Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Margaret Eleanor Atwood, CC (born November 18, 1939) is a Canadian author, poet, critic, feminist and social campaigner. She is among the most-honored authors of fiction in recent history; she is a winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and Prince of Asturias award for Literature, has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times, winning once, and has been a finalist for the Governor General's Award seven times, winning twice. While she is best known for her work as a novelist, her poetry is noteworthy. Many of her poems have been inspired by myths, and fairy tales, which were an interest of hers from an early age. Atwood has also published short stories in Tamarack Review, Alphabet, Harper's, CBC Anthology, Ms., Saturday Night, Playboy, and many other magazines.
Early Life
Born in Ottawa, Ontario, Atwood is the second of three children of Carl Edmund Atwood, an entomologist, and Margaret Dorothy Killiam, a former dietitian and nutritionist. Due to her father’s ongoing research in forest entomology, Atwood spent much of her childhood in the backwoods of Northern Quebec and back and forth between Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie and Toronto. She did not attend school full-time until she was 11 years old. She became a voracious reader of literature, Dell pocketbook mysteries, Grimm's Fairy Tales, Canadian animal stories, and comic books. She attended Leaside High School in Leaside, Toronto and graduated in 1957.
Atwood began writing at age six and realized she wanted to write professionally when she was 16. In 1957, she began studying at Victoria University in the University of Toronto. Her professors included Jay Macpherson and Northrop Frye. She graduated in 1961 with a Bachelor of Arts in English (honours) and minors in philosophy and French.
In late 1961, after winning the E.J. Pratt Medal for her privately printed book of poems, Double Persephone, she began graduate studies at Harvard's Radcliffe College with a Woodrow Wilson fellowship. She obtained a master's degree (MA) from Radcliffe in 1962 and pursued further graduate studies at Harvard University for 2 years, but never finished because she never completed a dissertation on “The English Metaphysical Romance” in 1967. She has taught at the University of British Columbia (1965), Sir George Williams University in Montreal (1967-68), the University of Alberta (1969-79), York University in Toronto (1971-72), and New York University, where she was Berg Professor of English.
In 1968, Atwood married Jim Polk, whom she divorced in 1973. She formed a relationship with fellow novelist Graeme Gibson soon after and moved to Alliston, Ontario, north of Toronto. In 1976 their daughter, Eleanor Jess Atwood Gibson, was born. Atwood returned to Toronto in 1980. She divides her time between Toronto and Pelee Island, Ontario.
In March 2008 it was announced by Atwood, via television hookup between Toronto and Vancouver, that she had accepted her first chamber opera commission. 'Pauline' will be on the subject of Pauline Johnson, a writer and Canadian artist long a subject of fascination to Atwood. It will star Judith Forst, with music by Christos Hatzis, and be produced by City Opera of Vancouver. 'Pauline' will be set at Vancouver, British Columbia, in March 1913, in the last week in the life of Johnson.
Critical receptionThe Economist called her a "scintillating wordsmith" and an "expert literary critic", but commented that her logic does not match her prose in Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, a book which commences with the conception of debt and its kinship with justice. Atwood claims that this conception is ingrained in the human psyche, manifest as it is in early historical peoples, who matched their conceptions of debt with those of justice as typically exemplified by a female deity. Atwood holds that, with the rise of Ancient Greece, and especially the installation of the court system detailed in Aeschylus's Oresteia, this deity has been replaced by a more thorough conception of debt.
In 2003, Shaftesbury Films produced an anthology series, The Atwood Stories, which dramatized six of Atwood's short stories.
Atwood and science fiction
The Handmaid's Tale received the very first Arthur C. Clarke Award for the best science fiction novel first published in the United Kingdom during the previous year, in 1987. It was also nominated for the 1986 Nebula Award, and the 1987 Prometheus Award, both science fiction awards.
