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Angela Carter’s Critique of Her Contemporary World

Politics, History, and Mortality

Yutaka Okuhata

This research sheds new light on Angela Carter’s critique of her contemporary world, not only as a feminist and socialist but also as a political writer who lived through the twentieth century, an unprecedented period when even the meanings of life, death, and survivability changed drastically. The book examines Carter’s portrayals of mortality in her nine novels through the lens of the Cold War and subsequent fears of nuclear catastrophe and sudden death, alongside the comfort blanket of the post-war welfare state. Focusing on the mutual dialogues between Carter and actual historical events, from Hiroshima and the Cuban Missile Crisis to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and Thatcherism, the book aims to reconsider her oeuvre from a twenty-first century perspective.

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for The Infernal Desires of Angela Carter: Fiction, Femininity, Feminism (1997), “her resistance to realism put her at odds with both contemporary feminist fiction and politics”.8 Actually, important studies by Paulina Palmer,9 Sara Sceats,10 Jean Wyatt,11 and Sally Robinson12 have explored her radical interrogations of gender and sexuality, especially in relation to questions of performativity, female desire, and patriarchal power relations. Carter’s feminist critique of society is evident not only in her novels and essays but also in her short stories, many of which are modelled on European fairy tales. “In Carter’s feminist rewriting”, as Marie Mulvey-Roberts puts in in her article on “The Bloody Chamber” (1979), “fairy tales are narrated from the woman’s point of view”. And in the case of this story based on “Bluebeard”, according to Mulvey-Roberts, the narrative “serve[s] as ←16 | 17→a warning […] of the possible dangers of violence in marriage”.13 Moreover, recent volumes by Maggie Tonkin, Rebecca Munford, Scott A. Dimovitz, Anna Watz, and Heidi Yeandle have also clarified Carter’s feminist engagements with European art, literary traditions, and philosophy.14

This book, however, builds on and takes into a new direction the existing scholarship by situating Carter in a historical context. I aim to shed light on her literary texts by proving that her profound interest in mortality not only underlies her feminist thought and work but also is connected to her political awareness of the condition of human lives in the twentieth century. Indeed, even in...

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