Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl and Angela Carter's The Passion of New Eve: A Comparative Reading

Maria Aline Salgueiro Seabra Ferreira, Departamento de Linguas e Culturas, University of Aveiro, Portugal

Angela Carter's The Passion of New Eve (1977) and Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl (1995) share a considerable number of narrative and thematic concerns and can profitably be read together, shedding significant light on each other. At first, however, it is probably the most obvious difference that leaps out, for Jackson's Patchwork Girl is a hyperfiction, which means you have to read it on your computer monitor. As Jackson herself explains, "hypertext is an umbrella term that covers a lot of different kinds of structures. Most basically . . . it's a text made up of multiple writing spaces/windows/lexias that can be linked in as many ways as the writer wants" with Shelley Jackson conducted by Jonathan Lethem, 12 March 1996). More strikingly, furthermore, the reader can define his or her own route and choose a track through the labyrinth out of numerous possible pathways. Hyperfiction thus brings to the fore the reader's fundamental role in recreating a text through the reading process and in that sense it can be regarded as the eminently Barthesian writerly text par excellence, the one whose goal is "to make the reader no longer a consumer, but a produa probing way with the issue of reproduction without a partner, in this case without the father, for both are created by a woman without the mediation of a male partner. Furthermore, both appear fully formed, in their adult shapes. The traditionally paradigmatic primal scenes of origin, of creation, are here abolished. As the Patchwork Girl observes: "My birth takes place more than once" ("birth"; with hypernarrative, there are no page numbers, only the name of the lexias the quotation comes from) as is also the case with New Eve, formerly Evelyn. Myths of origin and singular beginnings are thus centrally problematized.

Both works can be described as quest narratives. In The Passion of New Eve Evelyn goes to New York, moves to California, where most of the novel's action takes place and at the end of the book is about to leave America, after having been turned into a woman, New Eve, by a woman scientist, an emblematic Phallic Mother. In Patchwork Girl, in turn, the protagonist, the Creature created by Mary Shelley herself, sails for America where, like Eve/lyn, she wanders in search of her identity, in both cases significantly associated with a Chimera, a wild fancy, an unattainable dream. Also like Eve/lyn, the Patchwork Girl heads West, experiences the desert and eventually reaches the sea.

Towards the beginning of Patchwork Girl, in a lexia we come across quite early on, the Patchwork Girl shrewdly addresses the reader providing some indications as to what he or she is about to encounter and on how to proceed:

I am buried here. You can resurrect me, but only piecemeal. If you want to see the whole, you will have to sew me together yourself (in time you may find appended a pattern and instructions--for now, you will have to put it together any which way, as the scientist Frankenstein was forced to do.) Like him, you will make use of a machine of mysterious complexity to animate these parts ("a graveyard").

We thus implicitly slot into the roles of Victor Frankenstein, Mary Shelley herself, L. Frank Baum and Margolotte, Baum's character in The Patchwork Girl of Oz, who makes a life-size rag-doll which will come to life through the agency of Dr Pipt, an old sorcerer who had invented the Powder of Life.

Indeed, one of Shelley Jackson's most important intertextual references in Patchwork Girl is L. Frank Baum's book The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1913), together with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which also plays a relevant part in The Passion of New Eve. Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl describes the creation and subsequent trajectory of the female Creature the male Monster demanded from Victor Frankenstein in Shelley's novel. Mary Shelley herself features as co-author in Jackson's hyperfiction, and the female Creature, the Patchwork Girl, is created by her while author/narrator and character in the text. Angela Carter's The Passion of New Eve can also be seen as revising the creation scene in Frankenstein, featuring a woman scientist, herself of monstrous proportions, assembling another woman. The significant difference between New Eve and the Patchwork Girl is that while the former represents a reproduction of an idealized (classical?) body, the symbol of perfection and seduction, the latter can be described as a disjointed body in search of a totalized image. We can say with Barthes that New Eve may be read as representing "the origin (the original) of the copies" (S/Z, 115), a "total (glorious, miraculous) [body] . . . insofar as it descends from a body already written by statuary (ancient Greece, Pygmalion); it too . . . is a replica, issuing from a code" (114-115). Like La Zambinella offered to Sarrasine's gaze as a reassembled fetishized body, New Eve, likewise, proceeds/progresses from "fragmented Woman . . . divided, anatomized, . . . merely a kind of dictionary of fetish objects . . . [a] sundered, dissected body . . . into a whole body" (S/Z, 112) which is reassembled by the artist/writer. Like Balzac's La Zambinella, however, New Eve, who is also a castrati, man and woman both in a deeply problematic way, will always inevitably represent an assemblage of fetishes, a body whose unity will always remain fractured, like the textual body of the Patchwork Girl, eminently writerly, in Barthes's sense.

