Margaret Atwood's Fairy-Tale Sexual Politics

Margaret Atwood's Fairy-Tale Sexual Politics

Margaret Atwood's Fairy-Tale Sexual Politics

Margaret Atwood's Fairy-Tale Sexual Politics

Excerpt

Like Shakespeare, Margaret Atwood reuses the old, great stories, modifying and usually subverting them, hiding their traces in order to reveal contemporary landscapes, characters, and problems. On several occasions, Atwood has admitted that fairy tales, particularly those of the Grimm brothers and Hans Christian Andersen, have influenced her work, including Power Politics, Surfacing, The Handmaid's Tale, and her little-known watercolors (Atwood Tape and Telephone Call, December 1985). Several works (Surv, SW) make explicit fairy-tale references, and some offer self-reflexive fairy-tale commentary (BE). Atwood has also discussed fairy tales as an art form, referred to Bruno Bettelheim's well-known study of them, and humorously compared her early writing self, in a world where "women were supposed to Be, not Do," to "the third son in a fairy tale: dumb but hopeful and, as a consequence, stupidly, but luckily, fearless" ("Where" 9). Even the poems she wrote as a child foreshadow her later interest in the "protean changes in shape" so characteristic of fairy tales. According to Atwood, when she saw Snow White for the first time at "some too-early age (5?) . . . . I was [riveted] with fear. The transformation of the evil queen into the witch did me in forever" (J. Rosenberg 2). But echoes of fairy tales or literary folktales constitute more than simple influence or allusion: they function as intertexts or texts within texts (Scholes 145).

Drawing on fairy-tale archetypes in reader's memories and imaginations, in other literature and in history, this book examines what fairy-tale patterns (including fairy-tale images, motifs, themes, and structures) mean within Atwood's texts; how these patterns change throughout Atwood's career (e.g., becoming . . .

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