Presentation on theme: "Margaret Eleanor Atwood, OC (born November 18, 1939) is a Canadian writer. A prolific poet, novelist, literary critic, feminist and activist, she is a."— Presentation transcript:
Margaret Eleanor Atwood, OC (born November 18, 1939) is a Canadian writer. A prolific poet, novelist, literary critic, feminist and activist, she is a winner of the Booker Prize and Arthur C. Clarke Award, and has been a finalist for the Governor General's Award seven times, winning twice. Atwood is among the most- honored authors of fiction in recent history.
Margaret Atwood was born in Ottawa, Canada, the second of three children. He father was a forest entomologist. Part of her early years Atwood spent part in the bush of northern Quebec, where her father undertook research. Later these childhood experiences gave material to her metaphorical use of the wilderness and its animals in WILDERNESS TIPS (1991).
In 1946 Atwood's family moved to Toronto. She was eleven before she attended school full- time. Atwood graduated from Leaside High School in She then studied at the University of Toronto, where she met the literary analyst Northrop Fry; his myth criticism and Jungian ideas influenced her deeply. She became a graduate student at Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Massachusetts, receiving her M.A. in Atwood continued her studies of Victorian literature at Harvard ( , ), reading for Ph.D., but interrupted her studies in 1967 after having failed to complete her dissertation on 'The English Metaphysical Romance'.
She worked for a market-research company in Toronto and taught English at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver ( ). She has held a variety of academic posts and has been writer-in-residence at numerous Canadian and American universities. UBC - View of the north part of the Point Grey Campus, including Green College, the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, and the Museum of Anthropology.
As a writer Atwood made her debut at the age of 19 with DOUBLE PERSEPHONE (1961), a collection of poems. Her privately printed book won the E.J. Pratt medal. Another early collection, THE CIRCLE GAME (1964, rev. in 1966) received the Canadian Governor General's Award for poetry in 1966.
While working as an editor at the Toronto publishing house Anansi in the early 1970s, Atwood published her controversial study SURVIVAL: A THEMATIC GUIDE TO CANADIAN LITERATURE (1972). For scholars Atwood's tongue-in-cheek humour was hard to swallow, especially when she asserted that Canadian literature has remained blighted by subservient, colonial mentality. Table of Contents What, Why, and Where Is Here? 1. Survival 2. Nature the Monster 3. Animal Victims 4. First People: Indians and Eskimos as Symbols 5. Ancestral Totems: Explorers, Settlers 6. Family Portrait: Masks of the Bear 7. Failed Sacrifices: The Reluctant Immigrant 8. The Casual Incident of Death: Futile Heroes, Unconvincing martyrs and Other Bad Ends 9. The Paralyzed Artist 10. Ice Women vs Earth Mothers: The Stone Angel and the Absent Venus 11. Québec: Burning Mansions 12. Jail-Breaks and Re-Creations
Later she returned to the theme in STRANGE THINGS: THE MALEVOLENT NORTH IN CANADIAN LITERATURE (1995). Atwood searched for the "fabled Canadian identity", stating that "Canadians are fond of a good disaster, especially if it has ice, water, or snow in it. You thought the national flag was about a leaf, didn't you? Look harder. It's where someone got axed in the snow."
The Edible Woman Atwood's THE EDIBLE WOMAN (1969), is both a funny and terrifying story about a young woman, whose sane, structured, consumer-oriented world suddenly slips strangely out of focus. The story chronicles the fantastic and dramatic ego disintegration of Marian McAlprin, who seems at first to be a perfectly conventional young woman, with friends, a successful and attractive man in her life, and a reasonably good job working for a market research company. Everything in her life seems to fly out of control with her engagement, just as Marian seems ready to fulfill "every woman's" dream of trading in her troublesome job for marriage and a new life at home with children. As Marian begins endowing food with human qualities that cause her to identify with it, she finds herself unable to eat, repelled by metaphorical cannibalism.