Patchwork Girl contains five subsections: the journal, story, graveyard, crazy quilt, and body of the text. Although most readers start in the graveyard section, the structure of the hypernarrative stresses the total flexibility of the reading process. It also comprises a considerable amount of nonfiction in the body of the text, consisting mainly of critical, metaphysical and philosophic digressions about the various subjects and events of the novel, as well as citations from numerous sources, from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to feminist and poststructuralist literary theory, from Elle magazine to myths and legends and the user's manual to Storyspace. In the same sentence Shelley Jackson will typically mix quotations from Frankenstein, L. Frank Baum's The Patchwork Girl of Oz and from Hélène Cixous, for example.

Both Patchwork Girl and The Passion of New Eve address the vexed question of the creation or recreation of life and bodily transformations, taking as one of their Ur-texts Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl, a metatextual hypertext par excellence, retells the story of the Frankenstein myth with a female monster as the main character.

Patchwork Girl is ostensibly authored by Mary/Shelley & Herself. Shelley Jackson here doubles as herself and Mary Shelley, the coincidence of names a fortuitous but fortunate occurrence. In Patchwork Girl, Mary Shelley herself creates the monster, not Victor Frankenstein, and she chooses to create a woman. Moreover, and in spite of initial feelings of revulsion towards the Monster, Mary Shelley, unlike Victor Frankenstein, goes on to develop a "maternal" feeling of empathy and protection towards her "daughterPatchwork Girl." Indeed, they both fall in love with each other and the possibilities each embodies for the other. Teaching the Monster, Mary Shelley learns things about herself she would not have otherwise. On the other hand, the relationship between Mary Shelley and the female monster is profoundly ambivalent and there are strong suggestions of incest between "mother" and "daughter" in the ambiguous bedroom scene. Indeed, the Creature confesses that she was "lover, friend, collaborator" ("thanks") to Mary Shelley, who in turn confesses:

I have a crazy wish! I wish that I had cut off a part of me, something Percy would not miss, but something dear to me, and given it to be a part of her. I would live on in her, and she would know me as I know myself. I fear this but crave it. I do not know if she would want it. But I could graft myself to that mighty vine. Who knows what strange new fruit the two of us might bear? ("female trouble").

The Monster, for her part, describes herself: "Born full-grown, I have lived in this frame for 175 years. By another reckoning, I have lived many lives (Tituba's, Jane's, and the others') and am much older. . . . " ("I am"). New Eve, of course, was also born full-grown, having had to undergo a strenuous process of brain-washing and reconditioning reminiscent of the one gone through the inhabitants of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, in order to become a woman.

The similarities between Victor Frankenstein's Monster and Mary Shelley's Creature are obvious, namely the outsized dimensions of their bodies and their strength. The Patchwork Girl describes herself:

I am tall, and broad-shouldered enough that many take me for a man; others think me a transsexual (another feat of cut and stitch) and examine my jaw and hands for outsized bones, my throat for the tell-tale Adam's Apple. . . . I move swiftly, with long strides; I was never comfortable in the drawing rooms or the pruned and cherished gardens of Mary's time and territory. I am happier where I have room to take long strides and I am enough alone that I can strip and walk unencumbured-- I was made as strong as my unfortunate brother, but less neurotic! ("I am").

The protocols of a hypertext, necessarily fragmented and multiply open to different reading patterns, stressing the reader's role in the text's creation, are mirrored in the fragmented nature of the protagonist, made up of parts from other bodies, in many ways like New Eve, rebuilt out of a male body using parts from other female ones. In the case of the Patchwork Girl, she is created out of the dead bodies of several women and two men, as well as animals, whose lives are described in the text. We are told that the Monster's left leg, for example,

belonged to Jane, a nanny who harbored under her durable grey dresses and sensible undergarments a remembrance of a less sensible time: a tatoo of a ship and the legend, Come Back To Me. Nanny knew some stories that astonished her charges, and though the ship on her thigh blurred and grew faint and blue with distance, until it seemed that the currents must have long ago finished their work, undoing its planks one by one with unfailing patience, she always took the children to the wharf when word came that a ship was docking, and many a sailor greeted her by name. My leg is always twitching, jumping, joggling. It wants to go places. It has had enough of waiting. ("left leg").

