Housing sexuality: domestic space and the development of female sexuality in the fiction of Angela Carter and Jeanette Winterson
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A repeated theme in the fiction of Angela Carter and Jeanette Winterson is the use of domestic space as a tool for defining socially acceptable versions of female sexuality. Four novels that crystallize this theme are the focus of this dissertation: Winterson??s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985) and Art and Lies (1994) and Carter??s The Magic Toyshop (1967) and Nights at the Circus (1984). Each chapter examines both authors?? treatments of a specific room in the house. Chapter II, "Parlor Games: Spatial Literacy in Formal Rooms," discusses how rooms used for formal occasions project a desirable public image of a family. More insidiously, however, the rooms protect the sexual order of the household, which often privileges male sexuality. Using the term spatial literacy to describe how characters interpret rooms, the chapter argues that characters with a high spatial literacy can detect not only the overt messages of these formal rooms, but also what underlies those messages. Chapter III, "Making Meals, Breaking Deals: Mothers, Daughters, and Kitchens," discusses the kitchen as the site of the production of domestic comfort. An analysis of who has primary responsibility for the production of comfort and whose comfort is privileged often reveals the power hierarchy of a given household. The chapter also examines the kitchen as a volatile space that can erupt with violence and the expression of repressed emotions and repressed sexuality. Finally, the kitchen is analyzed as a space of intimacy between mothers and daughters. Chapter IV, "Bedtime Stories: Assaulting Sexuality in the Bedroom," argues that the privacy of the adolescent bedroom is often disrupted by the surveillance of family members trying to control the sexual identity of the room??s occupant. The chapter also examines how social prescriptions encourage women to tolerate the interruption of their privacy. Each of the protagonists from these four novels has opportunities to learn about subverting the discursive constructions of domestic space, and several characters enact that subversion. This ability for subversion suggests the possibility for agency, a possibility that postmodernist thought often rejects, but one that Carter and Winterson allow.
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
Art and Lies
Nights at the Circus
The Magic Toyshop
Cantrell, Samantha E. (2003). Housing sexuality: domestic space and the development of female sexuality in the fiction of Angela Carter and Jeanette Winterson. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from