Atwood was at one time offended at the suggestion that The Handmaid's Tale or Oryx and Crake were science fiction, insisting that they were speculative fiction instead: "Science fiction has monsters and spaceships; speculative fiction could really happen" (Atwood to the Guardian). She told the Book of the Month Club: "Oryx and Crake is a speculative fiction, not a science fiction proper. It contains no intergalactic space travel, no teleportation, no Martians." and on BBC Breakfast explained that science fiction, as opposed to what she wrote, was "talking squids in outer space." The latter phrase particularly rankled among advocates of science fiction, and frequently recurs when her writing (or mundane authors' opinions of science fiction) is discussed. Atwood has since said that she does at times write science fiction, and that Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake can be designated as such. She clarified her meaning on the difference between speculative and science fiction, while admitting that others use the terms interchangebly: "For me, the science fiction label belongs on books with things in them that we can't yet do.... speculative fiction means a work that employs the means already to hand and that takes place on Planet Earth", and said that science fictional narratives give a writer the ability to explore themes in ways that realistic fiction cannot.
Contribution to the theorizing of Canadian identity
Atwood’s contributions to the theorizing of Canadian identity have garnered attention both in Canada and internationally. Her principal work of literary criticism, Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature, is considered outdated in Canada but remains the standard introduction to Canadian literature in Canadian Studies programs internationally. In Survival, Atwood postulates that Canadian literature, and by extension Canadian identity, is characterized by the symbol of survival. This symbol is expressed in the omnipresent use of “victim positions” in Canadian literature. These positions represent a scale of self-consciousness and self-actualization for the victim in the “victor/victim” relationship. The "victor" in these scenarios may be other humans, nature, the wilderness or other external and internal factors which oppress the victor. Atwood’s Survival bears the influence of Northrop Frye’s theory of garrison mentality; Atwood instrumentalizes Frye’s concept to a critical tool. More recently, Atwood has continued her exploration of the implications of Canadian literary themes for Canadian identity in lectures such as Strange Things: The Malevolent North in Canadian Literature (1995).
Atwood’s contribution to the theorizing of Canada is not limited to her non-fiction works. Several of her works, including The Journals of Susanna Moodie, Alias Grace, The Blind Assassin and Surfacing, are examples of what postmodern literary theorist Linda Hutcheon calls “Historiographic Metafiction” In such works, Atwood explicitly explores the relation of history and narrative and the processes of creating history.
Ultimately, according to her theories in works such as Survival and her exploration of similar themes in her fiction, Atwood considers Canadian literature as the expression of Canadian identity. According to this literature, Canadian identity has been defined by a fear of nature, by settler history and by unquestioned adherence to the community.
Political involvement
Although Atwood's politics are commonly described as being left wing, she has indicated in interviews that she considers herself a Red Tory. Atwood and her partner Graeme Gibson are currently members of the Green Party of Canada and strong supporters of GPC leader Elizabeth May, whom Atwood has referred to as fearless, honest, reliable and knowledgeable. In the 2008 federal election she attended a rally for the Bloc Québécois, a Quebec separatist party, because of her support for their position on the arts, and stated that she would vote for the party if she lived in Quebec. In a Globe and Mail editorial, she urged Canadians to vote for any other party to stop a Conservative majority.
Atwood has strong views on environmental issues, such as suggesting that gas-powered leaf blowers and lawn mowers be banned, and has made her own home more energy efficient by installing awnings and skylights that open, and by not having air-conditioning. She and her partner also use a hybrid car when they are in the city.
During the debate in 1987 over a free trade agreement between Canada and the United States, Atwood spoke out against the deal, including an essay she wrote opposing the agreement.
Works: Novels
The Edible Woman (1969)
Surfacing (1972)
Lady Oracle (1976)
Life Before Man (1979, finalist for the Governor General's Award)
Bodily Harm (1981)
The Handmaid's Tale (1985, winner of the 1987 Arthur C. Clarke Award and 1985 Governor General's Award, finalist for the 1986 Booker Prize)
Cat's Eye (1988, finalist for the 1988 Governor General's Award and the 1989 Booker Prize)
The Robber Bride (1993, finalist for the 1994 Governor General's Award)
Alias Grace (1996, winner of the 1996 Giller Prize, finalist for the 1996 Booker Prize and the 1996 Governor General's Award)
The Blind Assassin (2000, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize and finalist for the 2000 Governor General's Award)
Oryx and Crake (2003, finalist for the 2003 Booker Prize and the 2003 Governor General's Award)
The Penelopiad (2005, longlisted for the 2007 IMPAC Award)
The Year of the Flood (2009)

