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The stories sketch a definition of metamorphic female identity at least in a twofold way.
First of all, subjectivity is represented as unstable, fragmented and multiple, and is caught in the act of being made through language and storytelling. This Women want sex Carter that it is a never ending process mediated by individual — and by necessity partial — desires and drives as well as by the social interactions and relationships in which the subject is engaged Foucault, ; Braidotti Secondly, the identities described by Carter are rooted in material experience and historicity, thus they invariably change according to contextual and contingent situations, therefore transformation could be considered, if any, their only foundational and stable feature.
Of course, change is not disruptive in itself, and does not necessarily entail improvement Bacchilega ; Zipes In this influential essay Carter engages in a criticism of patriarchy — which she calls «demythologising business» 38 — which turns its discourses against themselves.
In so doing, the contingency of what have been traditionally considered appropriate roles, positions and behaviours for men and women, and therefore for the relationships between them, is exposed. Acknowledgement and disclosure of the discursive dynamics at work is then followed by their challenge and disruption, that is by the suggestion of alternative patterns in theoretical terms in The Sadeian Woman and by their representation in fictional terms in The Bloody Chamber. Rather, their accomplishment seems to be the journey itself, the process through which they experience change, the always still-in-act itinerary of identification and subject-formation.
These private, personal journeys where young women learn how to make an of themselves are always grounded in their material conditions, which Carter discloses and questions as a primary influence in the development of their identities. As Carter points out, Justine is the «heroine of a Black, inverted fairy tale» Carter b : 44 :. Always the object of punishment, she has committed only one crime, and that was an involuntary one; she was born a woman. And if there is no virtue in her suffering, then there is none, it turns out, in her virtue itself; it does nobody any good, least of all herself.
Carter b : 44, 45, Furthermore, she deconstructs the definition of the virtue — or rather, its emptiness and lack of foundations — behind which those women hide in order to justify their otherwise pointless suffering: «The question of her virtue is itself an interesting one […] why does such an intelligent girl so persistently locate virtue in the region of her genitals?
After Justine has been raped, she goes on being stubborn and amends her concept of virtue, without however unbinding it from — the denial of active — sexuality: «she concludes her virtue depends on her own reluctance» 55because. Her passionately held conviction that her morality is intimately connected with her genitalia makes it become so.
Her honour does indeed reside in her vagina because she honestly believes it does so. Such a notion of virtue, in turn, is itself devised by established discursive arrangements aimed at disciplining the development of female identity and at keeping the female body under control in order to master reproduction. The obstinate conviction Women want sex Carter she can preserve her virtue no matter what, which always guides and justifies her actions, to a certain extent does not make her feel responsible for her conduct. Therefore, «she is always the Women want sex Carter of an experience that she never experiences as experience; her innocence invalidates experience and turns it into events, things that happen to her but do not change her» In sum, Justine represents «the prototype of two centuries of women who find the world was not, as they have been promised, made for them and who do not have, because they have not been given, the existential tools to remake the world for themselves» According to Carter, indeed, their lives are «in a dialectical relationship» In a patriarchal economy where the binary distinctions set a clear-cut opposition between the public and the private sphere, respectively — and exclusively — ased to men and women, a woman who decides to occupy the public domain and to engage in its business-like transactions has one only asset to sell; her body: «in a world organised by contractual obligations, the whore represents the only possible type of honest woman» The only way in which Juliette can be rich and free and wield power is to «enter the class» of men: «the life of Juliette proposes a method of profane mastery of the instruments of power.
Thus, she has to give up also the positive aspects of femininity in order to embrace masculinity and «cause […] suffering» Ibidem. Even if she has succeeded in overcoming the limits of her condition, her example does not undermine patriarchal definitions of femininity, as the role reversal merely le her «by the force of her will, [… to] become a Nietzschean superwoman, which is to say a woman who has transcended her gender but not the contradictions inherent in it» What Carter suggests in order to empower women, then, is that they can construct an identity freed from patriarchal constraints only through the redefinition of the category of woman itself, and certainly not by trying to appropriate masculine attributes.
Justine is the thesis, Juliette the antithesis; both are without hope and neither pays any heed to a future in which might lie the possibility of a synthesis of their modes of being, neither submissive nor aggressive, capable of both thought and feeling. Carter b : The same synthesis, in other words, which the Sadeian heroines failed to achieve:.
