The artifice that endures the burden of the past : analysing memory in Angela Carter's fictional works
Date of Issue2012
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
This paper aims to analyse the treatment and function of memory in Angela Carter’s early short fiction “A Very Great Lady and her Son at Home” and “A Souvenir of Japan” – ostensibly autobiographical works – before progressing on to a rhetorical employment of memory in The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman and “The Bloody Chamber”. By moving from a more conspicuously defined model of memory to a more indeterminate one, this essay works towards finding a continuum within Carter’s general line of writing which situates destabilisation and demystification at its nexus. It can be argued that the immaterial and imaginal plane of the mind works with Carter’s cause – of deconstructing that which have become ingrained in the narratives we tell. “The opposition between past and present [on which the] activit[ies] of memory and history is founded on” provides anadequately confrontational and cogitative space for Angela Carter to write within (Le Goff xii). Most criticism of Angela Carter’s writing begins by studying Carter’s works from their written words. This essay hopes to prove that memory is integral to Carter’s cause and that her texts show her subtle but significant involvement with the process of memory. By analysing memory in Carter’s works this paper seeks to inspect the mental process that comes before writing. If Carter is concerned with re-writing socio-cultural myths, then this essay is interested in the re-visioning which compels a re-writing of those myths.In the process of writing her semi-autobiographical short stories, Carter interlaces both the personal and the collective, encouraging the self-reflexive looking into both one’s self and one’s personal and cultural development. Her premise in re-writing of fairy tales however, is to further distance the patterns of recognition rather than re-employ them. For Carter then, “[t]he whole miracle of recognition, is to coat with presence the otherness of that which is over and gone. In this, memory is re-presentation, in the twofold sense of re-: turning back, anew” (Ricoeur 39). For Carter, her writing of memory invokes the notion of memory as representation. Peter Middleton’s and Tim Wood’s Literatures of Memory asseverates that “not only is the text a form of memory [but] memories are also textual” especially in light of poststructuralist2 notions of language and its influence on thought (6). The very formation of memory is considered to be contingent on the dictates of language and subsequently, on more overt narrative strategies, when it is to be inscribed on paper. Carter, too, employs memory as text, using history and the past “as no more than debris to be picked over and eclectically assembled according to the whim of the individual” and an analysis of memory in her texts provides an introduction to the larger issues of fiction, reality, identity and notion of self which always remain central to Carter’s concerns (Gamble 8).
Final Year Project (FYP)