The list of people whose body parts contributed to the Patchwork Girl's body is almost endless: Helen, Charlotte, Aspasia, Anne, Jennifer, Bronwyn, Tituba, Walter, Judith, Angela, Flora, Elizabeth, Roderick, Kate, Alice, Germain, Aphrodite, Constance, Agatha, Bella, Thomasina, Jane, Tristessa (an echo of the transvestite Tristessa who, as a reclusive film star is the object of Evelyn's adoration and later, in a remarkable twist of fate, marries New Eve?). This inventory of names is also reminiscent of a similar compilation in The Passion of New Eve which reads like a litany, an enumeration of the women who are "Mother"'s acolytes in Beulah, and simultaneously like an invocation of tutelary deities who make up a tradition and a reservoir of knowledge and experience.

As Shelley Jackson reminds us in a strongly Derridean vein: "You could say all bodies are written bodies, all lives pieces of writing" which we have to decipher and co-write. Indeed, body and text are intricately intertwined. As the narrator maintains: "Thoughts are the limbs of a composition, and must be surgically excised from their contexts" ("phantom"). In analogous vein, the Creature further muses:

I wonder if I am writing from my thigh, from the crimp-edged pancakelet of skin we stitched onto me (ousting a smidgen of some Veronica or Lenore). Is my gift a cutting of hers? Am I a hist, phony, a setting for a gemstone? And if so, is that good or bad? Maybe my crude strength and my techy bent are better filters for her voice than her still polite manners. Or does her politesse make her criminal leanings steeper, more vertiginous for the height of their drawing room origins? . . . Mary writes, I write, we write, but who is really writing? Ghost writers are the only kind there are ("am I Mary").

Writer, reader and text are fused in an almost symbiotic amalgamation. This aspect is further expanded on by Shelley Jackson's protagonist who explains:

My introductory paragraph comes at the beginning and I have a good head on my shoulders. I have muscle, fat, and a skeleton that keeps me from collapsing into suet. But my real skeleton is made of scars: a web that traverses me in three-dimensions. What holds me together is what marks my dispersal. I am most myself in the gaps between my parts, though if they sailed away in all directions in a grisly regatta there would be no thing left here in my place.

For that reason, though, I am hard to do in. The links can stretch very far before they break, and if I am the queen of dispersal then however far you take my separate parts (wrapped in burlap and greasy fish-wrappers, in wooden carts and wherries, burying and burning me and returning me to the families from which I sprung unloved and bastard) you only confirm my reign ("dispersed").

The emphasis here falls on the multiplicity and flexibility of the seams, the scars, the segments that make up the text as well as the myriad links that become the possible paths we can take during the reading process and acquire a highly visible status as the scars that crisscross the Patchwork Girl's body.

Like Patchwork Girl, Carter's The Passion of New Eve is also a text haunted to a certain extent by the Frankenstein story, where Victor creates a creature without the help of a mother. Carter rewrites this scenario by having Mother create another creature, in this case a woman, without recourse to a partner of the opposite sex. As Sophia, one of the women in Beulah, Mother's realm, explains the procedure to the terrified Evelyn: "Myth is more instructive than history, Evelyn; Mother proposes to reactivate the parthenogenesis archetype, utilising a new formula. She's going to castrate you, Evelyn, and then excavate what we call the "fructifying female space" inside you and make you a perfect specimen of womanhood" (68). As repeatedly stated, hers will be a Virgin birth, New Eve will (profanely) represent the Virgin Mother who, according to "Mother"'s intentions, will be made pregnant with his/her on sperm, that is, out of a single being. In a sense, thus, New Eve's child would be his/her clone. In The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir refers to the process of parthenogenesis, in words that can be applied to Carter's novel: "In cases of parthenogenesis the egg of the virgin female develops into an embryo without fertilization by the male, which thus may play no role at all. . . . More and more numerous and daring experiments in parthenogenesis are being performed, and in many species the male appears to be fundamentally unnecessary" (36). In related vein and according to Donna J. Haraway, a "'regulatory fiction' basic to Western concepts of gender insists that motherhood is natural and fatherhood is cultural: mothers make babies naturally, biologically ("A Cyborg Manifesto", Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, 135), a "consolatory nonsense", to borrow Carter's words (The Sadeian Woman, 5), that she centrally questions and revises.

In Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Sexual Difference in Contemporary Feminist Theory, Rosi Braidotti makes a point which is relevant for my argument. Talking about new reproductive technologies, her words bring to mind Eve/lyn's situation, his/her transformation into a woman, the operation she was submitted to and the inevitable transference of organs:

The phenomenon of organs without bodies . . . with the institutionalization of the dismembered condition, is also the pre-text to the deployment of one of the oldest, not to say the primordial, of all fantasies: that of being in total control of one's origins, that is of being the father/mother of one's self. I think contemporary culture is fascinated by the myth of parthenogenesis. (65)

