The Voice of Venus

Angela Carter’s “Black Venus” and the Democratization of Literature

In: Exploring the Black Venus Figure in Aesthetic Practices

Abstract

Kari Jegerstedt raises the question of how, if at all, it is possible to ‘give voice’ to the abjected, always already erased other, considering the simultaneous world-scattering and wor(l)ding effects of imperialism on writing and (post)colonial regimes of knowledge and subjectivity. Addressing the question from the perspective of the (self)critical white feminist, Jegerstedt revisits Carter’s short story “Black Venus,” lauded by critics for giving voice to Jeanne Duval, Charles Baudelaire’s Caribbean lover. Jegerstedt stresses that the narrator does not simply re-present Duval but quite explicitly substitutes her own ‘voice’ for Duval’s – thus enacting a similar overwriting of Duval’s voice to the one Baudelaire may be said to do. She goes on to argue that, rather than ‘giving voice,’ the story problematizes the (imperialistic) silencing which is at work in what Jacques Rancière has called the democratic era of literature. At the same time, however, the short story also points to the earlier oral tradition and the fairy tale as alternative narrative venues for establishing global solidarity, thus highlighting again the issue of genre in questions concerning the imagination.