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‘Yet I Speak, Yet I Exist’: Affirmation of the Subject in Atwood’s Short Stories

Chapter

Abstract

Margaret Atwood’s creative world, as has repeatedly been noted, possesses a coherence which spreads across genres, its motifs and structures recurring in different texts, whether fiction, poetry or essay. In a study published in 1983 Sherill E. Grace attempts to describe this coherence by defining Atwood’s system with reference to four elements: duality, nature, self and language.1 While all four are found to some extent in any volume of Atwood’s, it is the latter two that seem to dictate the literary function of nature and duality, and to constitute the key to the author’s literary world. A reading of the three volumes of short stories published so far, Dancing Girls (1977), Bluebeard’s Egg (1983) and Wilderness Tips (1991),2 allows, by means of the cumulative effect of the genre, some insight into the recurrences and changes in the treatment of the self and its representation in language. Such a reading shows a gradual amplification of the subject, a self which survives (and communicates) against all theoretical odds, against fragmentation, gaps and deconstructions. This affirmation of the subject and of language is suggested in selected stories of Dancing Girls and asserted in the subsequent volumes.

Keywords

Significant Moment Habitable Interior Deterministic View Narrative Technique Statement Emphasis 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Sherrill E. Grace, ‘Articulating the “Space Between”: Atwood’s Untold Stories and Fresh Beginnings’, in Margaret Atwood: Language, Text and System (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1983) pp. 1–16.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Margaret Atwood, ‘Valgardsonland’, Essays on Canadian Writing, vol. 16 (Fall-Winter 1979–80) p. 188. Grace quotes this as support for her own argument, ‘Articulating the “Space Between”’.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    I. Carrera Suarez, ‘Metalinguistic Features in Short Fiction, by Lessing and Atwood: From Sign and Subversion to Symbol and Deconstruction’, in J. Bardolph (ed.), Short Fiction in the New Literatures in English (Nice: Faculte des Lettres, 1988) pp. 159–64.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Deborah Cameron, Feminism and Linguistics (London: Macmillan, 1985).Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Barbara Godard, ‘My (m)Other, My Self: Strategies for Subversion in Atwood and Herbert’, Essays on Canadian Writing, vol. 26 (1983) pp. 13–44. Godard discusses the importance of Chodorow’s theory of female identity with relation to Atwood’s novels (Nancy Chodorow, The Reproduction of Mothering (Berkeley, Cal.: University of California Press, 1978).Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Ihab Hassan, ‘Quest for the Subject: the Self in Literature’, Contemporary Literature, vol. 29(3) (1988) pp. 420–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 10.
    Norman Holland, The I (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1985)Google Scholar
  8. Sharon R. Kaufman, The Ageless Self: Sources of Meaning in Late Life (Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press, 1986).Google Scholar
  9. 14.
    Eugene Goodheart, ‘Writing and the Unmaking of the Self, Contemporary Literature, vol. 29(3) (1988) pp. 438–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1994

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