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Novel StyleEthics and Excess in English Fiction since the 1960s$
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Ben Masters

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198766148

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198766148.001.0001

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Ifs, Buts, and Maybes

Ifs, Buts, and Maybes

Angela Carter’s Grammar of Curiosity

(p.62) 2 Ifs, Buts, and Maybes
Novel Style

Ben Masters

Oxford University Press

This chapter traces the fraught relationship between curiosity and explication in Carter’s major novels, and demonstrates how Carter’s experiments with grammatical modalities and syntax create a stylistically embodied curiosity that is responsive to uncertainty and contingency. It goes on to delineate an ethics of extrapolation, as enacted by Carter’s prose style, that draws us into a new kind of perception, and argues that this is fundamentally linked to what Carter called her ‘committed materialism’. Drawing on the work of thinkers and writers as diverse as Elaine Scarry, A.C. Bradley, Geoffrey Galt Harpham, Alex Houen, and William Burroughs, this chapter recovers Carter’s artistry (too often overlooked), to show how her ethics and politics are achieved first and foremost through the particulars of her extravagant prose style.

Keywords:   Angela Carter, curiosity, grammar, modality, affect, Nights at the Circus, Passion of New Eve, Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman

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