Thursday, 24 March 2011
Sunday, 20 March 2011
An explanation of one thing with optional interpretations.
The count requesting a girl 'as white as snow' could suggest he is seeking someone innocent and vulnerable, demonstrated through the use of the colour 'white' which connotes purity. This may link to ideas surrounding purity such as that of a young virtuous girl, sought after for her virginity, as explored in the Madonna whore complex - men desiring women for their cleanliness.
However it could also arguably indicate the count has become unsatisfied with his wife, as she wears 'felts of black foxes' and is seemingly the opposite to the white, wholesome figure which the count conjures demonstrated within the direct contrast of their characterisation. ( It could also suggest within this idea that men desire women without personality, and merely to satisfy their sexual appetite, something featured within a number of Carter's short stories).
However another interpretation and one that I feel is perhaps the most powerful is the use of the bold colours and their visual elements which depict the proposal of the 'male gaze'. The count; the male character conjures up a girl only using visual references to her appearance using colours, illustrating his care in appearance but his disinterest in personality, suggesting he seeks the girl merely for her exterior. She is seemingly objectified as a female but more as an idea rather than a character, an illusion of a generalised male desire.
The Erl King
The story opens with a long descriptive passage depicting the stark and gloomy atmosphere of the woods in late October. These woods are characterized as entrapping and menacing, not so much because of any physical danger they present as because of their ability to undermine human identity: ‘‘It is easy to lose yourself in these woods.’’ This point is further emphasized though disorienting shifts from second- to third- to first-person narration. The setting during the first paragraph is dream like, bordering on a fine line between dreams and reality. This is enforced with the personification within the woods; "anorexic trees", creating the illusion that the narrator is not alone, but is surrounded by a hidden life force. There seems to be a presence in the wood, hidden in the descriptions of the surroundings Carter plants the idea of an underlying being.
She looks "hopelessly for a way out", connoting entrapment and suggesting she is in danger. "Of no ambiguities", paradoxical imagery, with the idea of certainty within a dream like state.
"Erl king will do you grevious harm" - his full name. Something we are often not subjected to within fairy tales and Carter's short stories.
When a clear first-person narrator’s voice does emerge, she describes hearing a bird song that expresses her own ‘‘girlish and delicious loneliness’’ as she walks through the woods. She believes that she is alone. She then comes upon a clearing where animals have gathered. The Erlking enters playing a pipe that sounds like a birdsong and reaches out to the narrator. She is immediately subject to his strange charisma. She states that he has the power to do ‘‘grievous harm.’’
Ideas of marriage and entrapment. "Pretty wedding rings round their necks"; as if marriage chokes you, suffocating you and keeping you at arm's length.
The gothic theme of attraction and revulsion noticeable in the phrase "Consoles and devastates me".
Wednesday, 16 March 2011
Well for a start they need to make their user face more exciting, because if I hadn't had to I wouldn't have bothered reading much further due to the dull nature of the website.. but also!
I found it interesting scrolling through the authors section and looking at authors such as Jane Austen in particular – who when I picture her I picture Pride and prejudice and a more comedic and satirical state of writing. However it noted her romantic period and divuldged in great detail in to her novel (to quote the website) “uninterested in the Gothic except as an object of parody. Her early novel Northanger Abbey is a wonderful Gothic satire—one which demonstrates a real knowledge of the genre, and its excesses.Northanger Abbey specifically mentions a number of genuine Gothics, often referred to as the Northanger novels.”
I thought it just goes to show that I can’t assume authors only have one genre of writing! Who knew we could study Jane Austen in the gothic literature section.
Also after a lot of opening tabs and new web pages I found links to Angela Carter and her biography – which I found very interesting as it’s something I don’t recall looking at previously.
“During the war years, she was removed by her grandmother to South Yorkshire.” OUR SOUTH YORKSHIRE???
“THE MAGIC TOYSHOP (1967) developed further the themes of sexual fantasy and revealed Carter's fascination with fairy tales and the Freudian unconscious.” – This I found particularly interesting because I didn’t realise Angela Carter had been influenced by the works of Freud! Just goes to show when we make notes that are seemingly stretching the boundaries a little we could just be making the right assumptions!
