CHRG’s PhD Student Claire Duffy will be presenting a paper at the Australasian Association of Writers Programs 21st conference at Canberra University, November 28-30, 2016. Claire’s paper is titled Plundering the Feminine Grotesque in Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus.
Claire completed Honours in 2010 with a creative thesis examining gender and identity using Margaret Atwood’s A handmaid’s tale and Judith Butler’s theory of identity to produce a suite of short stories and poetry. Several of her stories have already been published by Antithesis, Gold Dust (UK), Hecate, and Swamp writing. She hopes to complete her PhD in December 2016.
The dominant patriarchal literary culture names certain feminine qualities grotesque based on historical ideas of the classical masculine body. In an act of disobedience, feminist humour plunders the literary tradition that makes women disgusting and turns to the comic and regenerative power of the grotesque to claim and empower the female body. The feminist grotesque estranges the masculine bodily ideal implicit in the grotesque female form, and transports the female body from the abjected grotesque to a powerful subject. This paper will discuss the grotesque in relation to humour and the body, and particularly the female body. Revisionist feminist literature, such as Angela Carter’s Nights at the circus, appropriates the abjected female body, the repository of this fear, and inverts the power structures that name it. The disobedient writer negates the power of the dominant authority. Humour such as irony and satire, and narrative strategies such as polyphony and metafiction fracture the single voice of authority and create new meaning. Humour alleviates the shock of the horror invested in the grotesque body and polyphony and metafiction disrupt the traditional novel form because it reminds the reader that single narrative voices are not as reliable as dominant ideology would have us believe. At the heart of Angela Carter’s text is the disruptive polyphonic fracturing of the single misogynistic voice of patriarchy. Carter appropriates the power that patriarchal laws governing femininity deploy when it names the grotesque female body.