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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 Three Rousseau in a Post-Apocalyptic Context

Extract

The World after Atomic War in Heroes and Villains

In a newly discovered interview with David Pringle in 1979 in which she spoke about her dystopian novels between the late 1960s and the 1970s—Heroes and Villains (1969), The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (1972), and The Passion of New Eve (1977)—Angela Carter remarked that she had been highly influenced by science fiction since her childhood, from John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids (1951) to the works of “new wave” writers such as J. G. Ballard, William S. Burroughs, Michael Moorcock, Thomas M. Disch, and Brian Aldiss. Carter, nonetheless, states in the same conversation that Heroes and Villains, which is the first of her novels to reflect her own profound interest in this genre, should be defined not as pure SF but rather as a “science fiction romance”.1 Indeed, according to Gregory J. Rubinson, the “romantic” quality expressed in this novel mainly derives from the genre of gothic romance.2 As Brian Stableford reveals in his 2012 article, moreover, it is also certain that there are multiple differences between the English tradition of science fiction and what is called ”scientific romance”, originating from nineteenth-century French authors represented by Jules Verne, Camille Flammarion, Henri de Parville, and Samuel Henry Berthoud.3 Even though Heroes and Villains seems to have echoes of both English and French legacies, one should not underestimate Carter’s artistic response to post-war science fiction trends, since it is undeniable that her ←95 | 96→post-apocalyptic...

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