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See, The Angel of Death: Lizzie Borden, Angela Carter and l’effet de réel

Vlitos, PMJ (2015) See, The Angel of Death: Lizzie Borden, Angela Carter and l’effet de réel Textual Practice: an international journal of radical literary studies.

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Taking as its subject matter the unsolved killings, in August 1892, of Andrew Borden and his wife Abby Borden at their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, Angela Carter’s short story ‘The Fall River Axe Murders’ (1981) deliberately tests and teases the line of demarcation between prose fiction and historical discourse. Scrupulously specific in its descriptions of the clothes, objects, sounds and smells of life in a New England mill town on one particular day in the late Nineteenth Century, ‘The Fall River Axe Murders’ can most productively be read, I suggest, as a text in conscious dialogue with Roland Barthes’ essay ‘L’effet de réel’ (1968), as an investigation of Barthes’ claim that ‘modern realism’ (as exemplified by the writings of Flaubert and Michelet) is characterised by a commitment to representing the contingent, the inconsequential and the insignificant – a commitment which in seeming to collapse the distinction between referent and signifier produces what Barthes calls the ‘reality effect’. The role of such details in Carter’s story, I propose, is contrariwise to puncture our confidence in the referential status of the text and to prompt the reader to reflect uncertainly upon the relationship between Carter’s fiction and documented historical events. Keywords: Roland Barthes; Angela Carter; Gustave Flaubert; ‘The Fall River Axe Murders’, ‘L’effet de réel’; ‘Mise-en-Scène for a Parricide’; detail; Lizzie Borden

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > School of Literature and Languages > English
Authors :
Vlitos, PMJ
Date : 1 November 2015
Additional Information : This is the author's accepted version of a paper accepted for publication in Textual Practice, Copyright 2015 Taylor & Francis. Full text may be available at a later date.
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 29 Jul 2015 11:25
Last Modified : 31 Oct 2017 17:31

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