Armaghan Khosravi Nia. 2º Ciclo de Estudos em Estudos Anglo-Americanos, Variante Estudos sobre Mulheres - PDF

FACULDADE DE LETRAS UNIVERSIDADE DO PORTO Armaghan Khosravi Nia 2º Ciclo de Estudos em Estudos Anglo-Americanos, Variante Estudos sobre Mulheres Out of the Heavy Water into the Light Air: Postmodern Performance

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FACULDADE DE LETRAS UNIVERSIDADE DO PORTO Armaghan Khosravi Nia 2º Ciclo de Estudos em Estudos Anglo-Americanos, Variante Estudos sobre Mulheres Out of the Heavy Water into the Light Air: Postmodern Performance of the Magical Reality of a Feminine Myth in Angela Carter s Nights at the Circus 2014 Orientador: Professor Gualter Cunha Coorientador: Professor Ana Luísa Amaral Classificação: Ciclo de estudos: Dissertação/relatório/Projeto/IPP: Versão definitiva UNIVERSIDADE DO PORTO Abstract FACULDADE DE LETRAS Departameno De Estudos Anglo-Americanos Master of Arts Out of the Heavy Water into the Light Air: Postmodern Performance of the Magical Reality of a Feminine Myth in Angela Carter s Nights at the Circus By Armaghan Khosravi Nia This study aims to illuminate some key aspects in the formation and understanding of Nights at the Circus(1984) by Angela Carter. The primary purpose of this study is to advance our understanding of this novel. In this regard it explores how the magic in the novel reverses the typical definition of magical realism. It argues that in Fevvers the magic of a socially unexpected and infrequent real invades the pre-established fixed historical and mythical notions while abusing the powerful frames of the myths connected to her to create a deconstructed (and still powerful) version of the myth. It examines how Carter s postmodern aesthetics helps her on the way to make this happen. It explores the metafictional attitude in the narrative and it discusses the gender performativity theory of Judith Butler in Fevvers performance and defines her magic in relation to that. In addition it tries to show how the intertextual references in the novel are treated with parody and how this undermines the authenticity of history. The textuality of the novel is explained with regard to these literary and historical intertexts and the relationship between the metafiction and the historical sense in the narrative is explored. It also explains how the narrative defines its counter-historical essence. And this is explored in connection to magical realism. Furthermore it looks into the role of carnivalesque in the novel as a theme and a spirit that mixes high and low culture. It explores how it confronts Carter s feminism. Carter s style in writing is studied in relation to magical realism, metafiction and intertextuality in the novel. It is demonstrated how her defiance of the realistic principles in writing cooperates with her political feminist perspective. Feminist themes in the novel are studied. Carter s views on sexuality is also discussed with regard to her feminism and her style. The implications of these aspects are discussed in their inter-relationship and in the entirety of the novel and possibilities of broader studies are examined. Keywords: Magical Realism, Metafiction, Gender Performativity, Postmodernism, History, Intertextuality, Carnivalesque, Feminism UNIVERSIDADE DO PORTO Resumo FACULDADE DE LETRAS Departameno De Estudos Anglo-Americanos Mestrado Out of the Heavy Water into the Light Air: Postmodern Performance of the Magical Reality of a Feminine Myth in Angela Carter s Nights at the Circus Por Armaghan Khosravi Nia Este estudo tem como objetivo esclarecer alguns aspetos centrais na formação e compreensão de Nights at the Circus (1984), de Angela Carter. O objetivo principal deste trabalho é aprofundar a compreensão deste romance. Tendo isto em conta, é explorado o modo como o mágico no romance inverte a definição típica do realismo mágico. Defende-se que em Fevvers o mágico de um socialmente inesperado e pouco frequente real invade as noções históricas e míticas fixas e pré-estabelecidas enquanto põe em causa os quadros poderosos dos mitos ligados a esta personagem para criar uma versão desconstruída (e ainda poderosa) do mito. Examina-se o modo como a estética pós-moderna de Carter a ajuda para que tal aconteça. Este estudo explora a atitude metaficcional da narrativa e explora a teoria de Judith Butler da performatividade de género no desempenho de Fevvers, definindo a sua magia dentro deste quadro. Além disso, tenta-se mostrar como as referências intertextuais no romance são parodiadas e como isso mina a autenticidade da história. A textualidade do romance é explicada em relação a esses intertextos literários e históricos e é explorada a relação entre a metaficção e o sentido histórico na narrativa. Explica-se também como a narrativa define a sua essência contra-histórica, sendo esta explorada em relação com o realismo mágico. Ademais, é explorado o papel de carnavalesco no romance como um tema e um espírito que mistura alta e baixa cultura. Estuda-se o modo como o carnavalesco confronta o feminismo