Indeed, both Mary/Shelley's female creature and New Eve can aptly and profitably be called cyborgs. Reading the female Creature in the light of Donna Haraway's cyborg theory opens up new avenues of interpretation and suggests alternative ways of being in the world. As Haraway remarks, in words that can usefully be applied to the Creature's grotesque but strong, resilient body: "the regrown limb can be monstrous, duplicated, potent" ("A Cyborg Manifesto", 181), thus evoking the pleasure to be had in our "monstrous selves" (ibid., 174). According to Haraway, the cyborg myth is "about transgressed boundaries, potent fusions, and dangerous possibilities" ("A Cyborg Manifesto", 154), about circumventing and defying such deeply-rooted dualisms as "self/other, mind/body, culture/nature, male/female, civilized/primitive, reality/appearance, whole/part, agent/resource, maker/made, active/passive, right/wrong, truth/illusion, total/partial, God/man" ("A Cyborg Manifesto", 177), binary oppositions challenged and subverted by the female Creature.

In addition, as Anne Balsamo remarks, cyborgs can be seen as "a product of fears and desires that run deep within our cultural imaginary" (Technologies of the Gendered Body: Reading Cyborg Women, 32). As the merging of many body parts, both the Patchwork Girl and New Eve may be said to deftly embody the Harawayan cyborg, an artificially manufactured, almost borderless self whose putatively univocal identity comes under severe strain, becoming dispersed and multivocal. Haraway sees the cyborg's role as one that would help to "'disqualify" the analytical categories, like sex or nature, that lead to univocity. This move would expose the illusion of an interior organizing gender core and produce a field of race and gender difference open to resignification. . . . A concept of a coherent inner self, achieved (cultural) or innate (biological), is a regulatory fiction that is unnecessary--indeed inhibitory--for feminist projects of producing and affirming complex agency and responsibility. . . . For Westerners, it is a central consequence of concepts of gender difference that a person may be turned by another person into an object and robbed of his or her status as a subject ("A Cyborg Manifesto", 135).

Indeed, Evelyn's punishment under Mother's skillful surgical hands, her transformation into a woman, can be read in the light of Haraway's statements as his chastisement for having abandoned Leilah, his girlfriend in New York, and having treated her like a sexual object. New Eve, the incarnation of a Playboy centrefold, will likewise inevitably be looked at as a sexual object, she will be the prey, not the hunter, the white equivalent of a black Leilah.

As Frances Bartkowski notes, addressing Haraway's work and in words that fittingly aply to New Eve and the Patchwork Girl:

we all already inhabit the cyborg, which is "part human, animal, and machine" . . . Haraway proclaims the partial and the monstrous as both necessary to the new machinery of identities which are to be found in writing; two kinds of writing in particular--the writings of women of colour and the "monstrous selves" of feminist science fiction (Feminist Utopias, 165).

Like Jackson's Patchwork Girl (and Baum's Patchwork Girl of Oz), New Eve is composed of different bits and pieces, all sewn together to form a whole, however patchy and fragmentary, morcelé, to use Lacan's term and concept of the corps morcelé. This postmodern, disassembled body is variously rehearsed and highlighted in both fictional narratives. In related vein, thus, both texts emphasize the many "patches" that make up a person's identity, the array of distinct personalities, influences, voices that produce what is called the self, and how we become the haphazard sum of these variegated pieces.

The Patchwork Girl's body can arguably be read as a striking example of the Lacanian fantasy of the "body in bits and bits", in this case harking back to the mother's body. In "Some Reflections on the Ego", Lacan notes how this fantasy often emerges in dreams which will depict "the body of the mother as having a mosaic structure like that of a stained-glass window" or a "jig-saw puzzle, with the separate parts of the body of a man or an animal in disorderly arrayPatchwork Girl." Other configurations of this fantasy would include "the incongruous images in which disjointed limbs are rearranged as strange trophies; trunks [are] cut up in slices and stuffed with the most unlikely fillings, [and] strange appendages [are shown] in eccentric positions" (13). If these images inescapably conjure up pictures of the Patchwork Girl's body, how can they be related to her "mother"'s body, the fictional Mary/Shelley? The historical Mary Shelley who wrote Frankenstein clearly entertained deep fears and fantasies about fractured bodies, monstrous bodies, which materialized in the Creature's shape and creation. Deep-rooted anxieties about birth and procreation clearly played a key role in the writing of Frankenstein, profound feelings of apprehension about the whole mechanism of reproduction alluded to and expanded on by Shelley Jackson. Deborah A Harter, in analogous vein, refers to this fantasy when she notes that "woman's dismembered body suggests, finally, the mother's body, and that body too is, or once was felt to be, one's own" (Bodies in Pieces: Fantastic Narrative and the Poetics of the Fragment, 80). Does everything thus go back to the mother's body, as Freud and Ferenczi, for example, suggest?

