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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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Chapter One The Silent Response to the “Insane World”

Extract

The Portrayal of the Sixties in Shadow Dance, Several Perceptions, and Love

Angela Carter’s first, third, and fifth novels—Shadow Dance (1966),1 Several Perceptions (1968), and Love (1971; revised in 1987)2—depict the lives of young people in the 1960s and are generally referred to as the “Bristol Trilogy”. Originally named as such in an essay by Marc O’Day, he highlights the significant fact that these three works share a number of formal and thematic elements. Pointing out that they have similar characterisations, plot structures, narrative forms, and literary motifs concerning the sixties counterculture, O’Day claims that these novels “offer realist representations of the 1960s ‘provincial bohemia’ which Carter herself inhabited”.3 As a matter of fact, the portrayal of Bristol as the setting of the trilogy is more or less founded on Carter’s own personal experiences to spend her university days in this city. She moved there with her first husband, Paul Carter, in 1961, and wrote Shadow Dance while studying English literature at the University of Bristol, from 1962 to 1965. But in 1969, she went travelling in the United States and then decided to move to Japan. In an interview with John Haffenden, for example, she talks about her “realist” descriptions in Shadow Dance, asserting that her first novel was about a perfectly real area of the city in which she lived. “It didn’t give exactly mimetic copies of people I knew”, she notes, “but it was absolutely as real as the milieu...

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