The Marquis de Sade, canon of cruelty and archdeacon of disgust, could hardly be described as a poster boy for the empowerment of women. Nonetheless, it is this outlandish idea that is put forward by Angela Carter in her brutally uncompromising and upsettingly lucid treatise The Sadeian Woman and the Ideology of Pornography (1979).
In a much-forgotten episode at the end of Homer’s Odyssey, twelve maids are mercilessly hanged for doing what women must in order to survive. Penelope, unraveller of shrouds and refuser of suitors, who patiently waits twenty years for her husband Odysseus to finish fighting and shagging his way around the Aegean, tells their story, and hers, in this radical feminist reinterpretation of The Odyssey.
A harrowing portrait of mental illness displayed for the male gaze, this gothic psychological drama set in Victorian Paris is like plunging into a beautiful, mesmeric dream where the mad ultimately inherit the earth.
Season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale reminds me of Briony Tallis’ words at the end of Atonement: “What sense of hope or satisfaction could a reader derive from an ending like that?” It’s the type of question that characterises much of this season, which snatches hope away from the characters in such a jarringly constant,…