Monday, August 22, 2011

The World of Angela Carter: A Critical Investigation by Dani Cavallaro

The World of Angela Carter: A Critical Investigation

The World of Angela Carter: A Critical Investigation by Dani Cavallaro arrived on my doorstep in the short stack of review books I received from McFarland. This one was released in May of this year and escaped my notice until I opened the package and discovered it. (I try, I really do! But I miss a lot of books...)

Book description from the publisher:

Angela Carter, a prolific author who worked in numerous genres, remains one of the most important British writers of the last century. She was particularly renowned for her investigation of cultural mythologies, which shape our lives but which we often leave unexamined. This text explores a selection of Carter’s novels and short stories, supplemented with her perspectives on politics, society and aesthetics, and her attempts to redefine popular genres such as the fairy tale. This critical work is a strong addition to the scholarship on this important but often overlooked writer.

About the Author
Dani Cavallaro has written widely about literature, cultural theory, and anime. She lives in London.

Table of Contents:

Preface 1

1. Angela Carter’s Vision 5
2. Dark Play: The Magic Toyshop 18
3. Surrealist Visions: The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman 47
4. Modern Mythologies: The Passion of New Eve 77
5. Tradition Reimagined: The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories 99
6. Beyond Gravity: Nights at the Circus 137
7. Mirror Identities: Wise Children 164

Bibliography 189
Index 197
Burning Your Boats: The Collected Short Stories The Bloody Chamber: And Other Stories Angela Carter's Book of Fairy Tales The Passion of New Eve (Virago Modern Classics)
 The Magic Toyshop Wise Children: A Novel The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman Nights at the Circus (Oberon Modern Plays)

It isn't too hard to find articles about Angela Carter's work. She has been a popular topic for decades. Of course, The Bloody Chamber: And Other Stories is the most important of her books for fairy tale afficiandos. To date, Angela Carter and the Fairy Tale (Marvels & Tales Special Issues) has been one of the best collections of literary criticism about Carter's work with fairy tales. Many of the other works focus on her novels, as does this new book in part. However, the longest chapter is dedicated to The Bloody Chamber. Overall, Cavallaro's analysis is solid but it isn't highly readable to the armchair academic in the same way other writers, such as Jack Zipes and Maria Tatar, are. For example, here is an excerpt:
"Carter, relatedly, is committed to a programmatic, though varicolored and exuberantly plumed, exposure of the profoundly cross-generational relevance of fairy tales old and new. In emphasizing the least savory aspects of some of the most time-honored fairy tales, she reminds us that the assocation of the form itself with the younger generations is not part of its natural history--let alone its inherent thematic and rhetorical constitution--but rather a corollary of post hoc ideological interventions."
Absolutely. But some students may have difficulty parsing some of the ideas and concepts due to the highly academic language. So take that under consideration. Overall, a recommended book, but with some reservations for comprehension level according to experience level of students who may seek out this book for paper writing resources.

And the bibliography is a great resource of up-to-date titles about Carter and her work. That is highly recommmended.

(And please know that my goal is to evaluate the readability and usability of books like these. I don't want to enter the fray on the criticism of Angela Carter. And SurLaLune's goal is to make the world of fairy tales approachable for everyone by helping readers find the best resources for themselves.)

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