Atwood explores gender stereotypes through characters who strictly adhere to them, such as Peter or Lucy, and those who defy their constraints, such as Duncan. The narrative point of view shifts from first to third person, accentuating Marian's slow detachment from reality. At the conclusion, first person narration returns, consistent with the character's willingness to take control of her life again. Food and clothing are major symbols used by the author to explore themes and grant the reader insight on each of the characters' personalities, moods and motivations. Setting is used to sharply accentuate the differences between the characters; for example, Duncan is encountered in a mundane laundromat, gloomy theatre or sleazy hotel. In comparison, Peter inhabits genteel bars and a sparkling new apartment. However these changing environments are also used to explore different angles of existence, contrasting a freer, wilder glimpse of life, with a civilised, gilded cage. This highlights the difficulties presented to women in the era, where freedom was synonymous with uncertainty but marriage presented problems of its own. This novel's publication coincided with the rise of the women's movement in North America, but is described by Atwood as "protofeminist" because it was written in 1965 and thus anticipated feminism by several years.
The Handmaid’s Tale THE HANDMAID'S TALE (1985) is a dystopia, influenced by Orwell's classic The story set in the near future USA in the Republic of Gilead, a state ruled by religious fundamentalism. All the freedoms women have gained are revoked and language is forbidden to all but the male élite. The heroine, Offred, is one of the few women whose reproductive systems have survived the chemical pollution and radiation from power plants. The book was filmed in 1990 by Volker Schlöndorff from a screenplay by Harold Pinter. In the film version the protagonist becomes an active revolutionary who finally cuts the throat of her owner. However, in Atwood's book the events are seen through the eyes of the main character, whose weapon is irony and keen observation - she keeps a secret diary. "I try not to think too much. Like other things now, thought must be rationed. There's a lot that doesn't bear thinking about. Thinking can hurt your chances, and I intend to last." (from The Handmaid's Tale) The tale is interspersed with flashbacks to her earlier life, when she had a husband, Luke, a 5-year-old daughter, and was allowed to read.
Offred discovers that the people in her life, while paying lip service to Gilead's rigid mores, seek various means of expressing their illicit desires. Offred initially becomes aware of these transgressions when Fred orders her to visit his study late at night. He wishes to establish a more personal relationship with her, as he is forbidden to converse with her outside of their monthly sex. He offers to play Scrabble with her. Since women are forbidden from reading and restricted to specific duties assigned to them, this is an illicit activity. He also obtains forbidden hand lotion for her and allows her to read books and magazines from the past. On one occasion, he dresses her in a sexy costume and smuggles her into Jezebel's, a nightclub and brothel run by the party. At the same time, Serena Joy has also asked Offred to keep secrets from the Commander. Resentful of having been deprived of her formerly prominent role as a televangelist and right-wing lecturer, she feels the only thing that can give meaning to her life is a child. Since the Commander is likely to be sterile (his previous handmaids did not conceive), Serena Joy suggests that Offred attempt to conceive a child with Nick, the chauffeur, later revealed to be a member of the Mayday underground resistance. Nick and Offred begin a relationship which they continue until the end of the novel where it is left a little ambiguous whether Offred's transgressions have been discovered and is taken away for them or is being smuggled out of the household by the resistance movement. By this time, Offred and Nick believe that she might be pregnant. Even though her fate is not made clear by the ambiguous ending, since she was able to make tapes on which she recounts her experiences — as stated in the appendix — it seems likely that she was rescued and may have been able to leave the country via the "Underground Femaleroad." Offred's on-tape narrative is treated as a historical document and is discussed at an academic conference far in the future.
Cat’s Eye Cat's Eye is a 1988 novel by Margaret Atwood. In it, painter Elaine Risley vividly reflects on her childhood and teenage years. Her strongest memories are of Cordelia, who was the leader of a trio of girls who were both very cruel and very kind to young Elaine, in ways that tint Elaine's perceptions of relationships and her world - not to mention her art - into the character's middle years. The novel unfolds in Canada of the mid-20th century, from World War II to the late 1980s, and includes a look at many of the cultural elements of that time period, including feminism and various modern art movements.
Explanation of the title Elaine and her brother play marbles as children; Elaine keeps a prized cat's eye marble in her red purse. The cat's eye later appears as a common motif in Elaine's paintings, linked with those she perceived to be an ally, although she does not remember why it is associated with those feelings. Elaine rediscovers the red purse years later, and as she looks through it, she regains all the memories she had lost: "her life entire".
