Reading Spells Backwards Allegories of Violence and Love in Edmund Spenser's and Angela Carter's Fairy-Tale and Spéculative Fiction


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PhD thesis: a PhD thesis.
Reading Spells Backwards Allegories of Violence and Love in Edmund Spenser's and Angela Carter's Fairy-Tale and Spéculative Fiction
Walz Marie Emilie
Hennard Dutheil Martine
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Université de Lausanne, Faculté des lettres
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The fiction of feminist Brilish aulhor Angela Carter (1940-1992) is well known for its wide range of intertextual references, from 'high' art to 'low' entertainment. Many of the intertexts she mobilises in her novels and short stories have been documented by critical studies, but new ones are still being discovered. This PhD thesis in particular offers a comparative reading of selected texts by Carter and the poem The Faerie Queene writtcn by Edmund Spenser (1552P-1599), a so far undetected intertext in Carler's fiction.
Studies of Carter's works show how she rewrites male-authored texts in what she famously refers to as her 'demythologising business'. Unpacking the patriarchal mechanisms which reduce female protagonists to stereotypes and fixed images of femininity, Carter provides her own provocative and liberating versions of canonical texts, such as Edgard Allan Poe's Gothic stories, Charles Baudelaire's erotic poems, André Breton's surrealist manifesta, Charles Perrault's contes, the Marquis de Sade's pornography, and William Shakespeare's tragedies, among others. Yet, as she challenges the représentations of gender roles and relations conveyed by these texts, she is also conscious of their latent contents and how these have often been left aside by tradition and criticism. She therefore also seeks to reliabilitate the texts she rewrites and to reclaim them for feminism. Although the evidence that Carter read The Faerie Queene is relatively thin, a comparative reading shows similar processes at work between some of her texts and Spenser's work. As the poem's gender politics and poetics are put into question in Carler's fiction, its inherent complexities are also brought to light and The Faerie Queene cari be re-read in a new light.
This PhD thesis thus offers a close comparative reading of Spenser's The Faerie Queene with Carter's The Bloody Clmnber, Fireworks, The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman, and The Passion of New Eve. The first part of this work, composed of the introduction and the firsl chapter, is contexlual. It explores Carter's knowledge of medieval and early modem literature and establishes the main resemblances between Carter's and Spenser's uses of the allegorical mode of writing as well as the genres of the fairy tale and of spéculative fiction. The other part of this thesis, which includes the second, third, and fourth chapter, provides close comparative readings of the texts from the corpus. Using images from these primary texts as hermeneutic tools, it also develops its own methodology to productively read back and forth between The Faerie Queene and Carler's fiction or, as its title states, to 'read backwards'. Focusing on allegorical archetypes in (lie chapter enlilled 'Reading Kaleidoscopically', on allegorical places in the chapter called 'Reading 011 Diverse Storeys', and on allegorical plots in the chapter 'Reading Beyond', this work shows how Spenser's and Carter's texts are concerned with the violence engendered by processes of allegorisation, whether wriling allegorically or practising allegoresis. While their treatments of such issues vary according to theire respective contexts and idéologies, this thesis also shows that both Carier and Spenser resort to fairy tales and spéculation as disruptive éléments, capable ol undoing the violence of allegory from within the texts themselves and of transcending il by reappropriating through reciprocal love the forms il has created. Both The Faerie Queene and Carter's novels and short stories thus give birth in the end to allégories of love.

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01/02/2019 16:25
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20/08/2019 16:16
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