By Maggie Tonkin (auth.)
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Extra resources for Angela Carter and Decadence: Critical Fictions/Fictional Critiques
His reading of the tale as a literal account of events that actually happen to Nathaniel is, in a sense, a variant of the highly literal biographical criticism of Proust and Poe, which, as I shall show in later sections, Carter parodies so relentlessly. The Magic Toyshop’s very title is a signifier of its non-realist dimensions, for by definition a magic toyshop is a place in which the fantastic and the inexplicable, that is to say, the very hallmarks of the Gothic, can be expected to occur. And indeed Melanie’s journey into the Magic Toyshop is on one level a journey into the Gothic realm of the unconscious, in which she comes face to face with violence, sexuality and incest, and is forced to confront her own abjection.
Meanwhile Franz steals into the toymaker’s den, but is drugged into unconsciousness by the sly Dr Coppelius who attempts to magically draw the life-force from Franz’s body in order to animate his beloved doll. What follows is an uncanny reversal: the flesh and blood Swanhilda, now disguised as Coppélia, mimics the doll coming to life to dance for her master. Dr Coppelius is enraptured, but his joy is short-lived for Swanhilda soon reveals her deception and she and Franz escape leaving the toymaker broken-hearted.
Only, when she sees how important it is to everyone else, how it attracts privileges and attentions that her narcissism tells her that she’s every bit as entitled to – that is where the wound comes; Olympia’s Revenge 47 something is missing all right. And then when she perceives its power, the power to fix her in this less-than lacking identity, that is an uncanny moment. The meaning of which must escape her – something she puts no value on to be value itself? That is uncanny. (137) In Carter’s version, the uncanny is that moment of recognition when the power relations that underpin patriarchy are made visible to the female subject.