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Violence as Surrealist Play in Angela Carter's Shadow Dance

Anna Fruchart Watz


Honeybuzzard, one of the main characters of Angela Carter’s début novel Shadow Dance (1966), has been described by one critic as playing like a big cat, tirelessly and cruelly; “anything and anyone is fair game” (Sage 11). Honeybuzzard has organised his life completely in accordance with the play impulse, and he is not interested in anything structured by rational behaviour, work or profit. He is engaged in a constant process of making the Pleasure Principle triumph over the Reality Principle as he acts according to his capricious desires, which will turn increasingly violent and destructive as the narrative spirals towards its transgressive dénouement.

Honeybuzzard’s violence can possibly be read as “a kind of (anti-)morality play which aims to undermine through exaggeration” (Gamble 54), but I think this reading does not fully acknowledge the subversive potential of his playful behaviour. In this paper, I propose to read Honeybuzzard’s nihilist play through the prism of surrealism – a movement itself known for its proliferating playfulness as well as its self-professed subversive aims.

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ISSN 1749-9771

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