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This article is taken from PN Review 92, Volume 19 Number 6, July - August 1993.

Englit and the Cultomats Penny McCarthy

THIS IS THE STORY of the Wicked Dragon (Englit) and the Practical Princess (a representative Cultural Materialist). The dragon threatens the people for years and years - from 1917 to the 1970's, according to Terence Hawkes (Meaning by Shakespeare, Routledge, 1992). A maiden should be offered, of Royal Blood, of course, to buy him off. But the Practical Princess simply refuses the traditional terms of the saga, and finds a practical - feminist and subversive, to boot - way out of the impasse. The dragon agrees to become socially useful, fuelling the bakery furnace or lighting fires for the poor and marginalized.

But no, no. This is the Story of the Fierce Bad Rabbit (a Cultural Materialist.) He wants the carrot of the Good Rabbit (a traditional humanist critic). 'He doesn't say "Please": he takes it, and he scratches the Good Rabbit very badly.' But he gets his come-uppance. This story, but for some reason not the other, has to be deconstructed. Its abandonment of all social realism in providing a deus ex machina in the form of a Man with a Gun; its suspect attempts to restore the status quo (why had the 'Bad' Rabbit's mummy not given him a carrot? Obvious); the failure of the text at the critical juncture ('Bang! This is what happens …' Turn page … no words, just a melange of ears, tail and whiskers); the inadmissible attempt at closure - all these must be pointed out, and the attempts to ...

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