Poetry collections
Double Persephone (1961)
The Circle Game (1964, winner of the 1966 Governor General's Award)
Expeditions (1965)
Speeches for Doctor Frankenstein (1966)
The Animals in That Country (1968)
The Journals of Susanna Moodie (1970)
Procedures for Underground (1970)
Power Politics (1971)
You Are Happy (1974)
Selected Poems (1976)
Two-Headed Poems (1978)
True Stories (1981)
Love songs of a Terminator (1983)
Interlunar (1984)
Morning in the Burned House, McClelland & Stewart (1995)
Eating Fire: Selected Poems, 1965-1995 (1998)
The Door (2007)

Short fiction collections
Dancing Girls (1977, winner of the St. Lawrence Award for Fiction and the award of The Periodical Distributors of Canada for Short Fiction)
Murder in the Dark (1983)
Bluebeard's Egg (1983)
Through the One-Way Mirror (1986)
Wilderness Tips (1991, finalist for the Governor General's Award)
Good Bones (1992)
Good Bones and Simple Murders (1994)
The Labrador Fiasco (1996)
The Tent (2006)
Moral Disorder (2006)

Anthologies edited
The New Oxford Book of Canadian Verse (1982)
The Canlit Foodbook (1987)
The Oxford Book of Canadian Short Stories in English (1988)
The Best American Short Stories 1989 (1989) (with Shannon Ravenel)
The New Oxford Book of Canadian Short Stories in English (1995)

Children's books
Up in the Tree (1978)
Anna's Pet (1980) with Joyce C. Barkhouse
For the Birds (1990) (with Shelly Tanaka)
Princess Prunella and the Purple Peanut (1995)
Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes (2003)
Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda (2006)

Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature (1972)
Days of the Rebels 1815-1840 (1977)
Second Words: Selected Critical Prose (1982)
Strange Things: The Malevolent North in Canadian Literature (1995)
Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing (2002)
Moving Targets: Writing with Intent, 1982-2004 (2004)
Writing with Intent: Essays, Reviews, Personal Prose--1983-2005 (2005)
Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth (2008)

Kanadian Kultchur Komix featuring "Survivalwoman" in This Magazine under the pseudonym, Bart Gerrard 1975-1980
Others appear on her website.

Television scripts
The Servant Girl (1974)
Snowbird (1981)
Heaven on Earth (1986)

Audio recordings
The Poetry and Voice of Margaret Atwood (1977)
Margaret Atwood Reads “Unearthing Suite” (1985)
Margaret Atwood Reading From Her Poems (2005)
The Trumpets of Summer (1964)

Awards and honours
Atwood has won more than 55 awards in Canada and internationally, including:
Governor General's Award, (1966, 1985)
Prince of Asturias Award for Letters, 2008
Order of Canada Citation Booker Prize, 2000
Los Angeles Times Fiction Award, 1986
Canadian Booksellers Association Author of the Year, 1989
Government of France's Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, 1994
Arthur C. Clarke Award for best Science Fiction, 1987 Guggenheim fellowship]

Honourary degrees
Trent University, 1973
Queen's University, 1974
Concordia, 1980
Smith College (Massachusetts), 1982
University of Toronto, 1983
University of Waterloo, 1985
University of Guelph, 1985
Mount Holyoke College, 1985
Victoria College, 1987
Université de Montréal, 1991
University of Leeds, 1994
McMaster University, 1996

