Gender as Genre: Atwood’s Autobiographical ‘I’



To initiate a discussion of Atwood’s autobiography is not to invite gossip about the Canadian woman called Margaret Atwood who happens to be a writer of poetry and fiction; it is not to talk about a real life at all. It is not — because Atwood’s autobiographical‘’is always a fiction, a creation and a discourse. It is not — because Atwood’s autobiographical ‘I’ has little directly to do with ‘Margaret Atwood’, but a great deal to do with the practices of writing and of autobiography. There is a sense, in fact, in which much of Atwood’s work could be described as autobiography from the earliest poems in The Circle Game (1966), through novels like The Edible Woman (1969) and Life Before Man (1979), to recent stories and poems.2 And her work has often been read, much to her chagrin, as about herself. To conflate the ‘I’ or Subject of her writing with the real woman, however, is not only to misread but to miss the point.


Unify Field Theory Vivid Image Autobiographical Writing Early Poem Dramatic Monologue 
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  1. 1.
    Shari Benstock (ed.), The Private Self: Theory and Practice of Women’s Autobiographical Writings (Chapel Hill: North Carolina University Press, 1980) p. 20.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Bruce Mazlish, ‘Autobiography and Psychoanalysis: Between Truth and Self-deception’, Encounter, vol. 35 (October 1970) p. 36.Google Scholar
  3. 10.
    Tzvetan Todorov, The Poetics of Prose, trans. Richard Howard (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1979) pp. 135–7.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1994

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