“In 1970, having separated from her husband, Carter went to live in Japan for two years. During this period she worked at many different jobs, among others as a bar hostess. The experience of a different culture had a strong influence on her work. In 1979 Carter published THE SADETAN WOMAN, where she questioned culturally accepted views of sexuality, and sadistic and masochistic relations between men and women.” Seems perhaps she became more of a feminist AFTER she split up from her husband.. Suspicious. But very interesting that she experienced what it was like elsewhere, as opposed to writing stories just based on England. This makes me feel her work goes deeper than I originally thought – perhaps some of her texts could be reaching out in to more foreign concepts of thinking?
“BLOODY CHAMBER (1979), a collection of stories retelling classic fairy tales, and an anthology of subversive stories by women.” That’s pretty much all this particular article touched upon bloody chamber which I found rather disappointing after reading the massive thing.
Carter's screenplay for THE COMPANY OF WOLVES (1984), based on THE BLOODY CHAMBER (1979) was a bloodthirsty, Freudian retelling of the 'Little Red Riding Hood' story, directed by Neil Jordan. This visually groundbreaking film studied the wolf-girl relationship in the light of sexual awakening. Re-writing fairy-tales from a feminist point of view, Carter argued that one can find from both literature and folklore "the old lies on which new lies are based." However, her critics saw that using the old form, Carter produced the "rigidly sexist psychology of the erotic".
I feel a lot more confident in exploring the work from a point of view of someone I now feel I know a bit more about. I found the article very interesting but found it very difficult finding one which had such information!
Monday, 7 March 2011
‘Carter’s stories are stories of women regaining power.’ Consider the role of men and women in The Courtship of Mr Lyon and the Tigers Bride, in light of this comment (500-700 words).
During this short analysis of the Courtship of Mr Lyon and the Tiger’s bride I will explore the element of women regaining power and the role of men and women throughout the two short stories.
During the Courtship of Mr Lyon it seems the female role of ‘Beauty’ is more in control of Mr Lyon than he is of her. At first glance Beauty seems to captivate the beast, emphasising her element of control; ‘then, with a strange kind of wonder...the camera had captured a certain look she had’. He seems mesmerised by her beauty and does not objectify her but indulges in her. The male gaze seems inverted, "if her eyes might pierce appearances and see your soul". Her eyes seem to objectify him, 'piercing' him and challenging him, something we would not expect to see within a traditional story line of a fairytale. This would imply that in light of women regaining power, Beauty seems to have achieved authority over My Lyon successfully. Carter may do this in order to reverse the idea of Mulvey’s male gaze and to contradict the idea that Men control women through the use of their gaze and objectivity. Instead she arguably implies that women have the ability to intercept the man’s gaze and to control them with their splendour and charm.
The role of the male during the Courtship of Mr Lyon seems similar to that of a true gentleman. He greets the useless paternal figure with open arms and provides him with sufficient comfort and nourishment whilst spoiling Beauty and lavishing her in a way most young girls only dream of. He lunges himself on to his knees to ‘kiss her hands’ and he never represses of objectifies Beauty in an obvious way. He also seems very lonely and vulnerable with regards to female company. He ‘cannot eat or sleep’ without her and becomes almost dependent on her presence and her companionship. Carter may do this in order to imply that men are dependent on women and without them they would be lonesome and depressed, thus accentuating the significance of the female role and the part we play in society.
The Tiger’s bride consists of largely similar themes to the Courtship of Mr Lyon. However the female role seems to take a more vicious approach and appears more manipulative and less innocent than Beauty in Mr Lyon. Following the Beast’s request she lets out a ‘raucous guffaw’. She then goes on to say ‘I felt that I owed it to him to make my reply in as exquisite a Tuscan as I could master’; she plans to paint the following situation in an eyrie of formality, despite the situations simplicity. This holds a mocking undertone and suggests she is not taking him seriously. She goes on to manipulate the Beast, using his shame against him and to her advantage. a sheet over my face to hide it’, ‘deposited in the public square, in front of the church’, ‘you should give me only the same amount of money that you would give to any other woman in such circumstances’. She makes it very clear how shameful what he is asking of her is, presenting the upper hand by laughing she then leads him in to an epitome of guilt, asking him to deposit her ‘in front of the church’ as if he was being judged. Carter may create this more sinister element to a female role within a fairytale to involve the womanly role; that women can take control in a more calculated way than men account for or desire, that women hold the upper hand for knowledge. Or she could be explicitly exploiting her views on men, and how susceptible they are to shame and loss of their own devices.