At the same time, the intrinsically fragmented bodies of the Patchwork Girl and of New Eve implicitly suggest a certain melancholy, a nostalgic yearning for a state of wholeness, of plenitude, endlessly longed for but always deferred, never attained, a point also broached by Kaja Silverman, when she writes, in relation to Lacan, that "it seems important to note that the fantasy of the body in bits and pieces is only one way of apprehending the heterogeneity of the corporeal ego, and one which is inextricably tied to the aspiration toward 'wholeness' and 'unity'" (The Threshold of the Visible World, 20-21). On the other hand, assembling dispersed bits from other bodies can also be regarded as a fusion, a bringing together of discontinuous parts. As the character Mary Shelley asserts, in relation to the Patchwork Girl's scars, that they "not only mark a cut, they also commemorate a joining", to which the Monster adds: "Scar tissue does more than flaunt its strength by chronicling the assaults it has withstood. Scar tissue is new growth. And it is tougher than skin innocent of the blade" ("cut"). The Patchwork Girl talks about "the checquered nature of my self" ("interim") and she rejoices about her "discontinuous" being ("she") and about being a "monster" ("but I am glad").

Both texts are deeply concerned with the blurring of boundaries, of edges, of frontiers. The Patchwork Girl muses: "I am a mixed metaphor. Metaphor, meaning sometime like 'bearing across,' is itself a fine metaphor for my condition. Every part of me is linked to other territories alien to it but equally mine" ("metaphor me"). Indeed, both Patchwork Girl and The Passion of New Eve dramatize the disturbing drift towards multiplicity, the gradual obscuring of borders and identities that increasingly characterizes the contemporary self, with its emphasis on pluralism rather than a unique and cohesive identity. Indeed, identity and notions of foundational beginnings are constantly under interrogation in both Patchwork Girl and The Passion of New Eve. In words that can aptly be applied to describe New Eve's predicament, her metamorphic state, Shelley Jackson writes in Patchwork Girl: "Identities seem contradictory, partial and strategic. There is not even such a state as 'being' female, or 'being' monster, or 'being' angel. We find ourselves to be cyborgs, hybrids, mosaics, chimeras" ("identities"). The female creature in turn reflects: "Now, I believed as one should in the principle of identity, of noncontradiction, of unity. All the people I caught myself being instead of me, my unnameables, my monsters, my hybrids, I exhorted them to silence" ("misconception"). In addition, both texts are obsessed with the question of origins. "Write? But if I wrote 'I', who would I be?" ("write?"; bold in the text) ponders the female Monster in Patchwork Girl. Again according to Haraway, cyborgs have no "origin story in the 'Western', humanist sense" ("A Cyborg Manifesto", 151), no relation to "the myth of original unity, fullness" (151). It is precisely this myth of origins that is questioned and problematized in both Patchwork Girl and The Passion of New Eve.

In The Passion of New Eve, after his/her transformation from Evelyn into Eve, New Eve feels steeped in an ontological void. In words that bring to mind the Monster's, she reflects: "I know nothing. I am a tabula erasa, a blank sheet of paper, an unhatched egg. I have not yet become a woman, although I possess a woman's shape. Not a woman, no; both more and less than a real woman. Now I am a being as monstrous as Mother herself; but I cannot bring myself to think of that. Eve remains wilfully in the state of innocence that precedes the fall" (Emphasis mine. 83). In their hybridity, their uncertainty about who and what they are, New Eve and the female creature share a similar perplexity about their status in the world. Like New Eve, the Patchwork Girl feels she does not fit in anywhere. She muses: "I belong nowhere. This is not bizarre for my sex, however, nor is it uncomfortable for us, to whom belonging has generally meant, belonging TO" ("I am"). Also like New Eve, the Patchwork Girl cannot define herself, she is made up of multiple bits and pieces. As she comments: "I am a discontinuous trace, a dotted line" ("hop").

Madame Q, Spiritualist, a character whom the female Monster meets, comments, using words that constitute a relevant commentary on the Monster's predicament: Our sense of who we are is mostly made up of what we remember being. We are who we were; we are made up of memories. Now, in the mind there are memories stored that we do not remember, memories waiting--perhaps forever!--to be awoken, by the taste of cardamom, the smell of bay rum, the unforgettable forgotten curve of a certain neck. . . . So, within each one of you there is at least one other entirely different you, made up of all you've forgotten . . . and nothing you remember. More accurately, there are many other you's, each a different combination of memories. These people exist. They are complete, if not exactly present, lying in potential in the buried places in the brain. . . . We are ourselves ghostly. Our whole life is a kind of haunting; the present is thronged by the figures of the past. We haunt the concrete world as registers of past events, we are revenants. And we are haunted, by these ghosts of the living, these invisible strangers who are ourselves ("she goes on").

