Angela Carter: The Classic Disruptor

  20 years ago, a maverick British female writer passed away, she was Angela Carter (1940-1992), known in the literary world for rewriting fairy tale classics and unparalleled original style. Elaine Showalter calls Carter an object of adoration for British men of letters because of her pivotal influence on the writing of contemporary British women, including magic realism, absurdism, science fiction, gothic, feminism, and postmodernism. It can refer to his works, but they are not enough to cover all of them, and no one style is enough to fully express his rich and varied novel world. The writer, who died young, insisted on a stubborn and anti-traditional attitude all his life, so he was excluded from the mainstream literary circle by the conservative forces in the British literary world. However, after her death in 1992, her reputation skyrocketed, and people began to mourn “the most memorable contemporary”.
  A short life
  Carter was born on May 7, 1940 in Eastbourne, a port city in Sussex, England. Her father, Hugh Stoker, was a reporter for the Newspaper Association and served in the military throughout the First World War before moving to work in Barham in the South. Stoker often took his daughter to the Grenada cinema in Dudin, where the chic Alhambra-inspired architecture and star Jane Simmons’ charisma in South Sea Paradise left a lasting impression on Carter. , making “beautiful and fashionable” and “infinite charm” become the key words of joy and praise in her later creative vocabulary. Her well-informed grandmother, from South Yorkshire, and the folk tales she told were important to Angela as a child, Carter writes in her memoirs: “Every word of her , Every action shows a certain natural authority and innate wildness, and now I am grateful for all that, and those folklore and stories have provided me with a completely different and magnificent world.” Carter’s mother She is a gifted, intelligent, hard-working person who “likes everything to be well-organized”. She passed the academic level exam in high school. In the 1920s, she worked as a clerk in Selfridges department store and successfully passed the relevant assessment during the probationary period. . She hopes that her daughter can run her own business as self-reliance and independence as she does.
  So Carter went to Streatham Grammar School on the advice of his mother. After graduating, she once fantasized about becoming an Egyptian antiquities scholar backfired on her father’s arrangement to become a news reporter for the Croydon Advertiser. Carter believed that the factual reporting of the news constrained his wild imagination, so he transcribed record columns and feature articles. At the age of 21, Carter met her first husband, a chemistry teacher at Bristol Technical College. That same year, she began specializing in medieval literature at the University of Bristol. Since then, medieval literary forms such as fables or stories, as well as a variety of vulgar to romantic styles, can be seen everywhere in her work.
  During the counterculture of the 1960s, Carter came into contact with “situationists” and “anarchists”, tapped them for an interest in folklore, and with her husband discovered 1960s folk and jazz music circle. During this period, she began to write novels. In 1965 Carter published his debut novel, Shadow Dance. In 1968, he won the Maugham Prize for Fiction for his novel Several Perceptions. With a hefty cash prize and travel opportunities offered by the Somerset Maugham Award, Carter escaped from her emotionally estranged husband in 1969 and chose Japan as a travel destination with a cult of Akira Kurosawa’s films. , began a two-year guest life in the East. Japan was an important turning point for her, as the experience of living in a foreign country gave her a new way of looking at her own culture and enhanced her ability to create strangeness from familiarity. During this time, she also came into contact with French exiles, such as Frank, who settled in Japan due to the “May Storm” in 1968, thereby deepening her connection with the Surrealist movement. During her time in Japan, she wrote two novels: Love (1971); The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (1972), a novel about the conflicting changes in contemporary reality. A grotesque, diverse fable of the tramp.
  After returning from Japan, Carter continued to travel in the United States, Western Europe and other places. During this period, Carter repeatedly received invitations from various colleges and universities. In 1976, Carter was elected as one of the Fellows of the Arts Society of Great Britain, while teaching writing courses at the University of Sheffield. From 1980 to 1981, he traveled and taught around Australia as a visiting professor of Brown University’s writing program, and finally settled in London, where he taught at the University of East Anglia. During this time, Carter married Mark Pierce, with whom they had a son, Alexander, in 1983. In 1984, Carter won the James Tate Bright Memorial Prize for Literature for his novel Nights at the Circus. Died of cancer in London in 1992 at the age of 52.
  Carter wrote eight novels, three collections of short stories, two works of non-fiction, and a large number of newspaper articles, poems, plays, and children’s literature in his lifetime. Carter’s works are deeply loved by readers and have a wide range of influence. In addition to her many works, she has won the British Literature Award. Her short fairy tales “With Wolves” and “Magic Toy Shop” have been made into movies, “The Circus”. Night and Wise Children have also been adapted into stage plays in London.
  Carter’s life was short, only 52 years old, and she died before the world could right her position. British critic Michael Wood compared Carter to world-class writers such as Nabokov, Marquez, and Beckett, and also called Carter “the Rushdie of women writers” and “the British Calvino”. After her death, Rushdie also wrote in the New York Times: As a great writer, despite Carter’s worldwide reputation, in British soil, to some extent, she never got what she deserved. status. But six years after Carter’s death, the American St. Martin Press published a series of monographs on the study of modern novelists, including Carter, which meant that she entered the list of important writers of the 20th century. In 2006, spontaneously promoted by many female readers, another wave of Carter’s works reviewing was set off in the UK. Two years later, Angela Carter was ranked tenth on The Times’ list of the “50 Greatest Post-War British Writers”.
