By Maggie Tonkin (auth.)
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Extra resources for Angela Carter and Decadence: Critical Fictions/Fictional Critiques
Of the original uncanniness of Hoffmann’s tale, there is little residue. Coppélia is essentially a comedic version of ‘The Sandman’ in which the uncanny is transformed into a bit of fun. Swanhilda’s message may be non-verbal but it still comes across loud and clear: men who fall in love with dolls are uncannily stupid. Coppélia is not mentioned by name in the novel, but the production notes for the film version make this intertext explicit, by referring to the dancer who plays the parts of the wood nymph and the female marionette as ‘Coppélia/Nymph dancer’ (Bell The Curious Room 508).
Freud’s elision of Olympia in his analysis is the corollary of his greater project, to find a universal underpinning to the uncanny. Here as elsewhere, the universal turns out to be a masculine masquerade. As feminists have long argued, the very concept of the universal has an uncanny way of eliding the feminine from its terms of reference. Freud’s elision of the doll is indeed striking when considered in the light of the two major nineteenth-century theatrical variations on ‘The Sandman’, both of which are centrally concerned with the undecidability of the figure of the doll, and must be considered as intertexts for Carter’s text.
What may at first appear to be fetishism in Carter’s work is demonstrably a fictionalized critique of the misogynistic aspects of literary Decadence that continue to reverberate in Western culture. 2 Olympia’s Revenge Andrzej Gasiorek claims that Carter’s later work, from The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman on, functions as a ‘theoretically explicit form of critical fiction’ (126). I contend, however, that The Magic Toyshop, a text that long proceeds Hoffman, can already be considered in this light.