Plot summary After being called back to her childhood home of Toronto for a retrospective show of her art, Elaine reminisces about her childhood. At the age of eight she becomes friends with Carol and Grace, and, through their eyes, realises her atypical background of traveling with her entomologist father has left her ill-equipped for conventional femininity. When Cordelia joins the group, Elaine is bullied by her "best friends". The bullying escalates that winter, when the girls abandon Elaine in the ravine; half-frozen, she sees a vision of the Virgin Mary who guides her to safety. Afterwards, realising she had allowed herself to be a victim, Elaine makes new friends. Themes Construction of identity - Cat's Eye is written mostly as flashbacks, as Elaine reflects on the forgotten events of her childhood that shaped her personality and struggles to integrate lost aspects of her self. In Elaine's self portrait, a pier glass reflects three little girls who are not in the painting (evocative of Jan Van Eyck's reflection of himself in The Arnolfini Portrait): demonstrating their simultaneous absence from Elaine's past and their presence in who she has become.
The Arnolfini Portrait - Jan van Eyck, 1434 In the background mirror one can see two figures (probably one of them is that of the painter himself). Giovanni Arnolfini raises his right hand as if he were greeting them.
Alias Grace ALIAS GRACE (1996) used a genuine 19th-century criminal case of Grace Marks, one of the most notorious women in Canada. Grace was imprisoned in 1843, at the age of sixteen, for almost 30 years as an accomplice to the murder of her employer Thomas Kinnear and his mistress, the housekeeper Nancy. Her guilt was never incontrovertibly established, but she raised the interest of journalists and researches. Before she was arrested, she tried to escape with another servant, James McDermott to the United States. Atwood first found her story from Life in the Clearings (1853) by Susanna Moodie. "A lot of what is written down is either wishful thinking or spiteful gossip," Atwood has said.
Although the novel is based on factual events, Atwood constructs a narrative with a fictional doctor, Simon Jordan, who researches the case. Although conducting research into criminal behaviour, he slowly becomes personally involved in the story of Grace Marks and seeks to reconcile the mild mannered woman he sees with the murder of which she has been convicted. The question of Grace's madness or sanity is never resolved in the novel. She appears, at one point, to be possessed by the spirit of her dead fellow servant and confidante, Mary Whitney. “Alias Grace” uses post-modern narrative techniques to explore the instability of personal identity and historical knowledge.
The Robber Bride The Robber Bride is in present-day Toronto, Ontario, the novel begins with three women (Roz, Charis, and Tony) who meet once a month in a restaurant to share a meal.
Plot summary During their most recent outing, they see Zenia, a long-dead college classmate who had stolen, one by one, their respective beaux. The novel alternates between the present and flashbacks featuring the points of view of Tony, Charis, and Roz, respectively. Zenia has given each woman a different version of her biography, tailor-made to insinuate herself into their lives. No one version of Zenia is the truth, and the reader knows no more than the characters. Their betrayals by Zenia are what initially bring the three together as friends, and bind their lives together irrevocably; their monthly luncheons began after her funeral. The novel, like other works by Atwood, deals with power struggles between men and women; it is also a meditation on the nature of friendship, power, and trust between women. Zenia's character can be read as either the ultimate self-empowered woman, a traitor who abuses sisterhood, or simply a self-interested mercenary who cunningly uses the 'war between the sexes' to further her own interests. One reading posits Zenia as a kind of guardian angel to the women, saving them from unworthy men.
Atwood claims that of all the characters she has written, she identifies most "with Zenia. She is the professional liar, and what else do fiction writers do but create lies that other people will believe?" In the novel's present, Roz, Charis, and Tony finally each individually confront Zenia in a Toronto hotel room, where she tells each of them that the men they'd been with got what they deserved, and gives various versions of her earlier staged death, each as implausible as the accounts of her life. One of the four women never leaves that hotel alive. The novel itself leaves the reader questioning who was (or were) the victim(s) of life.
The Blind Assassin THE BLIND ASSASSIN (2000) is about two sisters, one of whom, Laura Chase, dies in a car accident in 1945 under ambiguous circumstances. Two years later the body of Richard E. Griffen, a prominent industrialist, is found dead. And in 1975 Aimee Griffen dies of a broken neck. The only person who knows the circumstances behind these deaths is Iris Chase Griffen, Laura's elder sister, Richard's wife, Aimee's mother. The richly layered story then continues as a novel within a novel, using an excerpt from Laura Chase's novella, The Blind Assassin, posthumously published in It deals with an affair between a wealthy young woman and her lover, a radical on the run for. "I look back back over what I've written and I know it's wrong, not because of what I've set down, but because of what I've omitted. What isn't there has a presence, like the absence of light." Much of the action consists of a fantasy, improvised by the man, in which child carpet weavers, blinded by the work, find new work as assassins.
