Disgust, desire and dead women: Angela Carter's re-writing women's fatal scripts from Poe and Lovecraft

Gina Wisker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapterpeer-review


Angela Carter’s writing is crucial to the rebirth of Gothic horror in the late twentieth century, and an impetus to read, or re-read, myth, fairytale, and the work of Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft, each significant, acknowledged influences. Carter’s work deconstructs the consistently replayed, cautionary narrative of myth and fairytale in which (mainly young) women are first represented as objects of a prurient idolatry, then sacrificed to reinstate the purity and balance which their constructed presence apparently disturbs. Carter shows it is possible and essential to tell other stories. When she turns on her horror influences, she continues this exposé of the representation of women as objects of desire and disgust, springing as it does from ontological insecurity and deep-seated confusions concerning sex and power. Revising and rewriting constraining narratives, Carter’s work draws us into the rich confusions of the language, the psychology, the physical entrapments and artifices and the constraining myths, which both Poe and Lovecraft play out through their representations of women, and which her work re-enacts to explode and re-write. As a late twentieth-century feminist, Carter critiques, parodies and exposes the underlying sexual terrors, the desire and disgust fuelling representations of women as variously dead or deadly. Reading early work, ‘The Snow Child’ (1979), and ‘The Man Who Loved a Double Bass’ (1962/95) and ‘The Loves of Lady Purple’ (1974) we move to re-reading parts of her later work including Nights at the Circus (1987). Imaginatively re-stirring the potion of myth, fairytale and horror, Carter’s women reject the roles of victims, puppets, pawns, of deadly sexual predators or hags, defining and seizing their own sexuality and agency, having the last laugh.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Arts of Angela Carter
Subtitle of host publicationA cabinet of curiosities
EditorsMarie Mulvey-Roberts
Place of PublicationManchester
PublisherManchester University Press
ISBN (Print)9781526136770
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019


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