Flights of Fancy and the Dissolution of Shakespearean Space-Time in Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus

in Critical Survey
Kate Myers University of Oregon, USA

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While much attention has been paid to Angela Carter's intertextual appropriation of Shakespeare and her interrogation of the patriarchal ideology at work in his representations of familial strife, critics tend to focus on Carter's final novel, Wise Children. Shakespeare's influence on Carter's earlier novel, Nights at the Circus, has gone largely unremarked. Like Wise Children, Nights at the Circus builds a bricolage of Shakespearean allusions, but it more subtly reconsiders the ontological issues of legitimacy by returning to Shakespeare's interest in ambiguity, in deniability, in time, and in space. I argue that Nights at the Circus appropriates and shatters Shakespeare's disruptive methods concerning the materiality of time in The Winter's Tale and Hamlet. In so doing, Carter reverses time and dismembers space to criticise the masculine-made-legitimate at the expense of the feminine, which Shakespeare's temporal and spatial manipulations ultimately uphold.

Contributor Notes

Kate Myers, PhD, is a Senior Instructor of English and Composition and Director of the Writing Associates Program at the University of Oregon. Her current research investigates unacknowledged Semitic underpinnings of early modern English rhetorical and literary conventions of writing, including formalised affect and temporality in Shakespeare's plays. Her other research and teaching interests include the afterlives of Shakespeare and his contemporaries in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American and British literature, as well as critical and antiracist pedagogies. Email:

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