The present paper discusses Angela Carter’s Heroes and Villains
(1969), which parodies both “post-apocalyptic” novels in the Cold War era and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s theory on civilisation. By analysing this novel in comparison, not only to Rousseau’s On the Origin of Inequality
(1755), but also to the works of various science fiction writers in the 1950s and 1960s, the paper aims to examine Carter’s reinterpretation of Rousseau in a post-apocalyptic context. As I will argue, Heroes and Villains
criticises Rousseau from a feminist point of view to not only represent the dystopian society as full of inequality and violence, but also to show that human beings, having forgotten the nuclear war as their great “sin” in the past, can no longer create a bright future. Observing the underlying motifs in the novel, the paper will reveal how Carter attempts to portray a world where human history has totally ended, or where people cannot make “history” in spite of the fact that they biologically survived the holocaust. From this perspective, I will clarify the way in which Carter reinterprets Rousseau’s notion of “fallen” civilisation in the new context as a critique of the nuclear issues in the late twentieth century.
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