The Sadeian woman, then, subverts only her own socially conditioned role in the world of god, the king and the law. She does not subvert her society, except incidentally, as a storm trooper of the individual consciousness. She remains in the area of privilege created by her class, just as Sade remains in the philosophic framework of his time. Instead of a mutually enriching and pleasurable activity, sexual intercourse — and one could broaden the scope to other aspects of the relationships between the sexes — thus becomes something one can steal from the other, a mutually exclusive activity where one loses what the other gains.
In the Sadeian economy of desire, «when a woman pilfers her sexual pleasure from a man, she patently reduces his own and to witness her pleasure can do nothing more for him than to flatter his vanity» Carter b : As a consequence, the sexual experience in Sade, as Carter contends, is «entirely inward» and besides «is not experienced as experience», that is «it does not modify the subject.
An Women want sex Carter induced phenomenon, its sensation is Women want sex Carter personal, just as it does not hurt the knife if you cut yourself with it» The idea of reciprocity allows one to investigate the — new — conceptualisation of identity emerging from the stories as well as the way in which women can literally and materially engage in the redefinition of their selves and of their roles within society. What Carter suggests with fictional examples is not a definite alternative to existing models of development and outcomes of female subjectivities.
Rather, it is the painful, at times misleading, often ambiguous and even contradictory efforts of women who try to divert from the readymade path and to build new ones. The difficulty of these endeavours stems from the fact that — as Carter never ceases to remind readers — before relying on a brand new set of tools, they must start from what is already at their disposal, that is patriarchal and discourses.
Before actively starting to construct, therefore, they need first to be aware of what has already been built, find a way to deconstruct it, and after having resourcefully devised strategies of resistance, overthrow it and replace it with something more desirable — but nonetheless equally transitory and partial. As Braidotti would put it, «the point is not to know who [they] are» in an essential way, «but rather what, at last [they] want to become, how to represent mutations, changes, and transformations, rather than Being in its classical fashion» Braidotti 2.
Moreover, both texts strive to provide «alternative figurations or schemas for these locations [spatially and temporally individual positionalities] 2in terms of power as restrictive potestas but also as empowering or affirmative potentia » Ibidem. Yet, though Carter does not challenge sexual difference altogether, she most certainly tries to question the grounds on which difference is constructed in order to problematize it.
In other words, even though the normative nature of sexual difference is not turned down by the fairy tales, it does not mean that its normalisation is not disputed and amended 3. Thereby, the sustainability of the claim that Carter succeeds in turning patriarchal against themselves and in re-arranging their ification in a non-binary, non-oppositional manner.
Also in this case the stories are intertextually arranged in a climatic fashion. Imbalance that is then challenged by introducing other sensory experiences together with or as opposed to sight, even if, as the omnipresent play with mirroring reflections shows, sight itself is not completely done away with. Furthermore, the relation between sight and the other senses is a hierarchical one, given that vision is not dependent — as the other senses are — on space, being rather the «point of view» around which other sensory experiences are organised: «the look is the domain of domination and mastery […] The tactile, auditory, and olfactory sense organs depend on some spatial representation, which, in our culture if not in all civilizations, is hierarchically subordinate to the primacy of sight» Grosz Frozen in their being looked at, female subjects are left in an apparently inescapable passive position and their participation in their definition of themselves is hindered.
As a result of this process, woman is constructed as the negative — i. As Carter seems to suggest with her fairy tales nevertheless, the first step towards the destabilisation of such an encaging male gaze is recognising its provisional character and its dependence on contextual power-knowledge organisations, and on female complicity.
Most notably, subject formation and the construction of identity are indissolubly linked with and mediated by the body. Sight in terms of perspective is certainly connected with the analysis of sight as underlying power relations in determining who is looking, i. First of all, the action of looking or the condition of being looked at Women want sex Carter the changing body to narrative, for who looks and who is looked at determines who the focalizer and the focalized of the text are, thus opening up questions of narrative perspective.
This, in turn, allows one to establish the degree of activity and passivity of the female protagonists of the fairy tales, and to assess the extent to which their metamorphosis — whether it is physical or psychological — changes the power arrangements and enables them to speak for themselves and give free s of their identity journeys.
Furthermore, the gaze is connected to questions of objectification and otherness, since the subject of the gaze wields the power to define the object of its gaze. In fantastic literature, like in all narrative s, the body is «generated in language — in narrative strategy and descriptive technique — and is simultaneously the expression of the vision of a particular narrator, whose act of looking translates the objects seen in particular ways» Harter Moreover, the gaze determines the point of view, establishes and tries to fix the difference between the self and the other in order to keep its threatening, unknown nature under control Ibidem.