  Subversion and parody of classics
  In Carter’s life, the short story has the symbolic meaning and won the most praise for him. Many of these works focus on bold parody and rewriting of classic European fairy tales. In her view, traditional fairy tales, when acting as a machine for the ideological control of a patriarchal society, continue and develop the dominant values ​​in a patriarchal society, and are powerful tools to suppress and restrain children, especially girls. , to domesticate the child’s natural instinctive resistance into obedience. After realizing the various ideologies that impede women in the traditional androcentric fairy tales, Carter is determined to use the method of retelling the classics and subversively rewrite them based on fairy tales. The tenth fairy tale “The Company of Wolves” (1984) in his short story collection “Bloodstained Room” is an example.
  The protagonist in “With Wolves” is innocent, but not as ignorant as “Little Red Riding Hood” in traditional fairy tales, she knows the aggressiveness of wolves and armed herself with daggers. When the little girl was passing through a forest, she met a werewolf who ate her grandmother and disguised herself as a handsome hunter. The final ending is the most subversive. The little girl who arrived at her grandmother’s house was not eaten by the werewolf, but helped the werewolf undress and fell asleep between the werewolf’s gentle claws. Among them, the little girl and the werewolf had such a dialogue: “Yeah, your teeth are so big!” The wolf said: “This is how you will be delicious.” The little girl laughed and said that she knew that she was not anyone’s food. In this fairy tale, Carter obviously takes a feminist stance against the traditional androcentric morality. She did not conceive the story according to the traditional concept, but challenged the male-centrism, and finally allowed the protagonist to master the initiative of his own destiny and save the danger. In the story, we can see that the little girl is not a passive weak, but a new woman who is active and good at self-protection. This subversion of traditional fairy tales exposes the unjust treatment of women in a male-centered society, and awakens the consciousness of a new generation of feminists: what women seek is not to fight against wolves (males), but to fight against wolves Companion; not the right to rule, but the right to equality.
  Also in the novel “Night at the Circus,” the author connects the horrors of the Gothic novel with the Sleeping Beauty of the well-known fairy tale. The Sleeping Beauty in the fairy tale sleeps for a hundred years just to get a kiss from the prince to give her a new life. The princess also gets real happiness from then on, so women are advised to be patient and wait passively before they can get happiness. Carter pointed out that this story is extremely deceptive, believing the story and indulging in it will fall into the trap of “sexual power”. The author focuses on the torment and suffering of the heroine in the dream world: “Under these gentle veins, her eyes keep moving, as if watching a comic ballet. Sometimes her hands and feet cramp and twist, It was like dreaming of rabbits and dog paws, and sometimes she whimpered softly or cried out loud.” This pointed out that Sleeping Beauty’s dream was not perfect, and powerfully exposed the deceit of the original fairy tale. If the reader is blindly addicted to the story, he will fall asleep for a long time like the Sleeping Beauty in this story, and his spirit will become numb. The author metaphors that readers will not only be deceived physically, but also mentally deceived more seriously. Sleeping Beauty blindly sleeps in dreams, turning a blind eye to reality, seeking perfection in dreams, and Carter points out that this dream world is also hypocritical. Just as Carter wanted to expose the deceit of fairy tales to women, female friends became addicted to it because they believed in the ideas and concepts promoted by patriarchy and superstitious about the fate of the heroine in the story, and finally got mental numbness and pain.
  fantasy style
  Carter has been using a Gothic fantasy writing style since she published her first full-length thriller “Shadowdance” in 1966, but this does not mean that she only stays at the level of describing horror stories in the traditional sense. Carter’s understanding of Gothic can be seen in his collection of stories, Fireworks. She said: “The Gothic tradition I’ve written about greatly ignores the values ​​of society, confronts all worldly human feelings, the themes are incest and cannibalism, and the characters and events are exaggerated too far from reality. Such a style It tends to be rhetorical and unnatural, and thus runs counter to people’s desire to believe that words are true, and its humor can only be black humor…” Carter believes that Gothic stories should be read rather than told: Cruel, mysterious, terrifying, and absurd stories are all directly related to unconscious imagery—mirrors, alienated selves, abandoned castles, haunted forests… Carter uses a gothic fantasy style to create a terrifying atmosphere, Describing bizarre, mysterious and tyrannical plots makes the story ups and downs, swaying, and attracts all kinds of readers.
  Carter’s presentation of Gothic scenes is mainly reflected in the description of cemeteries, forests, and abandoned castles, and contains a modern flavor. For example, in “Blood Room”, the heroine is about to become the wife of an old marquis, and after a long bumpy train ride, she came to a gloomy castle. This ancient castle is located in the embrace of the sea, but neither on land nor in the water, but in a mysterious amphibious place. The way to the castle is the corridor that emerges from the sea after the daily tide ebbs. This castle, reached across the sea, naturally introduces the reader into a mysterious world. When the bride visited the secret room of the forbidden area at night, she saw the tortuous corridor, the tapestry of Venice, the punishment table, the beheading machine, the coffin of the Renaissance craftsmanship, the blood, the skeleton, the corpse, the blood that cannot be washed off the key, etc. All of them feel creepy but highlight their terrifying atmosphere.
  Carter’s wild imagination is breathtaking, and it’s not just her writing skills. Through Carter’s “rewriting”, the legends and fairy tales that have always been in the face of “love” and “comedy” have been peeled off the veil of tenderness, revealing the true face of social relations and even power relations.
  Such subversion, however, is not Carter’s “reckless act.” It is through the subversion of traditional fairy tales and the writing of Gothic fantasy that Angela Carter breaks through the traditional binary opposition mode, and re-expresses Western feminism’s understanding of the role and status of women from the moral theme and specific details of the story, exploring It determined the development direction of the new feminist literature with the ultimate equality between men and women, shaped the new image of modern women, and had a profound impact on the contemporary real society.