Angela Carter: Writing from the Front Line

By Sarah Gamble | Go to book overview
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Since her death in 1992, Angela Carter's reputation has passed into academic urban legend. The story goes that, among the requests for grants for doctoral study received by the British Academy in the academic year 1992–3, there were 40 proposals to study Carter's work: more and this is the punch-line than the Academy received for the entire eighteenth century. Although I retrieved the above facts and figures from Paul Barker's 1995 article on Carter, 'The Return of the Magic Story-Teller', the story itself had already assumed quasi-folkloric status in the English Literature departments of university campuses long before he reproduced it in The Independent on Sunday.1 But what moves this anecdote into the realm of folklore is the way in which, even while its overall message remains the same, the exact details of the story vary depending on the teller. A few months after Barker's piece, Observer Life magazine also published an article on Carter, in which Nicci Gerrard repeats Barker's assertion of her celebrity status, although this time she is reported as having overtaken Virginia Woolf in the student popularity stakes.

Indeed, the very fact that such stories are related in the context of an article in a Sunday supplement (albeit a 'quality' Sunday supplement) rather than the academic press in itself indicates Angela Carter's growing popularity among general readers. While both articles cover more or less the same ground, both are accessible assessments of Carter's career which, unhampered by academic jargon, have doubtless been instrumental in furthering the process of Carter's posthumous (re)discovery.

It is tragic that Carter died before attaining her present level of fame, and it is a tragic irony that it was probably the one that, at least partly, made the other possible. As Nicci Gerrard observes, the death of any author transforms her body of work into an 'oeuvre, ready for academic


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Angela Carter: Writing from the Front Line


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