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Queerest of the queer: The fiction of Angela Carter and the politics of disarticulation

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posted on 2023-05-25, 06:36 authored by Wendy O'Brien

Feminist theory and queer theory remain largely at odds in contemporary discourses on sexuality. While certain feminisms rely on category affirming strategies in which difference is continually inscribed, queer theorists are exploring sites of transgression which are characterised by an indeterminacy of identity and a fluidity of sexual practices. This conceptual difference ensures that feminist and queer imperatives are perpetually locked in tension, with challenges and debates continually arising regarding "the proper object of analysis" for each discourse.

This tension characterises the critical reception of Angela Carter's fiction. The transgressive fluidity and iconoclastic disrespect for boundaries, identities and political correctness that Carter's fiction flaunts has been awkwardly received by those Carter critics working within theoretical paradigms of boundary affirmation. Much of the existing Carter criticism displays appropriative strategies which preclude the analysis of her work in terms of transgressive potential.

This dissertation takes up the transgressive potential of Carter's fiction, using a queer perspective to explore spectatorship practices, sexually explicit representations and normative identity construction. Carter's fiction provides a rich site for the exploration of a queer project of disarticulation, in which sexualities and identities resist the reiterative performances of themselves as themselves. A disruption of this perpetual chain of signification disrupts the citational histories which accord power and cultural validity to certain sexualities and not to others, and temporarily diffracts the means by which identities are regulated so easily by hegemonic structures. Through a detailed study of The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman, The Passion of New Eve, and Nights at the Circus, this dissertation proposes a destabilisation of the very ground on which debates over inclusion and exclusion are fought.


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Central Queensland University

Place of Publication

Rockhampton, Queensland

Open Access

  • Yes

Era Eligible

  • No


Dr Wally Woods ; Dr Susan Yell

Thesis Type

  • Doctoral Thesis

Thesis Format

  • By publication