akass and McCabe’s summary:
Sex and the City challenges prohibitions and breaks the silence, so that women can
begin to tell their stories and speak about sex differently. Through finding ‘spaces