“And my husband stood stock still, as if she had been Medusa…”

Thanks to Taylor for sending me her paper for last summer’s Eng 598 Women and Lit: “An Act of Survival: The Anxiety of Female Authorship and the Fairy Tale Adaption.” Taylor shows how Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood both re-write the Bluebeard tale to undermine its patriarchal paradigm. Angela Carter, in particular, has the main character saved not by her brothers, but by her marvelously-powerful and interesting mother (very cool). Carter gives the main character her own voice (by telling the story in the first person) and her own complexity, simultaneously adding a sexual element and deconstructing the whole “women are either whores or virgins” dichotomy.

Good paper, helps me get thinking on my paper, but wow – makes me want to read Angela Carter! Here, I’m lifting some Carter quotes in which the main character describes her mother direct from Taylor’s paper ’cause I like them so much:

My eagle-featured, indomitable mother; what other student at the Conservatoire could boast that her mother had outfaced a junkful of Chinese pirates, nursed a village through a visitation of the plague, shot a man-eating tiger with her own hand and all before she was as old as I…. My mother herself had gladly, scandalously, defiantly beggared herself for love. (7 – 8)

You never saw such a wild thing as my mother, her hat seized by the winds and blown out to sea so that her hair was her white mane, her black lisle legs exposed to the thigh, her skirts tucked round her waist, one hand on the reins of the rearing horse while the other clasped my father’s service revolver and, behind her, the breakers of the savage, indifferent sea, like the witnesses of a furious justice. And my husband stood stock still, as if she had been Medusa, the sword still raised over his head as in those clockwork tableau of Bluebeard that you see in glass cases at fairs….

On her eighteenth birthday, my mother had disposed of a man-eating tiger that had ravaged the villages in the hills north of Hanoi. Now, without a moment’s hesitation, she raised my father’s gun, took aim and put a single, irreproachable bullet through my husband’s head….

Taylor comments, “Here is a significantly different portrayal of a mother in the fairy tale.” And I thought, Woo hoo, yes it is! It’s wonderful.


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