Sunday, 29 March 2009

Part 4...........

What Carter is offering us is the radical, and, for some people the horrifying idea that the seemingly innocent child might be just as amoral and savage as the wolf she encounters on her journey. The clean, virginal purity embedded in the ideological image of the child is considerably challenged when a strong, courageous and even savage picture of the child is evoked by her overpowering the wolf through chopping off one of its paws. The knife is a phallic symbol and the author gives the child a sexual maleness through her use of the knife., but more than this, the issue of Freuds theory of female castration has come to the foreground in the story. This is not surprising given Carter`s abiding fascination with the Freudian unconscious. The cutting off of the paw signifies that the wolf`s potency has been restricted, which amounts to a kind of castration, thereby she challenges Freuds theory of women by inverting it and standing it on its head.

The climatic image of the child armed with her fathers hunting knife in the story and holding the grandmother down brings forth many associations, but the main one has to do with the masculine use of overt force to subdue the shrieking grandmother, an analogy to patriarchal domination is again apparent in this scene. The imagery of this scene and its oblique reference to sexuality points to a dangerous feminine potency which could be unleashed were the lid of Pandora`s box opened. The ideology underlying the traditional fairy tale has been in part responsible for the enormity of repression which has kept women in the dark regarding their own innate potency, and this repression is a Pandora`s box which resides in every woman. The situation Carter depicts in her story is analagous to the forces of repression being released and faced.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Part 3.........

Carter sets out to explore the idea of metamorphosis through using the patriarchal orientated traditional fairy tale. She uses Gothic themes of violence, horror, eroticism, injustice, doubling and ureason to dramatise her sense of world paradigms breaking down. The themes in her work reveal her intense fascination with the Freudian unconscious . Carter may have re-imagined the fairy tale, but her work is not just an exercise of imagination; her work is political and is not confined only to feminine politics but reflects psycho social concerns, in particular does it reproduce a `psychological` ideology in which the will of the individual is subordinated to family and society.

The first fairy tale I have chosen is the WEREWOLF. This story represents the nightmare of a Doppelganger encounter and exposes the moral insanity of a community. The tale is a brilliant example of how narrative can be utilised both as a device to entertain and to elecit a prescribed psychological response from the reader, and further subvert the grand narrative of history.

Carter`s visit to the old tale of Red Riding Hood begins with the establishment of repetition through the repetition of the word `cold`. It is a northern country, they have cold hearts, cold hands and cold weather. Through the use of this narrative device she introduced the idea that the variety of experience to be encountered in this type of environment is reduced to a kind of serial repetition, subtly conveying at the same time a sense of affirmation of the eternal return of the same

Her story is focused on a time-locked community where devils and vampires still hold sway. This evokes an image of a community which is resistant to development. furthering the idea of stagnation which was provoked by the use of repetition. She has used this device for pointing out the mental rigidity of characters caught in an inescapable predicament. It also serves to point out how the ideology of the past is contained in the present. In particular it reflects womens relational position through time to patriarchal idelogy.

The use of repetition also gives us the readers a sense of security as we enter Carter`s fictional world. But it is a fragile security, as it is a security engendered only to expose our present understanding of the nature of reality to radical challenge. This kind of cosy familiarity is further extended through Carter`s narrative reportive voice laying special emphasis on the image of a `good` child. We note the word `good` is used in relation to the child`s doing as her mother bids her, bringing in the idea of goodness as conditional on obeying an external imperative. This brings into focus not only the question of an `objective` good, but reflects the stories of many innocent people who give of their life force in the hope of winning love and approval, by obeying the dictates of an `other`.
The cost of disobedience to the child could be the cost of her life because of the dangerous animals to be found in the wood. But this is no ordinary child, as we soon find out when the text of Carters tale violates the known and familiar and the authority of the original story teller by turning the ideology which was embedded in the original tale of Red Riding Hood of an innocent and good child on its head.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Part 2...........

Overcoming the power of ideological anchoring is done by recognising the assumption embedded in it and facing the problems inherent in it.