The novel centres around the protagonist, Iris Chase, and her sister Laura, who committed suicide immediately after the Second World War. Iris, now an old woman, recalls the events and relationships of her childhood, youth and middle age, as well as her unhappy marriage to Richard Griffen, a rival of her industrialist father. As the novel unfolds, and the novel- within-a-novel becomes ever more obviously inspired by real events, it becomes clear that Laura's novel isn't what it seems; it is eventually revealed that Iris herself, not Laura, was the novel-within-a-novel's author and protagonist.
The book is set in the fictional Ontario town of Port Ticonderoga and in the Toronto of the 1930s and 1940s. It is a work of historical fiction with the major events of Canadian history forming an important backdrop to the novel. Greater verisimilitude is given through a series of newspaper articles that comment on events and on the novel's characters from a distance.
The Blind Assassin (Quote) “I wonder which is preferable, to walk around all your life swollen up with your own secrets until you burst from the pressure of them, or to have them sucked out of you, every paragraph, every sentence, every word of them, so at the end you're depleted of all that was once as precious to you as hoarded gold, as close to you as your skin - everything that was of the deepest importance to you, everything that made you cringe and wish to conceal, everything that belonged to you alone - and must spend the rest of your days like an empty sack flapping in the wind, an empty sack branded with a bright fluorescent label so that everyone will know what sort of secrets used to be inside you?” (448)
The Blind Assassin earned Atwood in 2000 the Booker Prize, Britain's top literary award for fiction.
Life before Man Atwood's fiction is often symbolic. She has moved easily between satire and fantasy, and enlarged the boundaries of traditional realism. Her fourth novel, LIFE BEFORE MAN (1979), presented a bleak, harsh view of human life in which marriage is a vanishing way of life. The novel has three main characters, Nate, Elizabeth and Lesje. Nate and Elizabeth are an unhappily married couple, and are both having extramarital affairs. Lesje is Nate's lover and a coworker of Elizabeth's; Elizabeth's lover, Chris, has just committed suicide. Lesje is of Ukrainian ancestry. All three of the main characters are narrators. Each chapter presents events from one character's perspective. Elizabeth and Lesje both work in the museum of natural history. Lesje, a paleontologist, is fascinated by dinosaurs giving the book its title.
Onyx and Crake ORYX & CRAKE (2003) is a love triangle story set in the near-future world, where human beings have all but destroyed the planet. The book critically examines developments in science and technology such as xenotransplantation and genetic engineering, particularly the creation of transgenic animals such as "wolvogs" (hybrids between wolves and dogs), "rakunks" (racoon and skunk), and "pigoons" (pigs and baboons, for organ transplants). If progress continues unchecked — the world warms, multinationals prosper, society schisms and science stays one small leap ahead of morality - how will humanity adapt?
"Yet for all Atwood's imaginative powers, her meticulous research, her clever literary allusions to Defoe, Swift and H G Wells, and her satire, this is an unsatisfactory novel which fails to engage the reader fully." (Catherine Pepinster in The Independent, 1 June 2003) Some reviewers labelled the work as science fiction, but Atwood herself considered it speculative fiction. "Had I written it 20 years ago, I would have called it science fiction," she said in an interview, "but now it's speculative fiction, believe me."
Margaret Atwood has been politically active in PEN and in Amnesty International. She has lived for years on a farm near Alliston, Ontario, with her second husband, the writer Graeme Gibson and their daughter.
Atwood's work has been regarded as a barometer of feminist thought. Her protagonists are often a kind of 'everywoman' characters, or weaker members of society. Several of Atwood's novels can be classified as science fiction, although her writing is above the normal formulae of the genre.
On the responsabilities of the poet No one made you do this, This fooling with syllables and hurt, This rolling naked in thistles And sticking your tongue on to nails. You could have been a bricklayer. You could have been a dentist. Hard-shelled. Impervious. ("Poetry Reading" )
Pic: Margaret Atwood 2007 National Book Festival Breakfast at The White House Washington, DC