These two essays are part of the Angela Carter archive held by the British Library. The first is a draft of ‘Alison’s giggle’, a piece that explores literature and sexuality. The second, also in draft, examines ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ and Edgar Allan Poe. Poe’s influence is felt in Carter’s short story collections The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories and Fireworks.
Throughout her career as a novelist, Angela Carter also wrote journalism. After a brief spell at the Croydon Advertiser when she left school, Carter’s first ‘serious’ journalism began in 1967 for New Society magazine. She was the daughter of journalist Hugh Stalker.
Whether her subject is food or fashion, literature or art, the writing carries Carter’s recognisable voice: gutsy, dynamic, often satirical, always thoughtful. Each subject is examined from new angles, unpacked and deconstructed – an approach we identify in Carter’s fiction, such as the short story collection The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, a retelling of traditional fairy tales.
Carter’s journalism is published in Nothing Sacred (1982), Expletives Deleted (1992) and Shaking a Leg: Collected Journalism and Writings (1997).
Published in 1983, ‘Alison’s giggle’ is centred on the heroine of Chaucer’s The Miller’s Tale (written at the end of the 14th century). Alison’s giggle - “Tee hee, quod she” – occurs immediately after she tricks her older, foolish husband into kissing her ‘ers’ [arse] and as she returns to bed with her younger, handsome lover.
In her argument, Carter highlights the subversive, disruptive power of laughter, using Alison’s giggle as a jumping-off point to discuss the representation of women’s sexuality. Carter argues that this kind of laughter, associated with a woman’s sexual pleasure and her humiliation of a man, has rarely been heard again in literature. More widely, literature has seldom produced such an honest depiction of women’s sexual experience. Carter considers the male writers who ‘cannot bear to hear it’ as well as the rise of women writers in the 18th century who, like Jane Austen, tended to ‘omit both the giggle and the kind of sexual circumstance that provokes it’.
By contrast Carter’s own fiction would seem to address this gap, openly representing sex and laughter. A notable example is ‘The Company of Wolves’, where Red Riding Hood laughs in the face of the wolf who threatens to both physically eat and sexually consume her.
- Full title:
- Angela Carter Papers: Articles for other publications
- estimated 1983, undated; whole volume 1976–90
- Manuscript / Typescript / Draft
- Angela Carter
- Usage terms
© Displayed with the permission of the Estate of Angela Carter c/o Rogers, Coleridge & White Ltd., 20 Powis Mews, London W11 1JN. Angela Carter’s work is published in the UK by Vintage, Virago, Penguin Classics. You may not reuse the material for commercial purposes.
- Held by
- British Library
- Add MS 88899/1/64
- Article by:
- Margaretta Jolly
- Gender and sexuality, Exploring identity
The women’s movements of the 1960s and 70s gave rise to a new era for women’s writing. Women also took over the means of production by setting up feminist printing houses such as Virago Press. Margaretta Jolly takes a tour of women’s writing, publishing and literary criticism of this period and explores the work of some of its key players.
- Article by:
- Marina Warner
- Fantasy and fairy tale, Literature 1950–2000, Exploring identity
Marina Warner explores cross-dressing and the performance of identity in Angela Carter's fairy tale-inspired works.
- Article by:
- Greg Buzwell
- Fantasy and fairy tale, Literature 1950–2000
The Bloody Chamber is a collection of modern fairy tales, many of which incorporate elements of Gothic literature. Greg Buzwell traces the Gothic influence on Carter's stories, from the Marquis de Sade to Edgar Allan Poe.
Related collection items
The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories is a 1979 collection of short fiction by the British writer Angela Carter. Each ...