Feminism and Gender Approaches as Used in Angela Carter’s and Anne Rice’s Vampires
This thesis provides analysis and elaboration of Angela Carter’s and Anne Rice’s literary works of the Vampires and how the female characters, sexuality and gender have been used. Basically the approach is about the critical approach of literature that focuses on feminism, gender studies, and according to this approach, the research paper should be focusing on authors gender and sexual orientation, characters gender and sexual orientation, and social attitudes about gender and sexual orientation. (Butler, 2006) In this work, I tend to find out the similarities and the differences or the things shared in common between the vampires and the sexuality and the gender in 1970s and 1980s. This research focuses on “The loves of lady purple” and “The lady of the house of love” Angela Carter’s short stories and The vampire Lestat and the Queen of the Damned of Ann Rice’s novels.
One would wonder whether the vampire characters are able to express such level of discourses in terms of their symbolism as used in the novel and short stories. In their work, Rice and Carter tend to explore the potential of the abjection of the vampire and the subversive questions about sexuality and gender. These two writers and the gothic description of vampires are basically about the gender issues that took place between the years of 1970s and 1980s, in their case, the vampire character is an important metaphor on fears concerning the sexuality and desires related to feminism and homosexuals and the impact of this freedom is evidenced in the breakout of the HIV epidemic. In Carter and Rice literary works, they consider the vampires characters as people who are not humans, that these Vampires have their freedom and nothing to control them and at the same time a curse for being a vampire. It’s a curse because these vampires can easily satisfy their lusts for blood by killing and drinking their blood, and in turns they infect their victims with the same condition. Carter short stories are collections from the versions of the famous fairy tales; her short stories tend to explain the vampire myths and depict women in a way that tries to disrupt their traditional representation. Rice’s novels are a collection from the volumes and series of vampire chronicles, in her work, Rice elaborates and provides understanding of the origin of these creatures. The vampires are considered to be cold blood predators and they try to struggle with morality in their condition of predating on their victims.
The works of Carter and Rice have often met with some criticism, for instance the works such as Benefiel’s, Smith’s and Rout’s criticizes the Rice novels. The works such as Gamble’s, Guede’s and Martin’s tend to criticize the works of Carter, these criticizers claims that these short stories and the novels were selected for the rich depiction they convey of vampires in contemporary western cultures about sexuality and gender. Sexuality and gender are two different aspects and can be best understood in consideration to society and culture, meaning they are constructed socially and culturally and people understands them in different ways. Sexuality can have different meanings. First, we can define sexuality as not just relation to the physical body but also to beliefs ideologies and imaginations; sexuality is constructed socially so the definition should not only focus on the physical aspect. (Judith, 2006) Sexuality can also be defined as a realm of sexuality experiences and desires and at times the definition includes individual sexual orientation. Gender can be defined as way of seeing and representing people and situations based on their sexual differences, for example male gender and female gender. Butler represents a contention on the issues of gender; he questions whether the construction of gender identities implies determinism or free will. Butlers argues that the construction of gender can only be a free will if the body is the primary aspect for its construction rather than social aspect.
Angela Carter is considered one of the versatile writers who is characterized with the ability to mix different literary styles to create an original, unique and powerful kind of work that attracts her audience, and this is according to her critics. According to Martin who is one of the Angela Carte’s greatest critics, he claims that Angela’s short stories are considered as parodies of fairy tales that construct identity fantasies and fears in terms of female sexuality and desires. Angela’s work is said to be inclusive of postmodernism, feminism, fantasy, fiction and gothic literary devices. (Gamble, 2001) According to Gamble, he describes Carter as on the greatest feminine writers with the ability to include stories of science fictions and fantasy, her work is considered to be unconventional presented in an easy way incorporating the numerous tense combinations between the old and the new the high and the low in order to bring quality in his work. Carter uses both horror and humor mixed with paradoxical styles in her work to break the reader’s monotony. However, some of Carter critics claim that Carter short stories are complex and different to read and understand.
Some of Carter critics such as Peng also describe her as a dedicated female writer whose works are dedicated to address gender issues and things concerning sexuality in the society. In her work, Carter does not refer to herself as a female gender but she is attached to the values of female gender in the society. Basically, Carter’s works explains the physical abuses women went through in the 1970s and 1980s in the phallocentric cultures. It focused on the women who isolated themselves from the men gender because of the physical abuses, and those women who grab their own sexuality and fight back especially the women troubled by the physical abuses and even powered by their own violence.
In comparison between Carter and Rice, Rice is less criticized in her literary works as compared to Rice. Most of her works are characterized by gothic literary features according to the works that analyze her stories. According to Smith, most of Rice’s novels are characterized by popular culture, horror archetypical characters, mythical world of epic fantasy fiction and the gothic fiction. (Journal popular culture, 2004) In her work, Rice tends to describe the vampires morality and how they are being identified and associate themselves to human beings. Jennifer Smith describes vampires in Rice novels as figures that are developed into full features and share some needs with the human beings. These vampires are used as metaphors in her work to signify the evil humanities. A source material that clearly defines Rice’s work, the styles used and gothic settings is a book by the name; A critical companion written by Jennifer Smith. In his book, Smith describes and compares the work of Rice to other great writers such as Carter who employed gothic work. These writers whom she compares Rice with were mostly ending their writings or stories with the acceptance of beauty of nature and life as the only savior.
The main difference pointed out in Rice literary work is that, in all her vampires’ books, Rice provides the vampires with the ability to recognize their place in nature in even after causing havoc by predating on their victims. Rice also incorporates the issue of sexuality in her work; her vampires are either represented as homosexuals, bisexual or the asexual beings. Smith further explains this idea of Rice and vampire sexuality by claiming that the vampires represent sexuality without responsibilities, boundaries or even rules because of the supernatural powers installed in them. However, Smith argues that instead of Rice concentrating on the theme, she concentrates more on the figures of the vampire.
- Journal popular culture. (2004). Rice’s interview with the vampire: 38.2, 261-273
- Butler & Judith. (2006). Gender trouble: Feminism and subversion of identity: London Routledge
- Gamble & Sara. (2001). the fiction of Angela Carter: a reader’s guide to essential Criticism. Icon readers guide, Cambridge: Icon books.