Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This thesis examines the ambiguous function of folk and fairy tale motifs in the postmodern fantasies of Angela Carter, Jenny Diski, and Jeanette Winterson. Whereas the most popular and widely-read versions of the classic tales tended to focus on woman as passive victim, these texts present woman as powerful monster: she is a witch, a giant, a step- or adoptive parent, or is only half human. But these postmodern incarnations are often problematic because they are largely borrowed from earlier stories which are sexist, misogynistic, and narrow in their outlooks. While woman's construction as monstrous is neither constant nor unqualified, these new heroines still wield a strong and often subversive power through their connection to frightening fairy tale images.;Over the course of this thesis, I draw on Julia Kristeva's theory of abjection as outlined in Powers of Horror to explore and analyze the representation of woman as threatening other in a selection of works by Carter, Diski, and Winterson. I propose that when woman is represented as monstrous in these texts, it is almost always in relation to her mothering, reproductive, or sexual functions, and that the depictions of the monstrous are taken from popular versions of folk and fairy tales.;In the Introduction, I examine the notion of the monstrous-feminine and use Kristeva's theories to explore how woman terrifies man through her sexuality. I define the postmodern, the fantastic, and folk and fairy tales to demonstrate how their characteristics are manifested in the works of Carter, Diski, and Winterson. In the second chapter, I investigate the relationship between mothers and children and suggest that the true alternative nature of a mother's power lies in her connection to both the semiotic and the narratives of folk and fairy. Since Carter, Diski and Winterson also wrote or re-wrote several popular fairy tales, the third chapter discusses these new versions and details how and why they differ from their predecessors. In the final chapter, I propose that the new fairy tale heroine is heroic because unlike her earlier counterpart, it is she who is in control of her own story.



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