Margaret Atwood: Vision and Forms

Margaret Atwood: Vision and Forms

Margaret Atwood: Vision and Forms

Margaret Atwood: Vision and Forms


A prolific writer and versatile social critic, Canadian novelist and poet Margaret Atwood has recently published Bluebeard's Egg (short stories), Interlunar (poetry), and The Handmaid's Tale a critically acclaimed best-selling novel.

This international collection of essays evaluates the complete body of her work- both the acclaimed fiction and the innovative poetry. The critics represented here- American, Australian, and Canadian- address Atwood's handling of such themes as feminism, ecology, the gothic novel, and the political relationship between Canada and the United States.

The essays on Atwood's novels introduce the general reader to her development as a writer, as she matures from a basically subjective, poetic vision, seen in Surfacing and The Edible Woman, to an increasingly engaged, political stance, exemplified by The Handmaid's Tale. Other essays examine Atwood's poetry, from her transformation of the Homeric model to her criticisms of the United States' relationship with Canada. The last two critical essays offer a unique view of Atwood through an investigation of her use of the concept of shamanism and through a presentation of eight of her vivid watercolors.

The volume ends with Atwood presenting her own views in an interview with Jan Garden Castro and in a conversation between Atwood and students at the University of Tampa, Florida.


Margaret Atwood, acknowledged as a foremost Canadian author, is rapidly achieving world-class stature. At age forty-seven, she has published thirty books, including six novels, twelve volumes of poetry, two books of short stories, a collection of literary essays, and a book of criticism. In 1986 she coedited The Oxford Book of Canadian Short Stories, published American editions of books in three genres -- Bluebeard's Egg (short stories), The Handmaid's Tale (novel), and Interlunar (poetry) -- and appeared at writers' conferences, universities, and other cultural programs.

Atwood's writings have elicited enthusiastic responses. The Modern Language Association has held four special sessions on her work (in 1977, 1984, 1985, and 1986), and she was a featured reader at the 1975 and 1984. MLA national conventions. An International Margaret Atwood Society has sprung up; in Canada she is so well known that she has had to go in disguise. By 1982 her works had been translated into fourteen languages. In 1986 over 122 articles, reviews, and letters about her books were published in America alone. John Updike (in the New Yorker), Paul Gray (in Time), Doris Grumbach (in the Chicago Tribune), Mary McCarthy (in the New York Times Book Review), and over sixty others who reviewed The Handmaid's Tale showed that writers of critical acumen and great reputation are taking Atwood seriously.

Why has Atwood become so widely discussed? What are the reasons for her increasing popularity? For one thing, she transcends categories and polemics: She is a witty author who writes about serious subjects. She is a feminist who likes men and who can create believable men on her pages. She mines popular culture but parodies it, appealing to the reader who likes old-fashioned romance while entertaining the critic who spies allusions inside . . .

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