Margaret Atwood: Words and the wilderness
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This thesis is a study of several texts written by Margaret Atwood, and is motivated by a desire to demonstrate the polysemous irreducibi1ity of literary meaning and to suggest ways in which critical theory and textual practice may meaningfully interact and correspond. * The first chapter examines poems in The Circle Game in order to observe how Atwood*s persistent scrutiny of the constitution of images creates a world almost entirely detached from a consciousness of time and history, and considers how this generates a radical split between textual self-sufficiency and the psychic wilderness through which the poems move. Here we can see Atwood deploying language in a pared-down, restrictive manner that circulates through the book with particular tension. The second chapter studies her first novel The Edible Woman. and attempts to trace through analysis of its linguistic patterns, how Margaret Atwood controls her subject matter and deploys her chosen narrative form in a way that expresses the conflict between consumption and production which is embodied in the novel's ^architectonic ♦ symbol. Moving through a specific historical period, her characters struggle to achieve self-definition and linguistic mastery of their environment. The third chapter is concerned with her critical study of Canadian literature, Survival. and the relational framework it suggests between Canada's uneasy post-colonial status, the writer's expressive0 predicament, and the universal experience of victimisation. Consideration is given to aspects of Atwood's political and social philosophy, and comparison made between her conclusions and those of other contemporary Canadian writers. The -fourth chapter delineates how pertinent aspects ^ % % of the history and historiography of seventeenth century New England are woven into the design and purpose of The Handmaid's Tale. The chapter examines how her period of % study at Harvard under Perry Miller wsaiS here used by Atwood to elaborate an increasingly sophisticated perspective on the struggle between the actions of the individual and the determinations of the broader political community.