She carries on in related vein: "Our bodies are haunted as well as our minds. We are haunted by our uncle's nose, our grandmother's poor vision, our father's baldness. There are ghosts in the form of recessive genes, that never show themselves up, but might appear to our children, to the seventh son of a seventh son" ("body ghosts").

The Monster, spurred by Madame's ruminations, muses in turn:

If a person can have a phantom limb, cannot a phantom limb also have a phantom person? In fact, it seemed to me that each of my parts brought with it a trace of the whole person who was once attached to it. There was a crowd, a whole gaggle of persons, competing for the space occupied by my one limited body. First one, and then another would take precedence--I'd be overwhelmed by the driving spirit of Agatha, or succumb to the gentle blandishments of Constance ("lives & livers").

As already mentioned, Mary Shelley's creation of the female Creature is couched in terms that embrace metaphors of writing, sewing, quilting and piecing together parts of other bodies. This is Mary Shelley's description of the conception and generation of the female monster, in words that mingle and contrast Victor Frankenstein's actions and Shelley's own:

I had made her, writing deep into the night by candlelight, until the tiny black letters blurred into stitches and I began to feel that I was sewing a great quilt, as the old women in town do night after night, looking dolefully out their windows from time to time toward the light in my own window and imagining my sins while their thighs tremble under the heavy body of the quilt heaped across their laps . . . I have looked with reciprocal coolness their way, not wondering what stories joined the fragments in their workbaskets ("written").

Mary Shelley elaborates further:

I had sewn her, stitching deep into the night by candlelight, until the tiny black stitches wavered into script and I began to feel that I was writing, that this creature I was assembling was a brash attempt to achieve by artificial means the unity of a life-form--a unity perhaps more rightfully given, not made; continuous, not interrupted; and subject to divine truth, not the will to expression of its prideful author. Authoress, I amend, smiling ("sewn").

Shelley Jackson makes skilful use of the metaphor of quilting to suggest the patching together of superficially unrelated narratives and different selves. The "Crazy Quilt" section conveys precisely the pluralism of the textual seams, mirrored in the Patchwork Girl's body, covered with highly visible scars joining the scraps that make up her body. Mary/Shelley meaningfully narrates her anxiety while creating the female Monster with recourse to the related images of quilting and writing:

At first I couldn't think what to make her of. I collected bones from charnel houses, paragraphs from Heart of Darkness, and disturbed, with profane fingers, the tremendous secrets of the human frame, but finally in searching through a chest in a solitary chamber, or rather cell, at the top of the house, I came across an old patchwork quilt, a fabric of relations, which my grandmother once made when she was young ("research").

She further explains:

When I found the quilt, I became nervous to a most painful degree; the fall of a leaf startled me, and I shunned my fellow creatures as if I had been guilty of a crime. Wasn't writing the realm of the Truth? Isn't the Truth clear, distinct, and one? But I said to myself that the quilt would do nicely for the girl, for when she was brought to life she would not be proud nor haughty, as the Glass Cat is, for such a dreadful ("conception"; the words in bold, as Shelley Jacckson explains in a footnote, are citations from L. Frank Baum's The Patchwork Girl of Oz; the words in italics come from Hélène Cixous's "Coming to Writing" and the rest of the passage is an extract from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein).

Mary Shelley significantly describes the female monster with resource to quilting imagery: "long cords of curdled, whitened tissue divided her torso into sectors as distinct as patches in a quilt" ("I moved"). Stitching the various textual and bodily bits together in a conspicuously observable way, Jackson is drawing attention on the one hand to the tendency evinced by postmodern texts to flaunt their literariness and self-reflexivity, while on the other hand she implicitly contrasts this self-conscious display of the inner workings of composition with traditional narratives where the seams between the segments are carefully blended together so as to create an apparently smooth, sequential narrative flow.

While Shelley Jackson uses the quilt as a privileged trope for the representation of the constitution of identity as well as the process of composition, reading and interpreting, Carter likewise found the quilt metaphor useful in reflecting about life and art in her short story "The Quilt Maker" (1981), where she describes herself as precisely that, a "quilt maker", the artisan of her own self, her texts and her life. Carter's words aptly describe Shelley Jackson's method in creating her hyperfiction: With all patchwork, you must start in the middle and work outward, even on the kind they call "crazy patchwork", which is made by feather-stitching together arbitrary shapes scissored out at the maker's whim. . . . The more I think about it, the more I like this metaphor, You can really make this image work for its living; it synthesises perfectly both the miscellany of experience and the use we make of it (444-445).