I am using the following quote from Angela Carter in order to help us reflect on our own life fictions............

`I can date to that time and to that sense of heightened awareness of the society around me in the summer of 1968, my own questioning of the nature of my reality as a woman. How that social fiction of my `femininity` was created, by means outside my control, and palmed off on me as the real thing`( Angela Carter).

I have also used the above quotation to illustrate that Carter had adopted an idology that she assumes to be a truth. It is also clear that she resented it later on by her use of the words, `palmed off on me, and by the fact that it was an unconscious process over which she had no control. In my dissertation which I am going to present to you intact I would suggest that it is this unconscious process which she attempts to reveal in her work.

The quotation reveals that Angela Carter recognises that the `reality` of herself as a woman has been defined for her, and imposed on her by a society sustained by the false consciousness of a patriarchal order of consciousness. Such a concept is a valid one, but this fiece blaze of recognition which is reflected in her work as a writer has has its attendant dangers, for in shining her storytellers light on the monster which has seduced her into non-being, it also shows that she no longer confers power on the old order, vis a vis stories she had been told. The ideology of patriarchal consciousness underlying the traditional fairy tale has been, in part, responsible for the enormity of repression which has kept women in the dark and is a Pandora box which resides in every woman.

While my dissertation was focused on challenging and exploring the boundaries of accepted social and cultural paradigms in relation to women, yet challenging ideological assumptions embedded in our society and our own worldview is a task which can benefit everone, men and women alike.

Friday, 28 December 2007


I did my degree in Comparative Literature Studies and my dissertation was entitled, `Ideologies and their functions in Literature`, which was based on Angela Carter`s book `Burning your Boats`. Her work is classified as representative of the literary genre of `magic realism`, a classification she would no doubt have fiercely disagreed with as it is the placement of an individual within a category. Her narrative opposes such formations and claims to be anti-ideological. This, however, is not strictly true as her work is rather to be positied as an investigation of ideological paradigms. The themes in Carters work reveal her intense fascination with the Freudian unconscious. Carter may have re-imagined the fairy tale but her work is not just an exercise of imagination, her work is political and is not confined only to feminine politics but reflects psycho -social concerns, in particular does it reproduce `a psychological` ideology in which the will of the individual is subordinated to family and society. In her writing she challenges the boundaries of accepted social and cultural paradigms which prompts the reader to reflect on their own life fictions.

While studying and close reading her re-working of the traditional fairy tale in the context of their ideological heritage I became so fascinated with the unconscious processes at work which construct our identity , which is what Angela Carter attempts to reveal in her work, that I decided to carry on the study of these unconscious processes after completion of my degree.

Wanting to find out how these ideological paradigms operate in structuring our everyday reality I began to study myself to see whether my sense of identity ,both as a woman and as a person had been defined for me, and imposed on me through an unconscious process over which I had no control by a society sustained by a false order of consciousness. This false consciousness can be described as consensual reality, it is the reality which we all unconsciously live by because it has been accepted as objective fact, rather than as a subjective perception of truth. Subjective perception often acts as a kind of ordering, or lets say organising principle which unfortunately often bears no relation to the facts, but does allow us to make some kind of sense of the world by creating a world view. This world view is most times erroneous and I like to call the perceptions that make up our world view ` life fictions`. These life fictions unconsciously control us, and therefore run our lives as our decisions are often based on these unconscious forces, that is until the time comes when we decide to make these unconscious forces (life fictions) conscious. It is not until we become aware of these unconscious processes at work that we can hope to have any control over our own lives.

I think it would be a good idea at this point to define Ideology in order to avert any misunderstandings which might arise......
Ideology is a set of assumptions with which people identify, and these form a construct which directs and sustains both choice and purposive behaviour, effectively creating what seems to be a true living relationship of people to reality. It is, in fact, a false consciousness. In adopting the ideology, the individual must also accept the limits which that ideology imposes on him or her. Overcoming the power of ideological anchoring is not an easy task but it is the task to which this blog is dedicated.