de Carter. O estilo da escrita de Carter é estudado em relação com o realismo mágico, a metaficção e a intertextualidade no romance. Demonstra-se como o seu desafio dos princípios realistas da escrita coopera com a sua perspectiva feminista política. São estudados temas feministas no romance, sendo também discutidas as perspetivas de Carter sobre a sexualidade tendo em consideração o seu feminismo e o seu estilo. As implicações destes aspectos são discutidas na sua inter-relação e na globalidade do romance e são examinadas possibilidades de uma pesquisa mais ampla. Palavras-chave: Realismo Mágico, Metaficção, Performatividade de Gênero, Pós-modernismo, História, Intertextualidade, Carnavalesco, Feminismo Acknowledgements A debt of gratitude : to my supervisor professor Gualter Cunha for his precious guidance throughout this research. Without his supervision and constant help this dissertation would not have been possible. To my jury members professor Nuno Ribeiro and professor Fátima Vieira for their valuable observations and comments. And many thanks go to professor Ana Luísa Amaral for exposing us to very inspirational material in her classes which led me along the way. Also... a special thank you to all the people who made the development of this work possible in their own particular way... To my parents for everlastingly helping me to be... To Javad for beautiful togetherness and a defamiliarized sense of being... To Peji, Tufi, Puyi, Kavi for boundless friendship... To Daniele for peacefully capturing the hesitant dreams with permeable hands... To Kian for young and persistent beauties of hope and aspirations... To my professors and colleagues at FLUP for all their help at all times. v Table of Contents Abstract i Resumo iii Acknowledgements v Table of Contents vi 1 Introduction Carter s Life and Writings Research Objectives and Thesis Structure Metafiction,Magical Realism and Gender Performativity 10 3 Postmodernism and History 33 4 The Carnivalesque, Feminism and Carter s Style in Writing 50 5 Conclusion 71 Bibliography 74 vi Chapter 1 Introduction Perhaps, perhaps... my brain is turning to bubbles already, thought Walser, but I could almost swear I saw a fish, a little one, a herring, a sprat, a minnow, but wriggling, alive-oh, go into the bath when she tipped the jug (19). The narrative influences our eyes gently and mysteriously and we have no time to think about how our eyes are deceiving (19) us while listening to Fevvers who is telling vigorously her life story to the skeptical Walser. A shiny scale or two that had stayed trapped within the chunks (4) of ice are set free and changed into a fish that starts wriggling alive in the bath tub. The fishy thing that underlies the raw, leaking gas (4) in Fevvers dressing room is the mutating nature of the narrative that is desirous of breaking loose (4). We, like Walser, undergo a change in our power of seeing as the mannerist (1985:81) performative locomotion of the narrative, that slides under the lumps of the air in Fevvers dressing-room (4) in the first part of the novel, breaks the lumps and the chunks of conventions and establishes its own complex movement. It starts writhing like a fish but little by little like the two wings that began sprouting on Fevvers itchy shoulders, exposes its wings and flies us to the land of magic realism in the third chapter. Nights at the Circus is filled with these intricacies in connection to its brilliant construction. It is a glorious piece of work that brings many styles, genres, ideas 1 Introduction 2 and techniques together in a post-modern bricolage that has had an increasing popularity as a major work ever since its publication. Its magic realism, postmodernism and its highly vast theoretical framework conducted by Carter s progressive feminist views make this novel a labyrinthine elaborate piece of work that will keep attracting researchers to explore more and more the less known aspects of it. 1.1 Carter s Life and Writings Angela Carter is one of the most important and widely studied late-twentiethcentury British authors. She was almost at the height of her career when she died young of cancer in 1992.She was a controversial writer of her time. Carter according to Margaret Atwood(1992) was a born subversive, in the sense of the original root: to overturn (61). Her audacious impertinent wit and magnificent imagination, her sharp rationalism and her highly forward intellectualism made her a contentious author of her time who challenged old conventions confidently. She explored the roots of cultural and historical discourses and this provided her with a route to the real sources of social affliction and misery in a hierarchical patriarchal environment. Nights at the Circus(1984)was among her works that made her very famous. Since the 1980s her work is being published in many English-speaking countries. Her work has been culturally important and influential in the academic area as well and especially in recent years many research works on her books have been produced. Her writings cover many