Elaine Showalter similarly stresses the "creative manipulation of conventions" ("Piecing and Writing", 228) in the art of patchwork, while the art critic Lucy Lippard elucidates that "since the new wave of feminist art began around 1970, the quilt has become the prime visual metaphor for women's lives, for women's culture. In properly prim grids or rebelliously 'crazy' fields, it incorporates Spider Woman's web, political networking, and the collage aesthetic" (32). In spite of Roszika Parker and Griselda Pollock's assertion that "any association with the traditions and practices of needlework and domestic art can be dangerous for an artist, especially if that artist is a woman" (137), Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl effectively recovers while simultaneously overturning this tradition. Her astute use of the quilt metaphor catapults it to the realms of postmodern discourses of fragmentation, dispersal and the vexed questions of origin and identity.

Elaine Showalter further elaborates on the tradition of the patchwork quilt:

the history of piercing and writing in the United States, and the literary or rhetorical history of the quilt metaphor, shows that conventions and styles that were originally associated with a women's culture have been gradually transformed in new configurations and adapted in the service of new ideological ends. Like other American cultural practices and symbols, quilting has also undergone a series of gender transformations, appropriations, and commodifications within the larger culture. While quilting does have crucial meaning for American women's texts, it can't be taken as a transhistorical and essential form of female expression, but rather as a gendered practice that changed from one generation to the next, and that has now become the symbol of American identity at the fin de siècle (Sister's Choice, 147).

Indeed, and extrapolating to Shelley Jackson's text, Patchwork Girl crucially raises the important question of the relations between texts which can include such vexed notions as borrowing, appropriation, piracy, in-breeding, parasitism, pastiche and hauntings, concepts which Jackson's narrative emphatically dramatizes and magnifies. Issues like Barthes and Foucault's comment on the death of the author, Kristeva's notion of intertextuality and Derrida's remarks on textuality are all implicitly inscribed and questioned in hyperfiction. In related (postmodernist) vein, Philippe Sollers similarly describes the body as "That tapestry in which our form shifts and changes . . . it is the 'continuous' from which we fashion, for ourselves and for others, a visible discontinuity" ("Le Toit: essai de lecture systématique", 179). The Patchwork Girl's body, indeed, will always be a visible display of fragmentation, a reminder of our always already fractured identities, longing for a unity of sorts.

Although in a less obtrusive way (after all, calling attention to its "seams", to its linking devices is one of the hallmarks of hyperfiction) The Passion of New Eve is emphatically self-referentia, self-reflexive and unashamedly intertextual, flaunting its numerous links and sources in an unabashed and conspicuous way. In this sense, both Carter's and Jackson's texts share in this eminently postmodernist tendency to display their most important influences and artistic sources. In much the same way that Jackson brings together thirty distinct patches to make up her text, as well as taking as her two most important Ur-texts, as already mentioned, L. Frank Baum's The Patchwork Girl of Oz and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Carter's novel likewise is dizzyingly and endlessly crisscrossed by allusions to other sources, in what Christina Britzolakis called the "voracious and often dizzying intertextuality of her [Carter's] writing" (1995, 466). Incidentally, and reflecting on The Passion of New Eve and Patchwork Girl together, we come across some interesting intratextual resonances. In his book about the film The Wixard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939), which he dedicated to Angela Carter (The Wizard of Oz, 1992), Salman Rushdie notes how in The Passion of New Eve, in The Hall of the Immortals in Tristessa's house in the desert, one of the waxwork figures is that of Judy Garland. Numerous other textual echoes in Carter's novel strongly bring to mind scenes from Victor Fleming's film. Tristessa's house flying through the air, as well as pieces of debris and scattered limbs are strongly reminiscent of Dorothy's house being uprooted by a tornado. The "gale" in The Passion of New Eve that sweeps the house from its foundations reminds one of the tornado in Kansas (one of Zero's wives, Betty Boop, significantly, was a hairdresser's apprentice in Kansas City), while Dorothy's surname, as Rushdie astutely notices, is Gale (17), a name metonymic of the gale that causes Dorothy's dream of the land of Oz and a radical change in New Eve's life, in Carter's novel.


While in Patchwork Girl Shelley Jackson may be said to have put forward a poetics of the fragment, similarly The Passion of New Eve conducts an examination of the mechanisms that manufacture the human body in such a way that expose it as a veritable patchwork of bits and pieces. The competing discourses of the fragmentary and the whole inform these novels, pulling in different directions. The tentative illation that they offer is that the whole, unified body is always already a body in pieces, a corps morcelé, in search of a chimerical totalization. "Je est un autre", Rimbaud's maxim, could thus be a perfectly apt epigraph for both Patchwork Girl and The Passion of New Eve.

