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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 Six Carter, Thatcherism, and International Politics after Détente

Extract

The Representations of “Empires” in Nights at the Circus and Wise Children

Angela Carter’s eighth novel, Nights at the Circus, was published in the year 1984, though it is uncertain whether she was particularly aware of the dystopian world that George Orwell had imagined in Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) when creating this rather utopian work. In British society, as Joseph Brooker notes in Literature of the 1980s: After the Watershed (2010), this symbolic year “had been an iconic temporal destination” since the publication of Orwell’s masterpiece, which contained various important meanings for both the Left and Right.1 Especially in the early 1980s, for example, those who criticised Margaret Thatcher complained that “Britain was beginning to resemble Orwell’s Airstrip One”.2 Moreover, according to Andrew Hammond’s British Fiction and the Cold War (2013), by this “year of Orwell’s atomic dystopia, it seemed to many that modern military technology was far more dangerous than the Soviet internationalism it was there to contain”.3 In 1991, after a long interval since Nights at the Circus, Carter’s ninth novel, Wise Children, was released in the very year when the world witnessed the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the total end of the Cold War. Although not intentional but rather coincidental, these facts at least invite us to read Carter’s last two novels written mainly in the 1980s in relation to her sceptical attitude toward the actual world situation outside of the texts.

In a 1985 interview, in which she speaks...

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