Critical Writing on Margaret Atwood’s Work
Cooke, Nathalie. Margaret Atwood: A Critical Companion. Greenwood Press, Westport, CN: 2004.
Davidson, Arnold and Cathy, editors, The Art of Margaret Atwood: Essays In Criticism.House of Anansi Press, 1980.
Grace, Sherill, Violent Duality; A Study of Margaret Atwood. Vehicule Press, 1980.
Grace, Sherrill & Lorraine Weir, editors, Margaret Atwood: Language, Text and System. University of British Columbia Press, 1983.
Howell, Corel Ann. Margaret Atwood. Palgrave Macmillan, London: 2005.
Ingersoll, Earl G., Editor. Margaret Atwood: Conversations. Ontario Review Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1990.
Irvine, Lorna. Collecting Clues: Margaret Atwood's Bodily Harm. ECW Press, Toronto, 1993.
McCombs, Judith, Editor. Critical Essays On Margaret Atwood, G.K. Hall & Co., Boston, 1988.
Nischik, Reingard M. Ed. Margaret Atwood: Works and Impact. Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2002.
Rao, Eleonora. Strategies for Identity: The Fiction of Margaret Atwood, Peter Land Publishing, New York, 1994.
Reynolds, Margaret. Margaret Atwood: The Essential Guide to Contemporary Literature. London: Vintage, 2002.
Rosenberg, Jerome H., Margaret Atwood. Boston, Twayne, 1984.
Staels, Hilda. Margaret Atwood's Novels: A Study of Narrative Discourse, Francke Verlag, Tubingen, Germany, 1995.
Van Spanckeren, Kathryn and Jan Garden Castro, editors, Vision and Forms,Southern Illinois University Press, 1988.
Wilson, Sharon Rose. Margaret Atwood's Fairy-Tale Sexual Politics, University Press of Mississippi, 1993.
Wilson, Sharon Rose. Margaret Atwood's Textual Assassinations: Recent Poetry and Fiction. Columbus, OH: Ohio UP, 2004.
York, Lorraine M., ed. Various Atwoods: Essays on the Later Poems, Short Fiction, and Novels. House of Anansi Press, 1995.
A more complete bibliography and list of reviews and articles on Atwood may be obtained in:
The Annotated Bibliography of Canada's Major Authors 1-2; by Alan J. Horne; edited by Robert Lecker and Jack David, Downsview, Ontario. ECW Press, 2 vols., 1979-80.
An annual bibliography of Atwood criticism and review may be obtained from The Margaret Atwood Society as part of membership.
Beran, Carol. Living over the Abyss: Margaret Atwood's Life before Man. Toronto: ECW, 1994.
Bouson, J. Brooks. Brutal Choreographies: Oppositional Strategies and Narrative Design in the Novels of Margaret Atwood. Amherst: U of Massachusetts P, 1993.
Cameron, Elspeth. Atwood-The Edible Woman: Notes. Coles Notes. Toronto: Coles, 1983.
Carrington, Ildiko De Papp. Margaret Atwood and Her Works. Toronto: ECW, 1985.
Coles Editorial Board. Atwood-Surfacing: Notes. Coles Notes. Toronto: Coles, 1982.
Davey, Frank. Margaret Atwood: A Feminist Poetics. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1984.
Davidson, Arnold E., and Cathy N. Davidson, eds. The Art of Margaret Atwood: Essays in Criticism. Toronto: Anansi, 1981.
Fee, Margery. The Fat Lady Dances: Margaret Atwood's Lady Oracle. Toronto: ECW, 1993.
Grace, Sherrill E., Violent Duality: A Study of Margaret Atwood. Montreal: VÈhicule, 1980.
Grace, Sherrill E., and Lorraine Weir, eds. Margaret Atwood: Language, Text, and System. Vancouver: U of British Columbia P, 1983.
Hengen, Shannon. Margaret Atwood's Power: Mirrors, Reflections and Images in Select Fiction and Poetry. Toronto: Second Story, 1993.
Howells, Coral Ann. York Notes on The Handmaid's Tale. Harlow, Essex: Longman, 1993.
Howells, Coral Ann. Margaret Atwood. New York: St. Martin's P, 1996.
Ingersoll, Earl, ed. Margaret Atwood: Conversations. Willowdale, Ont.: Firefly, 1990; Princeton: Ontario Review, 1990. Introd. Philip Howard. London: Virago, 1992.
Irvine, Lorna. Collecting Clues: Margaret Atwood's Bodily Harm. Toronto: ECW, 1994.
Keith, W.J. Introducing Margaret Atwood's The Edible Woman: A Reader's Guide. Canadian Fiction Studies 3. Toronto: ECW, 1989.
Mallinson, Jean. Margaret Atwood and Her Works. Toronto: ECW, 1984.
McCombs, Judith, ed. Critical Essays on Margaret Atwood. Boston: Hall, 1988.
McCombs, Judith, and Carole L. Palmer. Margaret Atwood: A Reference Guide. Boston: Hall, 1991.
Mendez-Egle, Beed. Margaret Atwood: Reflection and Reality. Edinburg: Pan American UP, 1987.
Mycak, Sonia. In Search of the Split Subject: Psychoanalysis, Phenomenology, and the Novels of Margaret Atwood. Toronto: ECW, 1996.
Nicholson, Colin, ed. Margaret Atwood: Writing and Subjectivity. Houndmills, Eng.: Macmillan, 1994; New York: St. Martin's, 1994.
Rigney, Barbara Hill. Margaret Atwood. Houndmills, Eng.: Macmillan, 1987. Totowa: Barnes, 1987.
Rosenberg, Jerome. Margaret Atwood. Boston: Twayne, 1984.
Staels, Hilde. Margaret Atwood's Novels: A Study of Narrative Discourse. Transatlantic Perspective. T¸bingen: Francke, 1995.
VanSpanckeren, Kathryn, and Jan Garden Castro, eds. Margaret Atwood: Vision and Forms. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1988.
Wilson, Sharon R. Margaret Atwood's Fairy-Tale Sexual Politics. Jackson: U of Mississippi P, 1993.
Wilson, Sharon R., and Thomas B. Friedman, and Shannon Hengen, eds. Approaches to Teaching Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and Other Works. New York: MLA, 1996.
Woodcock, George. Introducing Margaret Atwood's Surfacing: A Reader's Guide. Toronto: ECW, 1990.

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