Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus: a Historiographical Perspective

Wiem Krifa


Nights at The Circus (1984) is a provocative novel, written by the British writer Angela Carter. It is a feminist postmodern work which combines fantastic events, to convey historiographical happenings. Contrary to the postmodern critics who advance the principle of death of history, feminist postmodernists tend to reassess history, from which they were excluded, by uniting fantasy and history. Historiographical metafiction is an attempt to rewrite history from a female critical angle. In Nights at The Circus, the narrative tracks back the past historical events of the 1890’s, with an endeavour to plan a more successful female future. Carter’s dealing with history implies a corrective political undertone that pays tribute to the marginalized females. The postmodern herstoricism is intermingled with fantasy to inscribe a more even history.

As an example, we can take the character of Fevvers in Nights at The Circus who evokes Margaret Thatcher: The iron Lady. This example is used to introduce hidden historical truths. Fevvers with her fantastic wings is the symbolic "New Woman" of the late 19th century who seeks to enjoy her economic, social and civil rights. She unveils the historical and political atrocities imposed on women, and deconstructs the patriarchal identity. Through the female herstoricism, Fevvers mould and reconstruct "The New Man" who can fit "The New Woman”. Walser, the journalist who embarks on writing the biography of fevvers is deployed by her to integrate into history, all the female tales that have been erased from the bygone historical records. Throughout the whole novel, fevvers cherishes her clock as the emblem of history. When she loses it during the train crash, she lives the Siberian experience, which is depicted by her, as being before history. For Fevvers, as a female representative, history is vital, consequently should be revisited to incorporate women into it.


feminism- postmodernism- historiography- herstory- fantasy.

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