Overall I would conclude that the role of men and women and very similar regarding the characters in the Courtship of Mr Lyon and the Tiger’s Bride. The men’s role seems to be quite passive and vulnerable whilst the women’s role seems to be taking control of the male interest and arguably using it to their advantage. Either way they are both very similar in their devices, whilst differing mainly in the ways in which the women gain control. Beauty; with her looks and the female in The Tiger’s bride taking a more calculated outlook.
During the Tiger’s bride we are subject to Mulvey’s theory of the male gaze a lot more than previously in the Courtship of Mr Lyon. On page 63 the narrator quotes ‘yet a glance with so much superciliousness in it that it did not comfort me’. His gaze on her and the ‘superciliousness’ that she feels suggests he is objectifying her and that he feels superior.
The valet ‘fixing upon wide and suddenly melancholy eyes’ provokes imagery of persuasion and technique as if he has some power over her and some control with his gaze.
‘Where the eyes that watch you take no account of your existence’ emphasises her awareness of the female gaze, she acknowledges that it exists.
There are also commonly used phrases which suggest the recurring gothic theme of attraction and repulsion. ‘Artificial masterpiece of his face appals me’ – This extended oxymoron implies that she is attracted to his perfect mask yet the idea of it, or the mask itself repulses her.
The Beast seems less powerful and more innocent than she does. ‘ashamed of his own request’ implies that the Beast is shy and embarrassed. However in her following actions she seems more vicious and overpowering. ‘I let out a raucous guffaw...my heartless merth’. She takes no hesitation in shaming him, manipulating his guilt, ‘a sheet over my face to hide it’, ‘deposited in the public square, in front of the church’, ‘you should give me only the same amount of money that you would give to any other woman in such circumstances’. She makes it very clear how shameful what he is asking of her is, presenting the upper hand by laughing she then leads him in to an epitome of guilt, asking him to deposit her ‘in front of the church’ as if he was being judged, she uses his shame against him.
However she does seem to want to retain an element of dignity, by requesting she keeps her face covered. Perhaps out of fear of shame or perhaps she doesn’t have to look in to his eyes, or see the face that ‘appals’ her. From ‘the waist up’ she wants to be covered with a sheet. Her body remains but no personality is present. She is almost objectifying herself, suggesting that all men want is her body for their sexual appetite.
But she remains cruel like. ‘How pleased I was to see I struck The Beast to the heart!’ She is female and is seemingly holding all power over him. She paints this situation in formality, however simple, almost mocking the concept of it all.
She sees a mirror which holds the ability to create a window to the outside world, yet she cowers away ‘astonished fright’ - She dislikes it, it frightens her.
‘That he should want so little was the reason why I could not give it’ – the idea of virginity and it’s importance/lack of. It seems that in her opinion either her or the Beast does not value virginity and cleanliness.
There is confusion between money and magic. ‘If you have enough money anything is possible’.
There is again the useless paternal figure. Human carelessness seen within her father. ‘Abandoned me to the wild beasts with his human carelessness’.
She is seemingly very clever and knowledgable about the society she lives in and the expectations of men. She seems to reject this and resent it. “I was a young girl, a virgin, and therefore men denied me rationality just as they denied it to all those who were not exactly like themselves”. She does not seem to care much for men and their ideals.
She recognizes that women are objectified as men for a certain purpose. ‘My own state, how I had been bought and sold, passed from hand to hand. That clockwork girl who powdered my cheeks for me; had I not been allotted only the same kind of imitative life amongst men that the doll-maker had given her’. She compares herself to a robot, a creation carried out to complete tasks to which it was produced for – she compares herself to this illustrating her acknowledgement of her objectivity and female purpose.
The phrase ‘The lamb must learn to run with the tigers’, would have been very controversial at the time of reception. The male being the tiger and the lamb symbolic of women, the phrase suggesting that men and women should run aside each other as equals. That women need to ‘step up’ to the male position. Also emphasising the difference in power positions at the time and the representation of male dominance.
