The Gothic Tales of Angela Carter

Day course with Dr Elizabeth Dearnley and Dr Katharine Fry, in celebration of International Women's Day 2021. All registrants will receive livestream & recording access.

Loading Events

8 March, 10:00 am - 5:30 pm

£35 – £40

Book Now
Katharine Fry, Prenuptial Hydra / How can I want what will destroy me?, 2017, video still

In her 1975 essay Notes on the Gothic Mode, Angela Carter remarks that the Gothic ‘deals directly with the imagery of the unconscious – mirrors, the externalized self, the world under the moon, automata, haunted forests, forbidden sexual objects… Like psychoanalysis…it does not draw any moral lessons from the imagery.’ Her 1979 masterpiece The Bloody Chamber refashions familiar fairy tales into spikily sensory worlds of ruby necklaces, wolfish women and roses that bite, all embodying what Carter sees as the Gothic’s ‘singular moral function: that of provoking unease.’

This online course explores Angela Carter’s Gothic tales in light of their connections with psychoanalytic theory, the unconscious and the uncanny, focusing on The Bloody Chamber. Staged on International Women’s Day 2021, we trace the history of the Gothic mode, highlighting feminist strategies that gave voice to generations of women buried in patriarchal plots. We frame the tropes and traps of the Gothic from Walpole and Radcliffe to contemporary culture through the death drive and its deviations, oedipal conflicts and sexual anxieties. We reveal how Carter’s subversive retellings of fairy tales and their shift away from these standard plots and dynamics opens space for new feminist narratives.

We will focus on six tales from The Bloody Chamber, alongside references to Carter’s other works, fairy tales and the history of Gothic literature, art and film. No prior knowledge is necessary. We will circulate copies of the tales upon sign-up.

  • 10.00 – Session 1
  • 12.00 – Lunch
  • 13.00 – Session 2
  • 15.00 – Break
  • 15.30 – Session 3
  • 17.30 – Finish

Session 1: Inhabiting the Gothic

We trace the history of the Gothic mode, through both its male and female lines of authorship arriving at the troubled body of the Gothic heroine. Through the intimate bodily terrain of Wolf-Alice, we reveal the physical and psychic contortions of Gothic women from naive victim to possessed body, archaic mother, monstrous womb, vampire, witch or castrator.

Session 2: Inner Chambers, Outer Wilderness

We contrast the physical and psychic terrain of the Gothic house with its surrounding landscapes. Through The Bloody Chamber we find the restrictions of patriarchal power imposed on the haunted house that is a maternal body. We leave mother’s house and look to breach the limits of the self in the wild terrain of The Erl King.

Session 3: It Bites!

We reveal the artifice of the narrow identities given to Gothic women and break apart the binary of victim and perpetrator through The Lady of the House of Love and The Snow Child. We finish with a return to bodily intimacy, accompanied by a transformation into equitable sexual maturity through The Tiger’s Bride.


Dr Elizabeth Dearnley is a folklorist, artist and Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of English Studies within the School of Advanced Study, University of London. She has taught at the University of Cambridge, UCL, Birkbeck and the University of London, and her work explores fairy tales, horror and collective storytelling.

She has curated several projects exploring the intersections of folklore and place, including mass diary-writing project The Secret Diary of Bloomsbury, immersive 1940s Red Riding Hood retelling Big Teeth, and the Freud Museum London’s uncanny restaging of E. T. A. Hoffmann’s The Sandman as part of its The Uncanny: A Centenary. She has recently edited eerie anthology Into the London Fog (British Library, 2020), and is currently writing a book about the relationship between forests and fairy tales.

Dr Katharine Fry is a visual artist and researcher working across performance, film and sculpture. She stages unsettling encounters with uncanny bodies, using an all-female cast of fantasy automatons who are often physically fused to their environments. Her focus is on the body as the boundary where self and other meet, the site of an ambivalent desire for separation and connection she calls house arrest.

She exhibits internationally, including Ann Arbor Film Festival, Michigan, USA (2021); Visions in the Nunnery, London (2018); and Terror Has No Shape, Camden Arts Centre, London (2018). Solo exhibitions include Please call me home at Danielle Arnaud Gallery, London (2021); and Addressing the Self: Decoys and Consolations at new media art space, Tennessee, USA (2020).


BURSARY – There are a limited number of bursary places available for £15. Priority will be given to UK unemployed and PIP/ESA claimants. Please click here to apply.


8 March
10:00 am - 5:30 pm
£35 – £40
Event Category:



« All Events