In other words, women are looked at and can look back, but allegedly cannot act on their gaze. Carter, however, challenges the traditional power arrangements and manages to set free enslaved and codified representations of femininity by conveying alternatives to that of sight.
This means that she does not try to reverse the roles and to give the female gaze the same oppressive, enclosing power of the male counterpart, but rather exploits the other senses to suggest strategies of resistance and empower female agency. The complexity conveyed by reflections in The Bloody Chamber is due to the manifold meanings attached to mirrors. ificantly enough, the extent to which women are able to act and to empower their sexual position depends on «the way the female subject participates» in the complex visual exchange she engages in with the master gaze Ibidem.
Secondly, the physical transformation implies a covert transformation as well: what is made explicit through the bodily remodelling is the metamorphic process experienced by the woman while trying to come to terms with and to map her identity journey. ificantly, in both instances self-awareness and action stem from a mirroring process where a transformation in the way of looking underpins the reconfiguration of gender relationships. On the contrary, she starts to see herself for the first time precisely from the moment in which she glances at her reflection into his eyes.
Bacchilega The Beast rudely snatched the photograph her father drew from his wallet and inspected it, first brusquely, then with a strange kind of wonder, almost the dawning of surmise. The camera had captured a certain look she had, sometimes, of absolute sweetness and absolute gravity, as if her eyes might pierce appearances and see your soul.
Carter a : Returning late from the supper after the Women want sex Carter, she took off her earrings in front of the mirror; Beauty. She smiled at herself with satisfaction. She was learning, at the end of her adolescence, how to be a spoiled child and that pearly skin of hers was plumping out, a little, with high living and compliments. How was it that she had never noticed before that his agate eyes were equipped with lids, like those of a man? Was it because she had only looked at her own face, reflected there?
That is to say, for the very first time Women want sex Carter acknowledges the presence of the other beneath the reflective surface of his eyes, and recognises humanity in them. The mutual process of recognition will then lead to a transformation which will make ongoing mutual exchange and sharing possible.
As Bacchilega suggests, the tale is focused on «the familiar tabu against looking», which affects equally Beauty, as she «refuses to be seen», and Beast, who «wears a mask» But much of this in-sight soon proves to be mediated, indirect, already materially and culturally framed» As a consequence, the more the protagonist understands about herself and about the Beast, the less her experience — symbolised by her gaze — is mediated by the mirror.
As the privileged space of otherness, where the undesirable is trapped in order for the desirable to be able to take place, but always winks and threatens to surface; as the place where different — imagined, projected, physical as well as psychological — spaces are superimposed to one another, the mirror seems to take on a heterotopic function Foucault At the beginning, for example, the protagonist looks at the room where her father is losing her at cards — and by Women want sex Carter approaches an attempted understanding of the situation where she is definitely turned into a bargaining object — through a mirror: «The mirror above the table gave me back his frenzy, my impassivity, the withering candles, the emptying bottles» Carter a : The same mirror casts back the reflection of the Beast, himself concealed by his disguise which performs the same mediating function that the mirror does for Beauty: «The mirror above the table gave me back […] the still mask that concealed all the features of The Beast but for the yellow eyes that strayed, now and then, from his unfurled hands towards myself» Ibidem.
He also wears a wig, a silk stock and gloves to cover his hair, neck and hands, and even his smell is covered by a «fuddling perfume» Ibidem. Even though his eyes are the only true and seemingly lively thing, Beauty cannot see her image reflected in them, neither can she look at his face for recognition not so much because he is an animal, but because of his deliberate disguise — that is, his intentional refusal to be recognised for what he is: «And yet The Beast goes always masked; it cannot be his face that looks like mine» This also means that, at this stage, Beauty is still looking for resemblance, for sameness in the other to make sense of and accept both.
The first disruptive experience of the girl occurs when she meets her clockwork maid, «a soubrette from an operetta, with glossy, nut-brown curls, rosy cheeks, blue, rolling eyes. Later on, indeed, when she is riding with the Beast and his valet, she realises that the maid is «a clockwork twin of mine», for «had I not been allotted only the same kind of imitative life amongst men that the doll-maker had given her?