Deborah A. Harter's comments on fantastic narrative fittingly apply and shed light on the prosthetic body of the text of Patchwork Girl. Harter observes that fantastic narrative, which she contrasts with the realist novel, "promotes the fragment rather than seeking the whole . . . the dream of material completeness that often defies yet fundamentally defines the realist enterprise is countered here by a seeing delight in reproducing reality in its 'pieces', where even the human body succumbs to morselization" (Bodies in Pieces: Fantastic Narrative and the Poetics of the Fragment, 2).

In this contemporary world, where, as Haraway maintains, we are all at least partially cyborgs, "whether we like it or not?" ("A Manifesto for Cyborgs", 197), mixtures of human and machine, our prosthetic bodies would appear to find in the kind of fantastic narrative that is the object of Harter's study, a narrative of the fragmented body, one of their more emblematic figurations. Postmodernist texts that emphasize the multi-levelled poliphony of both bodily and writing experience by means of a multi-layered, often nonsequential, nonlinear narrative can be confronted, on the other hand, with two competing orders of discourse which seem to me to stand at the core of our increasingly "posthuman" ethos. I am referring here to the conflicting ideologies that on the one hand evoke the Derridean notion of the decentred text, to which I would add, following the metonymic logic I have been pursuing, the decentred body, the so perceived fractured and disfigured body (of which Ballard's Crash and the film of the same name by director David Cronenberg [1996] are such paradigmatic examples) and, on the other hand, the chimerical unified body. Can the fragmented body, le corps morcelé, ever be reassembled? This Lacanian theme constitutes a pervasive undercurrent in both The Passion of New Eve and Patchwork Girl.

Kathleen Woodward, in Aging and Its Discontents: Freud and Other Fictions (1991), argues that "one of Lacan's most brilliant contributions to psychoanalysis is his insistence on the illusion of wholeness of our bodies" (189), an insight that is superbly dramatized in Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl, with its emphasis on the partialized body. Indeed, it is not just in old age that there is a literal and figurative return to the body in parts, our reassembled body is always at least partially fragmented, even in the Symbolic realm, a perception given vivid illustration in Patchwork Grlr, whose jubilant moment of recognition of her specular image gives way to moments of self-doubt and melancholia, when she admits that she is "a swarm" ("self swarm"). That triumphant moment of exaltation upon first perceiving herself as a whole through the mediation of the mirror, after coming to life, is strongly reminiscent of Lacan's description of the "mirror stage" and of the infant's elation: "The Patchwork Girl looked at herselff and laughed. Noticing the mirror, she stood before it and examined her extraordinary features with amazement--her button eyes, pearl bead teeth and puffy nose. She bowed, and the reflection bowed. Then she laughed again, long and merrily" ("at the mirror").

What strikes me as interesting is, on the one hand, the stress on the fragmentary, the decentredeness of body and text that hyperfiction so strongly emphasizes and promotes, while on the other hand at the core of contemporaneity there seems to be, parallel with the multitudinous figurations of the manifold postmodernist body, an earnest search for the very centre, the very kernel of what could be described as the dream of a unified, unfractured identity, a narcissistic drive to a perception of totality, individuality and singularity. The fantasy of cloning a human being, incidentally, also brings this dream very much to the fore. The Patchwork Girl as a clone, for instance, vividly focuses these conflicting tendencies, lucidly exposing the contradictions between her body as a textual collage and the yearning for a unified body with a singular origin. Derrida's de-centred body of postmodernism gives way, I would argue, to centrality, to aspirations of wholeness and unity, so strikingly illustrated in Patchwork Girl and The Passion of New Eve. On the other hand, according to Donna J. Haraway, and I would propose this is very much what Jackson and Carter are suggesting in their respective works, "a concept of a coherent inner self, achieved (cultural) or innate (biological), is a regulatory fiction that is unnecessary--indeed, inhibitory--for feminist projects of producing and affirming complex agency and responsibility" ("A Cyborg Manifesto", 135).

The desire for totality that inevitably harbours a yearning for patching together distinct fragments and sections, disparate plots and segments, thus also inescapably betrays the very diversity that underpins both texts. While Patchwork Girl can be aptly defined as an electronic collage, Carter's The Passion of New Eve, for its part, might be described as a Surrealist-type collage (or montage, to pursue the cinematic references which endlessly crisscross the novel), of which she was very fond of and of which there are several examples in her work. I am fully convinced that writing hyperfiction is a route that Carter would probably have embraced with enthusiasm, an activity moreover to which her friendship with Robert Coover might have contributed, had she lived longer.

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