Dystopias of Matriarchal Power: Deconstructing the womb in Angela Carter’s Heroes and Villains and The Passion of New Eve

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Conference Proceeding

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Much of contemporary women's writing attempts to offer significant tactics for the reclamation of women's bodies with the aim of mapping out new territories of female autonomy. Angela Carter was herself concerned with how embodied sites of power are often created or reinforced through various mythological narratives or frameworks. More specifically, as I will be exploring in this paper, Carter interrogates the extent to which the privileging or re-appropriation of the maternal body as a source of feminine power poses itself as a problematic terrain in various feminist discourses. In contrast to the majority of Carter's earlier texts, which tend to remain focused on contesting patriarchal myths of femininity, in Heroes and Villains (1969) and The Passion of New Eve (1977), Carter explicitly parodies matriarchal myths in order to examine how these do not necessarily guarantee a different symbolic order but often end up reiterating phallocentric representations of women's bodies. Although these texts clearly rely on deconstructive tactics, unravelling the 'blind spots' that are inherently located in any ideological framework, Carter also begins to suggest possibilities for constructing a specifically feminine discourse of subjectivity, one that is located 'elsewhere' or outside of phallocentric parameters.


Presented at the Perspectives on Power Conference, Belfast, Northern Ireland, March 2-3, 2007.