She feels that she is ‘at liberty for the first time’ in her life, when naked alongside the tiger. This could be because she feels exposed, in the sense that nothing is hidden. They are as honest as they both can be and are both naked, so both equals.
There is a undertone of role reversal as throughout she seems to hold more power over him. On one of the last pages of the story she remarks “He was far more frightened of me than I was of him” making the readers awareness of this role reversal heightened.
Then finally, she turns in to a Beast. Previously we saw the Mr Lyon turn human, as in traditional fairytales such as beauty and the beast, however end she becomes beast like – perhaps living up the lambs expectations to ‘run with the tigers’.
Friday, 4 March 2011
Is The Courtship of Mr Lyon intended to be in the style of a traditional fairy tale? 500-700 words
There is an immediate sense of traditional fairy tales when the main female character is introduced. As an audience we expect her to be based on characters such as sleeping beauty and snow white; characters that are innocent and amiable. She is described within the first paragraph of the story as having an 'inner light' and 'all of snow'. The whiteness of the snow suggests she is pure and her inner light indicates she is radiant and trustworthy. Her skin possessing such radiance also suggests she is beautiful, another commonly explored theme in fairytales, she is 'unmarked', which connotes perfection and a sense of attraction. She is also doing 'her chores', she is seemingly a delightful, virtuous young girl, a further similarity with the female character and a tradition fairy tale heroin. This traditional characterisation of the female role within the Courtship of Mr Lyon emphasises that evidently, Carter employs strong elements of traditional tales in her story. Carter also uses the narrative tool of suggesting the characters are named merely by their purpose in their story, a component that is used in traditional stories. The female character is 'Beauty', and her feather 'Beauty's father', highlighting their primary role. However 'The Beast' does something unusual in acknowledging this technique 'Call me the Beast', suggesting he is aware of this characterisation tool. This unexpected awareness is something the reader may not necessarily anticipate whilst reading a fairy tale, suggesting The Courtship of Mr Lyon was not intended to be traditional in all aspects.
There is also an element of latent content within conventional fairytales regarding the uselessness of the paternal figure. In fairytales the father figure is often the cause of problems for example in Rumplestiltskin or Beauty and the Beast. In the Courtship of Mr Lyon it is on the second page the father needs to 'look for help' and manages to anger the Beast within the house, which his daughter pays the price for. This implies the story is indeed intended to follow the style of a traditional fairy tale.
However there is a lack of female repression presented throughout the story and also a void of the male gaze, two aspects which the reader would expect to find within a traditional fairytale. Beauty seems to instead captivate the beast, suggesting she is the one in control; "then, with a strange kind of wonder...the camera had captured a certain look she had". He seems to be under her beautiful spell and in no way does he repress or objectify her in an obvious way. Instead lunging himself on to his knees to kiss her hands similarly to a traditional gentleman, he strives to gain her approval. The male gaze seems inverted, "if her eyes might pierce appearances and see your soul". Her eyes seem to objectify him, 'piercing' him and challenging him, something we would not expect to see within a traditional story line of a fairytale.
Another major factor which is not explored during the Courtship of Mr Lyon that is normally incorporated within traditional fairytales, is the element of danger. There is usually a price to be paid, or a trap of some kind. However neither Beauty or her father ever receive any kind of threat, in fact quite the opposite. Instead both characters leave the luxurious lair of Mr Lyon to set off and divulge and succeed largely in the wider world. This indicates a significant different between Carter's short story and that of traditional fairy tales such as Rapunzel and sleepy Beauty for example.
We do however experience a happy ending, an end which all traditional fairy tales meet. "Mr and Mrs Lyon walk in the garden; the old spaniel drowses on the grass, in a drift of fallen petals". In the idyllic setting, the happy couple seem at peace and the reader gains a sense of relief. With such magical settings, such a happy ending and such beauty explored, despite the lack of female objectification and the void of male gaze, I would conclude that The Courtship of Mr Lyon is indeed intended to be more of a traditional fairytale rather than a corrupt story, similar to the Bloody Chamber.