Performing (and) identity in Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus and, Wise Children
Root, Janine Marie
Master of Arts
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In her last two novels, Nights at the Circus and Wiise Children, Angela Carter examines some of the complex factors involved in the construction of identity, both within the fictional world, and for readers in their interaction with the world of the fiction. Of these factors, gender is of primary importance. The thesis shows that identity is a product of the interaction between individuals and their audience, informed by the multiple contexts surrounding them. Individuals create identities through performance and are simultaneously created by the reception/perception of their performances. The thesis also argues that the relationship between performer and audience is similar in many ways to the relationship between the texts and their readers. Through a number of different techniques. Carter's novels make readers aware of the ways in which the story is told, and draw them into an active relationship with the texts. In these ways. Carter's novels question authority and destabilize meaning, both through narrative technique, and the questions about the nature of identity posed by the fictional characters. The first chapter examines identity in Nights at the Circus, particularly the ways in which Fevvers disrupts the category of Woman and resists having her identity reduced to appearance only. The second chapter looks at the narrative, examining the rhetorical strategies used by both Fewe r s and Carter to keep readers actively engaged with the text. The third chapter turns to Wise Children and the way in which Dora comes to understand herself in relation to her status as a twin and her position within her various families. The final chapter demonstrates that Dora blurs genre boundaries and distinctions between high and low cultute in order to give voice to her biological and artistic illegitimacy.