This means that she acknowledges that so far she has just been the puppet of her father or of the other men in her life, having allowed them to pull her strings as she refused to drop the veil which covered her eyes, to leave behind the mirror which mediated her experience of herself and of the world — either out of fear or out of convenience. As soon as the Beast has eventually, bravely, given up his disguise, indeed, Beauty, too, feels empowered enough to take off her clothes and even to accept being deprived of her own skin. Rather, mutual exchange and a balanced distribution of power within the masculine and the feminine are required in order for both of them to develop an independent but not lonely identity journey where reciprocity is not only possible but becomes necessary to achieve independence.
Most notably, this accomplishment brings about and is subsequently re-enacted and amended through the change of the established social — discursive — order. The issue Women want sex Carter stake with regard to the alternative and empowering development of female identity in these two stories reveals once again the tensions between complicity in and transgression of the patriarchal order and naturalised ideals of female subjectivities and role positions:.
Her «destination», identified by the girl with her «destiny» 8that is with marriage, is the castle of the Marquis, set in opposition to the house of the mother, the «enclosed quietude» 7 of childhood. The unpredictability of this destiny is highlighted by the opposition between the «quietude» of what is known and reassuring and the inability even to guess what is waiting for her after the wedding. Since the beginning, therefore, it is clear that the protagonist is experiencing a process of transition, which she does not know how to handle.
The tale, indeed, displays the provisional consequences of an identity journey which starts from unusual premises — that is a girl who comes into contact with human civilization only after living with wild wolves for years — and is articulated outside of a normalised — phallogocentric — discursive framework, as the people who try to tame her soon realise that there is not enough humanity in her and thus she cannot be socialised.
However, her marginalisation and independence from established social conventions and recommended role positions at the same time transforms these processes, so that eventually the development of her identity will reach different outcomes. More explicitly, she will be able to experience reciprocity and to bring the werewolfish Duke back to life thanks to her pristine alienation.
The «alternative» to a subject formation and identity development imbued in patriarchal assumptions, expectations, normalising and disciplined strategies is articulated through the example of an individual who grew up without being subject to them, thus being able to articulate an autonomous socialising process, which led to reciprocity, recognition of the other, and life.
The development and ongoing transformations of female identity are both shaped by and negotiated with reference to an entangled play of gazes and reflections, where autonomy Women want sex Carter empowerment are struggled over through learning how to master vision and to ify specular reflections.
In other words, the process through which female subjects gain — different degrees of — awareness of their selves and construct their identities is based on how woman sees herself and the extent to which she can not avoid identifying with the image conveyed by those who master the gaze and have the power of defining the meanings of the reflections cast by the rational glass — in whatever form.
The gallery of examples described by Carter portrays different patterns of development for female subjectivity; some that comply with established discursive arrangements, some that fail to stray from the path they know, for it is already too deeply rooted in their un consciousness, some, finally, that manage to amend or re-ify the normative role positions society expects them to take on.
In other words, the focus is to be placed on the body, i. Similar concepts suggest that embodied subjects are structured through the discursively established identification with ideal bodies and behaviours, but also that they can struggle over imposed role position by staging their own performances through the body, its expressions and disguises. Most notably, when one turns to the body, the category of gender is even more crucial in patriarchal attempts to devise and control the circumscribed meanings that can be attached to female subjectivities.
Thus it is from and by means of the body that the metamorphoses performed or experienced by the female protagonists of The Bloody Chamber succeed in creating actual alternatives to the available — phallogoncentric — discourses on womanhood. Starting from acknowledgement, questioning and deconstruction of the patriarchal systems, the tales end up turning their assumptions against themselves, and then propose alternative, subversive patterns of development through disruptive metamorphoses of the female body.
The relationships between the sexes are indeed scrutinised and patriarchal assumptions about them are challenged without undercutting or providing alternatives to the heterosexual economy of desire. Far from underestimating or minimising the revolutionary and subversive range of her literary speculations, it could be argued that Carter is interested in questioning and remoulding power dynamics and relationships between the sexes, which however in the endorsement of normative — albeit disruptive — heterosexuality. The practice of ability […] as a relational, collective activity of undoing power differentials is linked to two crucial notions: memory and narratives.
They activate the process of putting into words, that is to say of bringing into symbolic representation, that which by definition escapes consciousness» Braidotti Vision performs a distancing function, leaving the Women want sex Carter unimplicated in or uncontaminated by its object. With all of the other senses, there is a contiguity between subject and object, if not an internalization and incorporation of the object by the subject». Creative Commons - Attribution-ShareAlike 3.Women want sex Carter
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