- Seductions in Narrative: Subjectivity and Desire in the Works of Angela Carter and Jeanette Winterson
The sexy title, Seductions in Narrative, and the sexy cover, a deep purple background with a larger-than-life red lipstick kiss and swirly yellow, white, and black type, drew me to this book immediately. A cool title, bold cover, two of my favorite authors, and some of my favorite words-a seductive text indeed.
Gemma López begins this persuasive and nicely organized text with a preface that clearly outlines her aims of "explore[ing] the ways in which subjectivity, desire and narrative may be inter-connected" (xii). The book is broken into four blocks: Part 1 offers "Preliminaries," in which López lays out her theory and methodology, which, as she says, is primarily informed by post-structuralism but also employs the psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan. Much of her discussion of desire expands upon Catherine Belsey's Desire: Love Stories in Western Culture (1994) and psychoanalytic theory. López's attention to post-structuralist theorists, in particular Michel Foucault, allows her to argue that "The two novels [Angela Carter's Heroes and Villains (1969) and Jeanette Winterson's Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985)] propose a view of subjectivity which celebrates multiplicity unconcerned by social constraints in an alternative, utopian dimension which the desire of the characters has the power to create" (24).
Parts 2 and 3 are "Literary Reflections" on Carter's Heroes and Villains and Winterson's Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, respectively, and these sections are broken down into five shorter chapters each to produce close readings of the two texts. Part 4, " 'A Project That Defies Completion': Desire, Fantasy, and Personal Utopia," closes the book by summarizing López's main argument that Heroes and Villains and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit employ imaginative, fantastic, or fairy-tale narratives as liberating discourses through which the protagonist is able to negotiate multiple subject positions, explore her desires fully, and resist external pressures from repressive societies that may not accept those desires. López concludes that as "subjects-in-process," not only the primary characters in the texts by Carter and Winterson but also we readers are always desiring, and that these two texts demonstrate that "[t]hrough our narrative seductions," we are able to temporarily imagine, explore, articulate and even metamorphose our multiple desires, and multiple subjectivities in a continual and open-ended "tale of becoming" (272, 273). [End Page 428]
Seductions in Narrative is an accessible read that adds to scholarship on Carter and Winterson and successfully demonstrates how subjectivity, desire, and narrative are indeed interconnected. Arguing that "the object of desire may be desire itself " (16) and that desire eludes final definition, López still manages to create unified and coherent readings of these texts in which she clearly traces the process of subject development in both and explores the possibilities of the multiplicity and "liberating uncertainties of desire" (273) as they work in the novels. Both texts use fantasy, particularly the fairy tale, through which their protagonists create alternative, utopic worlds in order to continually develop as desiring subjects and explore that subjectivity within cultures that attempt to trap them into single stable pre-scripted identities. López's reading is carefully thought out and drawn in the two "Literary Reflections." However, her dependence upon psychoanalytic and post-structuralist theories without the attendant depth in literary and narrative studies, and especially the lack of deeper examination of the fairy tale as a genre-particularly in light of the strides made in fairy-tale studies in the last twenty years and the fascination in the field with both Carter and Winterson-lead me to wonder what a more multidisciplinary methodology might add to her analysis.
I should note that although Seductions in Narrative examines the work of two authors who are known for their engagement with folktales and fairy tales, it is not primarily a text for folklorists or...