Alchemy of the word : alchemy, allegory and individuation in Angela Carter's The passion of new Eve
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Angela Carter in The Passion of New Eve (1977) uses the exoteric phases of alchemy and Carl G. Jung's theory of esoteric alchemy as a means of demonstrating allegorically the idea of rebirth and renewal. The purpose of this allegorical method is to produce an 'alchemical' change of thought in the reader about sexuality and gender associated with women's repression and liberation. In the novel Carter develops themes and ideas explored in her essay, The Sadeian Woman: An Exercise in Cultural History (1979), an analysis of the Marquis de Sade's pornography and its affect on the roles of men and women in society. The clash of opposites involved in combining alchemical symbolism, feminism and pornography within the fiction can be seen as representative of the state of chaos present in alchemy before the beginning of change. The circular narrative and alchemical structure of the fiction creates a literary version of the alchemical process as it brings together opposites involved in chaos, represented by events and characterisation that the protagonist, Evelyn/Eve, experiences, until, in the manner of alchemy, harmony is reached. The harmony created represents women's empowerment. Carter uses Evelyn's individuation process to encourage growth within the reader by altering patterns of thought to bring about change through self-confrontation and self-knowledge. The structure of Carter's fiction, thus, corresponds to the process of esoteric alchemy contained within the structure, imagery and symbolism of exoteric alchemy. The fiction is designed to stimulate the unconscious of the reader and make conscious hitherto unknown and repressed thoughts about gender and sexuality to bring about change in the lives of men and women.