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Is she fact or fiction? : Blurring boundaries in Angela Carter’s ‘Nights at the Circus’

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  1. Introduction.
    1. Fevvers's wings, her large size and lack of refinement.
    2. Carter uses Fevvers and other characters on the margins of society to draw readers into their identities.
  2. Explosive actions orchestrated by Fevvers.
  3. An illusion of wings and a larger-than-life persona.
  4. Freaks must have some lofty purpose for existing for Walser as well as Foucault.
  5. Recognizing disability according to what Rosemarie Garland Thomson says.
  6. Examining how hegemonic ideology is subverted by Carter via Fevvers.
    1. The boundaries that have been crossed.
    2. The reconstructed Walser.
    3. Transformation of Walser and the reader.
  7. Conclusion.

In Nights at the Circus, Angela Carter succeeds in creating a heroine so untraditional, so much larger than life in both physique and personality, that the topic of who Fevvers is and what she represents is discussed even more by critics than it is by the book's other characters. The winged woman has been labeled a freak, a monster, a symbol of the New Woman of the 20th century, a gothic heroine, a victim and an anomaly by critics and characters alike. Considering that it is ?the eyes? of her audience that tell Fevvers who she is, it is difficult to ascertain her true identity, and this is exactly Carter's point (Carter 290). By creating a heroine who is a hybrid?a bird-woman, a masculine woman, a monster and a beauty all at once?Carter encourages readers, once they have given up on solving Fevvers's puzzling identity, to simply accept her whoever she may be.

[...] But what would she become, if she continued to be a woman? (Carter 161) Here Walser reveals just how literally he has taken Fevvers's slogan, she fact or fiction?'? for he is determined that she be one or the other (Carter 8). The reporter is sure that if she is fiction, a complete illusion, then she is wondrous in her ability to bamboozle her fans so entirely. If, however, Fevvers is fact--is truly a winged woman--then she is nothing more than a mutated, though marvelous, monster. [...]


[...] ?Re-membering Cassandra, or Oedipus Gets Hysterical: Contestatory Madness and Illuminating Magic in Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus.? Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature 23.2 (2004): 339-69. Hallab, Mary. Diversity' in the Novels of Angela Carter: Which Ones Are the Freaks?? Studies in Contemporary Satire 19 (1995): 108-17. Katsavos, Anna. Interview with Angela Carter.? Review of Contemporary Fiction 14.3 (1994): 11-17. Kohlke, M. L. ?Into History Through the Back Door: The ?Past Historic' in Nights at the Circus and Affinity.? Women: A Cultural Review 15.2 (2004): 153-66. [...]


[...] From the novel's very opening, where Fevvers speaks in a Cockney dialect, guffaws ?uproariously,? devours eel pies, gulps down wine as though it is water and slurps tea, it is clear that whatever else she may be, she is unforgettably human?and a coarse human at that (Carter 7). In her article, Consumption of Angela Carter: Women, Food, and Power,? Emma Parker argues that Carter intentionally uses food, bodily functions and other usually tabooed topics in relation to women in order to upset ?patriarchal order? (141). [...]

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