Gothic times : feminism and postmodernism in the novels of Angela Carter
The problematic relationship between feminism and postmodernism manifests itself, in contemporary fiction by women, as a conflict between political and aesthetic practices which is ultimately waged upon the ground of subjectivity. Angela Carter's novels offer an extended exploration of subjectivity which utilises, in many ways self consciously, the ongoing theorisation of subjectivity and related notions - notably desire, gender and power - which characterises contemporary feminist and postmodernist philosophy. This thesis offers a series of readings of Carter's novels which traces their engagement with particular aspects of the theorisation of subjectivity. It attempts to present Carter's novels as examples of how the aesthetic and the political can to a certain extent be combined, and of how feminist political practice can be both represented and problematised in the postmodernist fictional text, while postmodernist aesthetic practices are also exploited but problematised in and by that exploitation. The Introduction explores the relationship between feminist and postmodernist theories of the subject, through a survey of theorists from both 'camps' and a brief survey of contemporary women novelists, before discussing the critical neglect of Carter's fiction. Chapter 2 explores more extensively the confluence of feminist, postmodernist and psychoanalytic models of the subject and offers an exemplary reading of a short story by Carter, in order to demonstrate certain stylistic and thematic characteristics of her fiction. In particular, psychoanalytic models of subjectivity are examined. The succeeding two Chapters address Carter's early (pre-1972) novels in order to explore the development of her fictional career from its context of 1960s British fiction, and trace the progressive elaboration of certain thematic preoccupations in their nascent form. Three further Chapters individually address each novel in Carter's 'trilogy' so as to demonstrate how each text explores a particular aspect of the construction of the postmodern self. The Conclusion offers a reading of Carter's fiction as extensively engaged, both at a formal and a thematic level, with the deconstruction of conventional notions of the self in order to expose the political interests invested in those notions. Carter's last novel is also addressed in the context of this discussion, as are the ways in which Carter's fiction offers contributions to the feminist/postmodernist debate as discussed throughout the thesis. Throughout the thesis, extensive reference is made to critical and theoretical works which elucidate or impinge upon the themes addressed in Carter's novels, and Carter's own comments in interviews and in her critical texts are also utilised.