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Angela Carter’s beasts

She pricked the pieties of Leavisite critics and feminists alike, but her fairy tales have outlived them all. They contain a black thread tying love to violence

By Paul Barker   July 2006

Once upon a time, fairy tales were denounced, especially on the left. “Realistic,” improving literature was the thing. But Angela Carter loved to retell such stories in her gothic, pyrotechnic prose. At university, studying English, she’d plunged into the medieval options—romances, legends, allegories—partly to avoid the finger-wagging followers of FR Leavis who, she thought, belonged to the “eat up your broccoli” school of literary analysis. She has been rewarded with posthumous fame; it is a triumph for her take on the world, a mixture of attraction and menace, like a jewel glittering in the dark.

“Red Riding Hood,” “Beauty and…

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