'Her lion-red body, her wings of glass': iconography of the gothic body in Carter, Tennant, and Weldon
Johnson, Heather L.
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This thesis examines the varied references to the gothic genre in the work of three contemporary British women writers: Angela Carter, Emma Tennant, and Fay Weldon. It shows that the use of gothic imagery in their fiction coincides with feminist revisions of representations of the female body and that this appearance of the gothic is more complex than the scope generally allowed by the critical term "Female Gothic". Whereas most critical approaches to the gothic are grounded in a depth hermeneutics, this thesis develops Sedgwick's attention to the surfaces of gothic imagery by focusing on the iconography manifest in representations of the female body. The novels under consideration increase the possibilities of the genre through a combination of traditional and innovative tropes. Such innovation is achieved through postmodernist conventions including the use of genre fragments, intertextuality, and pastiche, as well as the self-conscious invocation of modern theories of identity. Most significant is the practice of transforming metaphor into narrative, whereby static cultural images depicting the female body are mobilised in an exposure of their inherent humour and violence, the nexus of which is characteristically gothic.In this literature three female figures may be discerned which are identifiable as gothic in their expression of entrapment both within the body and within a patriarchal system of cultural representation, and thus focus a number of feminist and poststructuralist concerns. The figure of the 'chokered' woman is read through a feminist critique of the gendered mind/body dichotomy central to Western culture. Next the presentation and subversion of the black female body is discussed as a figure of erotic alterity and the abject within colonialist discourse. The 'posthuman' body is explored as a product of the age of technological simulation, and is positioned in relation to the poetics of camp and the poststructuralist notion of the spectral presence of absence. In this fiction the female body functions as a 'screen' onto which these writers project their diverse inscriptions of the gothic.