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201 pages, Hardcover
First published October 23, 2014
She is a professor in the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre at the University of Essex, and gave the Reith Lectures on the BBC in 1994 on the theme of 'Managing Monsters: Six Myths of Our Time.'
“Bluebeard’s afterlife in literature and other media divides sharply along gender lines: male writers see themselves in the role, with varying degrees of self-scrutiny and complacency, whereas for women, the Bluebeard figure often embodies contradictory feelings about male sexuality, and consequently presents a challenge, a challenge that they meet in a variety of ways.”Given the provocative nature of this statement, I would have expected that it would be backed up by some sort of census of stories, or at least a collection of examples in which male authors use the tropes that Warner claims for them. Instead, the only “evidence” is an example from one of Angela Carter’s stories and a rather fanciful interpretation of the low-budget, female-directed art house film Barbe-bleue (2009).
“Female protagonists are mutilated more often than male heroes.”I don’t necessarily doubt these rather sensational claims, but given that both are quantitative statements, both could be demonstrated in absolute terms. Warner doesn’t even try. This pattern of grandiose claims backed by at most a few anecdotes is a general trend in the book.
“Females dominate fairytale evil.”
“The Latin Americans, broadly speaking, do not undermine the structure of the magic they create, whereas the North Americans and Europeans make a show of their scepticism (superiority).”
“Comparison of the 1812 versions with the fuller, patterned 1857 final, now standard, edition shows that Wilhem had a fine sense of narrative dynamics, and that the tales benefited hugely from his multiple interferences.”Personally, I disagree completely, but given Warner’s own writing style, I’m not precisely surprised by her attitude. The book’s structure is overblown, with the sentences often lasting a half a Kindle page or more. A randomly-chosen example sentence:
“Scholars who refute popular, unlettered participants in the tales’ history are staking too much on the literary record; the latter is interwoven in the dissemination of the story, in manuscript and print, and helps crystallize its features, but the case for the invention of an entire story, ab ovo, by an individual writer, flies in the face of evidence--Plato mentions old women going down to the harbour to comfort the victims bound for the Minotaur’s table by telling them stories, and Apuleius places his marvellous ‘Tale of Cupid and Psyche’ on the lips of an old and disreputable bawd.”Maybe it's just me, but I thought that Warner injected rather too many personal details into her descriptions. I don’t really care that The Bloody Chamber gave Warner “new, vital carnal knowledge” or about her early fearful memories of Arthur Rackham’s illustrations.
unlike most fairy tales, and certainly unlike the majority of the erotic fantasies selling fast today, her writing dazzles: her prose is unabashed in its festivity, lacerating scorn, and salty pungency. She puts on a performance of brilliant kinetic energy, displaying masterly handling of register, irony, allusion, phrase and lexicon. She is playful, richly layered, and exuberantly fearless as she attempts to reconfigure new possible worlds – where heroines will not submit but will understand their own appetites and act to fulfill them…Carter’s originality has saved her from assimilation by the politically correct: in 1979, the same year that she published The Bloody Chamber, she also “issued a deliberate and outrageous provocation, an essay called The Sadeian Woman [in which] she upheld the pornography of the Marquis de Sade as a feminist tool of illumination.”