issues; Sexuality, femininity, gender stereotypes, historical and social identity, the New World, conservative myth of Englishness (2) as Joseph Bristow and Trev Lynn Broughton(1997) put it, and Western Culture. Her work was forward-looking, experimental and ahead of her time. Her ideas on sexuality and pornography for example anticipated with many years the current theories in gender studies. She made enquiries in sexuality and cultural and social construction of sexual identity as a performance(1997:3). She received three literary awards in the 1970s for some of her early books including the Shadow Dance, The Magic Toyshop, and Several Perceptions. She left England Introduction 3 for Japan in She stayed there for three years. In 1972 she wrote The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman which is a philosophically complex novel filled with ideas of Freud, Levi-Strauss and Andre Breton. After that novel she starts experimenting fairy-tale and folklore in her work and in 1974 Fireworks which is a collection of nine pieces is published. She tried various genres in her work and through her literary career and this could be why it is difficult to classify her fiction, as her writing blurs the boundaries and moves freely between various genres and styles. She distanced herself from realist conventions and as Bristow and Broughton(1997) put it her speculative narratives of the early 1970s pushed her towards the outskirts of literary establishment (4). Carter s experiment with the genres put at risk her career. There was no market for fiction that didn t conform to the prevalent social realism at that time. Nights at the Circus was published by Chatto & Windus. They had a very good publicity strategy and the novel became soon very well-known and famous everywhere. Many considered this success as a change in her method. Robert Nye(1984) in the Guardian writes that Nights at the Circus breaks fresh ground for her both in content and style, and is without doubt her finest achievement so far, and a remarkable book by any standards (10). However Carter didn t believe that in Nights at the Circus she had done something very different from her previous novels. To her this novel was the continuation of what she was doing for many years. She maintains in an interview with John Haffenden(1985) that memories are short (81) and that she has been among the first writers who started exploring the anti-realist approach and magic realist. After her close friend Salman Rushdie won the Booker Prize for Midnight s Children in 1981 and magic realist became a well-known and popular approach in fiction, Nights at the Circus was easily put under this category too. However she feels reluctant to admit that Nights at the Circus was attributed as belonging to a this new trend in fiction because she believed that she had been doing this non-naturalistic style in her previous writings for many years. That could be why she maintained that she preferred mannerist to magic realist for describing her style in Nights at the Circus. Introduction 4 Nights at the Circus failed to get the Booker Prize. The prize went to a realist writer, Anita Brookner, for Hotel du Lac. Carter s writings were bold, dangerous and subversive which seemed to deny her the literary awards. And it wasn t until the eighties that readers started showing a flourishing interest in her work which got to its height after her death and made her known both publicly and academically inside and outside the country. But generally during her life time as Salman Rushdie(1992) points out in the obituary that followed her death she didn t receive what she deserved: I repeat: Angela Carter was a great writer. I repeat this because in spite of her worldwide reputation, here in Britain she somehow never quite had her due. Of course, many writers knew that she was that rare thing, a real one-off, nothing like her on the planet; and so did many bewitched, inspired readers. But for some reason she was not placed where she belonged at the center of the literature of her time, at the heart. Her subversive tone always received criticisms. Carter was accused of being vulgar, of not knowing the right and wrong and the answers to the questions she made by an anonymous writer in the obituary published in the London Times(1992). John Bayley(1992:10), an Oxford professor in an essay that was published two months after her death points out that her work resisted to elitism and that of course as a negative quality of her work. She was charged with political correctness. Bristow and Broughton(1997) believe that Bayley through this criticism wants to straitjacket some of her more iconoclastic moves. They believe that her work to him is a kind of ideological legerdemain (8). Her involvement in popular stage, her being impeccably middle-class (Carter 1987) and not particularly English (1992:6) and her distancing from the English nationalism could be the reasons why she received such criticisms. She believed she was the pure product of an advanced industrialized, post-imperialist