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Myths of the Underworld in Contemporary CultureThe Backward Gaze$
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Judith Fletcher

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198767091

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198767091.001.0001

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Engendering the Haunted Text

Engendering the Haunted Text

(p.87) 3 Engendering the Haunted Text
Myths of the Underworld in Contemporary Culture

Judith Fletcher

Oxford University Press

Chapter 3 explores how two feminist, postmodern novelists, A.S. Byatt and Elena Ferrante, revise a convention in which only male heroes return from Hades as storytellers. Byatt’s Angels and Insects rewrites the Odyssean Nekyia in a Victorian context, as a children’s fable in one novella and a séance in the other, both of which highlight the role of the female storyteller. Set between the analyses of Byatt’s and Ferrante’s novels is a discussion of Gaiman’s children’s novella, Coraline, as a filmic adaptation by Henry Selick, to develop the question of why girls but not women can take trips to the underworld, and to explore the role of the female creator, the Other Mother. The chapter concludes with the work of Elena Ferrante to consider how she incorporates the chthonic female demon and the Persephone myth in the context of female authorship.

Keywords:   A.S. Byatt, Angels and Insects, female Odyssey, female Nekyia, female catabasis, doll’s catabasis, Elena Ferrante, Neapolitan Quartet, Naples as Hades, children and underworlds

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