Sunday, March 11, 2012

Angela Carter by Beth from Thoughts From the Hearthfire (Awesome Women)

Today, I have the great pleasure of introducing Beth from Thoughts from the Hearthfire to the blog! Beth has written a brilliant guest post about a very cool-sounding lady, Angela Carter, but I happen to think that Beth is pretty awesome too! She's a teacher, blogger, writer, and mother and I urge you all to follow her lovely blog! Over to you, Beth...

To find out more about Beth, please do visit the following websites:

Angela Carter is an Awesome Woman indeed. She opened my eyes to feminism as a sixth former, in studying The Magic Toyshop (pub 1967) and I’ve since devoured practically everything she’s written.

She lived from 1940 to 1992, wrote in just about every form possible: novels, short stories, poetry, essays, plays, radio plays, and described her work as “demythologising”. I think this meant that her intention was to deconstruct (and generally mess about) with the myths of sex and gender.

So why is she so awesome? She presented feminism to me (and to many others like me) through rich symbols and irreverent images. As a teenager I admired her erudition and intellect, gobbling up her classical references and learning a lot about psychoanalysis at the same time. (She was a great lover of the uncanny double motif, particularly in a gothic or suffocating domestic setting). And yet, I also revelled in the earthiness of her writing, presenting sexuality in many forms and (to the delight of many of my classmates in that A Level class) the use of a good four letter word once in a while.

The feminism she offered was more about questions than answers and, as a teenager who hadn’t really thought about these things before, this was mind-opening. She made me notice assumptions about femininity and masculinity which I’d never seen before, and encouraged me to delight along with her in the mixing up of these. A particularly striking image is that of Mother in 1977’s The Passion of New Eve, representing female power. She leads a tribe of Amazon-like women, each of whom has donated a breast so that Mother has rows of them, like a sow. Her hideout is in an underground chamber, reached by a narrow tunnel – yeah, you’ve got it, heavy on the threatening female anatomy. I didn’t claim she was subtle, although this particular work is perhaps the heaviest in this kind of symbolism. The Magic Toyshop is a much gentler introduction.

Carter was (to my mind) a true feminist though – not interested solely in woman’s struggle for sexual equality, she was a believer in equality in a range of ways and delighted in mixing high and low culture in her work. She clearly demonstrated that so-called low culture can have as much mythic resonance as the most highbrow institution. Wise Children is perhaps the clearest example of this fascination, with its legitimate family members involved in Shakespearean theatre and the illegitimate twins being music hall girls.

The short story collection, The Bloody Chamber, which she is perhaps now best known for, also exemplifies this in its riffing on folk and fairy tales.

Her work is still taught at A Level, and I’m hopeful that teenagers for generations to come will be offered the chance to analyse the way society works through her glorious writing.

Thank you, Clover, for letting me visit your lovely blog and take part in the Awesome Women feature.

Thank YOU Beth for such a lovely guest post! Do visit Beth at Thoughts from the Heartfire!


  1. Great post, I hadn't heard of Angela Carter before but I'm definitely going to be checking her out now.

  2. I love Angela Carter and I love this post!

  3. THank you so much for this wonderful guest post Beth :) I've not read anything yet by Angela Carter, but I'd now like to!

  4. Thanks for having me visit, Clover. It's been great to have the opportunity to think through why Carter is awesome!


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