culture in decline (Carter 1983:73). She used a vast span of cultural product from lower middle class. She said in one of her interviews that the territorial niggling about my origins comes from the whole tendency of the English novel to be about the Introduction 5 middle class (Carter 1987:11). She used a vast range of cultural references. She was a distinctly democratic aesthetic (Bristowet 1997:9) and she was not among the elitist bourgeoisie. She wrote many books and attracted many readers for many years especially since after her death. Her work has culminated lots of researches lately which have ushered in a new understanding of her writings in general. Carter had a vast field of interest in her work in both fiction and non-fiction. She produced nine novels, four collection of short stories, four radio plays, two television scripts, four children stories, two film screenplays, one book of verse, and lots of essays, reports, and reviews. All these helped her to have vast cultural references in her work. Stoddart(2007) believes that Carter s journalism reveals itself as an important and instructive source and context for understanding Nights at the Circus (4). She believes that there is a sort of continuity between her fiction and non-fiction and in a way it somehow gets difficult to distinguish the borders. Carter taught creative writing at MA level at the university of East Anglia. It was the first time in the United Kingdom that creative writing was put in the university curriculum. She didn t see any problem in moving between academic institutions and out of it(stoddart 2007:5). She travelled a lot and all these travels to different countries gave her the ability to view European culture from outside. These non-western influences and also influences from other countries and cultures in Europe could be seen in her work. Although Nights at the Circus is very British, as Stoddart(2007) says it s like a gateway to other lands and as a result, cozy English parochialism is given no house room in the novel (5). The novel is full of references to other cultures, literatures and philosophies. Lorna Sage believes that there was the hinge-moment or turning point (Sage 2001:221) in 1979 for Carter s work. It was the year when The Bloody Chamber and The Sadeian Woman were published. Sage believes that the reason for this success was that she started explaining herself and showed her abilities and that her work began for the first time to be read widely and collusively, by readers who identified with her as a reader and a re-writer (221). This she believed led to the Introduction 6 canonization (221) of her work. Stoddart sees this fact as something that helped to clear the way for a new-found lightness and levity of tone that characterized her final two novels (6). This could explain why Nights at the Circus is considered to be different from her earlier work while still dealing with the same problems in a patriarchal background. She used different techniques of writing, like parody and intertextuality and progressive intellectual political views that included many ideas and criticism on social and sexual politics and identity in society. And it was mostly her two final novels that made her known on the international level. As Merja Makinen(1992:2-15) says Carter s style in her two final novels has a lighter tone and more exuberant construction (7). According to Helen Carr(1989) the South American magical realism was a prevailing style in the 1980s in Britain and Carter was considered as connected to this literary tradition. Another reason for this success was the wide distribution of Nights at the Circus that was bigger than her previous works. The novel had vast theoretical references including ideas from Mikhail Bakhtin, Michel Foucault, Walter Benjamin, Sigmund Freud and Jacque Lacan. As gender studies developed more in the 1990s Carter s work was discussed more and more. It seemed,as Lorna Sage points out, that gender studies contained a theoretical frame that fits Carter so much better that it seems to canonize her (Sage 2001:231). Among her novels Nights at the Circus was her most popular, important and critically examined work. The theoretical framework of the novel is influenced by the cultural and intellectual atmosphere of Europe and the world in 1960s. 1.2 Research Objectives and Thesis Structure Nights at the Circus is in three parts and with an Envoi. It starts from London, where Fevvers,the Cockney Venus, was born and grew up. She posed, as a child, as Cupid in the reception room of a brothel belonging to Ma Nelson and as an adolescent she represented the Winged Victory holding Ma Nelson s sword in her hand. Ma Nelson dies in an accident on the street when she slips and falls Introduction 7 under a carriage. Fevvers then joins the Museum of Madam Schreck where she is put on display on a freak show with other women who are all peculiar creatures with odd appearances. Madame Schreck sells Fevvers to a customer, Christian Rosencreutz, who
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