Contemporary Women's Fiction and the Fantastic
This book takes a wide-ranging approach to gendered readings of the fantastic as employed by fifteen contemporary women novelists writing between 1965 and the present day. Focusing on Isabel Allende, Margaret Atwood, Angela Carter, Bessie Head, Toni Morrison, Jeanette Winterson and Monique Wittig among others, it addresses a variety of cultural perspectives on the fantastic, including representations of the Jew as vampire, Welshness and fairy lore, Latin America as source of the 'exotic' and Black South Africa as the province of nightmare. Thematically, the book is haunted by two fictive narrators, Freud's Dora and Scheherazade, the narrator of the Thousand and One Nights - both of whom find their own stories continually reworked and replayed in contemporary women's novels. But further intertextual relations also recur in E. T. A. Hoffmann's The Sandman, Alfred Lord Tennyson's The Lady of Shalott, Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own and Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. In that sense the contemporary fantastic is seen to be in ongoing contact with that of previous centuries.
Refusing to take genre as its central structural principle, Armitt's approach focuses instead upon a series of fantastic tropes (the cyborg, the vampire, ghosts, fairies and automata) and their relationship to different cultural, conceptual and theoretical discourses. She also coins a new concept of the grotesque utopia as a means of rethinking celebratory readings of the fantastic in a manner that evades reductive capitulation to the 'sealed off' text.