Happy Birthday Angela Carter

Angela Carter Birthday 2018On this day, the 7th of May, in 1940 Angela Olive Stalker was born. Were she alive today, Angela Carter (as she later became known) would be 78 years old. To celebrate her birthday, here is a short roundup of some of the important events and books that have appeared over the last year and a couple that are coming up later this year.

20180507_105453.jpgTo begin, a number of brilliant books were published over the last year, including academic studies and guidebooks, a memoir and new editions of Carter’s works. Heidi Yeandle’s Angela Carter and Western Philosophy, a fascinating study of the ways in which Carter alluded to, was inspired by and rewrote canonical western philosophers (including Plato, Descartes and Wittgenstein) was published by Palgrave. This is a comprehensive and informative new study that draws on archival material from the Angela Carter Archive held at the British Library as well as Carter’s published works. Film students and fans of Neil Jordan’s cinematic adaptation of Carter’s story ‘The Company of Wolves’ can now consult the first book publication on this strange and wonderful film in the form of James Gracey’s study, part of the Devil’s Advocates series. Although The Company of Wolves has been written about previously (most notably by Charlotte Crofts in her book Anagrams of Desire), this is first book-length publication that focuses entirely on this film and will prove invaluable for anyone studying this marvellous adaptation. Following on from Edmund Gordon’s authorised biography of Carter, which appeared in 2016, Natsumi Ikoma has recently translated into English a memoir written by Carter’s Japanese lover, Sozo Araki, entitled Seduced by Japan: A Memoir of the Days Spent with Angela Carter. In addition to Araki’s narrative, which offers an alternative perspective on Carter’s time spent in Japan, Ikoma has also written an accompanying essay, entitled ‘Her Side of the Story’, which contextualises the former’s account. Currently available only in Japan or in ebook format, the book is scheduled to be released in Europe later this year. Finishing up this wave of new books is the Everyman’s Library volume of three of Carter’s works: The Bloody Chamber, Wise Children and Fireworks. This omnibus of works by Carter is not only handsomely bound but also comes with a new introduction by New Yorker staff writer Joan Acocella.

Secondly, I had the pleasure of attending a number of brilliant adaptations of Carter’s works over the last year. Beginning in July, I was invited to watch ‘The Lizzie Play’ at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, an adaptation of Carter’s short story ‘The Fall River Axe Murders’. Adapted by Deidre Strath and directed by Nona Shepphard, this production by Women@RADA brilliantly transformed Carter’s lush prose for the stage and explored the significant issues around gender and violence that this historical and fictional narrative evokes. Then in October, I was convulsed with laughter at watching Renato’s Theatre Company’s ‘Pussy: An Angela Carter Musical Extravaganza’, an adaptation of Carter’s story ‘Puss-in-Boots’ that was performed at the Alma Tavern & Theatre in Bristol. Although this was a much shorter and more lighthearted work than ‘The Lizzie Play’, ‘Pussy’ had its audience in stitches of laughter thanks to a magnificent performance by Simon Vardakis, who captured the cheekiness and ribald cynicism of Carter’s puss. Click here to read my review of this raucous musical adaptation.

Looking to the future, a number of exciting events are currently looming on the horizon. Firstly, the Bath Festival will feature a discussion of Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber hosted by Backlisted Podcast on the 23rd May. Hosts John Mitchinson and Andy Miller will be joined by novelist Rachel Heath, critic Arifa Akbar and the festival’s artistic director Alex Clark for what will surely prove to be a fascinating conversation – click here for further details. The following month, a short course on Carter led by Professor Gina Wisker will be running at the University of Cambridge from the 22nd until the 24th June. Entitled ‘Angela Carter for the 21st Century: fireworks and strange worlds’, this course will draw on new scholarship and biographical details about Carter’s life and works to help students to appreciate and gain a better understanding of her rich oeuvre. Then, just a week later an exciting new conference focusing on Carter’s relationship to Japan will take place at the University of East Anglia and organised by Professor Natsumi Ikoma and Dr Stephen Benson. This one-day symposium at UEA will be “devoted to the influence of Japan on the life and work of Angela Carter, and more broadly, to any aspect of the relation between Carter’s writing and Japan.” Registration for ‘Angela Carter and Japan’ is now open so book your place now.

Lastly, a number of other Carter-related events and publications will be arriving further in the future. Firstly, Emma Rice’s new stage adaptation of Carter’s final novel, Wise Children, will be debuting at the end of this year. Having left her position as artistic director at Shakespeare’s Globe, Rice set up a new theatre company, also called Wise Children, and announced that her first production would launch the 2018/19 season at London’s Old Vic. According to the latest newsletter from Wise Children, the company are currently working at Spike Island here in Bristol and hosted by the Arnolfini. Several months before the play premieres, the Arnolfini will be hosting a launch event for the company on the 9th June, so put this date in your diaries now. Secondly, a new volume of essays entitled Ludics & Laughter as Feminist Aesthetic: Angela Carter at Play is currently being assembled, edited by Dr Jennifer Gustar, Dr Sarah Gamble and myself. While there have been other volumes of essays on Carter in the past, our book aims to address a fundamental if neglected aspect of Carter’s work: its humour and its play. Furthermore, given that feminism is rarely seen as playful or funny, we have asked our contributors to explore the notion that Carter employs play and humour as part of her feminist aesthetic. In response to our Call for Papers, we received a number of fascinating proposals for book chapters and we look forward to working with these contributors over the next few months.

Although Angela Carter died a quarter of a century ago and although there have been many publications, stage adaptations and other events based on her life and works in that time since her death, judging by the enormous and varied output of work inspired by her that appeared during the previous year, it would seem that Carter continues to inspire more and more people to engage with her rich body of work. I am looking forward to seeing what this next year brings.

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