Margaret Atwood’s Lady Oracle: Writing against Notions of Unity

  • Eleonora Rao

Abstract

Atwood’s ironising of women’s Gothic Romance fiction makes Lady Oracle a compelling and unsettling novel. Writing within and against the limits of the genre, exploiting and challenging its norms, she interrogates its stereotypes of womanhood as she explores the compensatory function of so-called escapist literature. As Lady Oracle reworks older fictional forms — the Gothic, the sentimental novel, the picaresque and fairy tales — it becomes the locus where a plurality of styles and traditions are revisited. Such a medley probes notions of unity in generic classification to subvert conventional hierarchies, dismantling their conventional iconographies. Lady Oracle also interrogates the notion of unity in terms of attitude to subjectivity and ‘character’. By refracting the identity of her protagonist through a plethora of projected personae, At wood emphasises the liberating aspects of a multiple, plural subjectivity, with the text withholding judgement on a range of issues and, by focusing on the fractured self of a polymorphic protagonist, endorses process and change. Deconstructing the homogeneous ego, Lady Oracle yields a gendered vision wherein the figure of woman assumes a multiplicity of roles and positions.

Keywords

Heroine Metaphor Shoe Folk Plague 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    G. Gibson, ‘Interview with Margaret Atwood’, in Eleven Canadian Writers Resolution: Global (Toronto, 1973).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    L. Fielder, ‘The Death and Rebirths of the Novel’; ‘Response: American Fiction’, Salmagundi, vol. 50–1 (1980) pp. 142–52; 153–71.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    F. Sharpshott, ‘The Last Word in Criticism’, Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada Resolution: Global (1982), pp. 117–28.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    C. Guillen, Literature as a System Resolution: Global (Princetown, N. J., 1971) pp. 386; 12. A reading of the novel in terms of only one genre, such as the Picaresque (L. Freibert, ‘The Artist as Picaro’, Canadian Literature, vol. 92 (Spring 1982) pp. 23–33), does not account for the implications of the contamination within genres that is present in Lady Oracle. Undoubtedly, certain elements of the Picaresque do appear in the novel, the most evident being that of the artist as a trickster, but on the whole the novel defies generic classifications (C. Guillen, ‘Toward a Definition of the Picaresque’, in Guillen, Literature as a System, pp. 71–106).Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Margaret Atwood, Lady Oracle Resolution: Global (London, 1982) p. 226. Further references to this edition are given in the text.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    M. Atwood, ‘Superwoman Drawn and Quartered: the Early form of She’ (1965), in Second Words Resolution: Global (Toronto, 1982) pp. 35–54, esp. p. 54.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    M. Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination, trans. C. Emerson and M. Holquist Resolution: Global (London, 1981) pp. 315, 364.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    M. Atwood, interview with J. Struthers, Essays in Canadian Writing, vol. 6 (Spring 1977) pp. 18–27, esp. p. 19Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    M. Rose, Parody/Metafiction Resolution: Global (London, 1979) p. 72.Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    A. Light, ‘Returning to Manderley — Romance Fiction, Female Sexuality and Class’, Feminist Review, vol. 16 Resolution: Global (Summer 1984) pp. 7–25.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    J. Batsler, ‘Pulp in the Pink’, Spare Rib, no. 109 (1981) pp. 51–5.Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    Rosalind Coward, Female Desire Resolution: Global (London, 1984) p. 194.Google Scholar
  13. 15.
    T. Modleski, Loving with a Vengeance: Mass-produced Fantasies for Women Resolution: Global (Handen, Conn., 1982) p. 37.Google Scholar
  14. 16.
    A. Jones, ‘Mills & Boon Meets Feminism’, in J. Radford (ed.), The Progress of Romance: The Politics of Popular Fiction Resolution: Global (London, 1986) pp. 195–220, esp. p. 200.Google Scholar
  15. 18.
    Janice Radway, Reading the Romance Resolution: Global (London, 1984).Google Scholar
  16. 19.
    R. Dyer, ‘Entertainment and Utopia’, in R. Altaian (ed.), Genre: The Musical, A Reader Resolution: Global (London, 1981) pp. 175–89, esp. p. 177.Google Scholar
  17. 22.
    L. Sandier, ‘Interview with Margaret Atwood’, Malahat Review, vol. 61 (January 1977) pp. 7–26, esp. p. 16.Google Scholar
  18. 23.
    Stuart Hall, ‘Notes on Deconstructing the Popular’, in R. Samuel (ed.), People’s History and Socialist Theory Resolution: Global (London, 1981) pp. 227–40.Google Scholar
  19. 25.
    Michael Bakhtin, Rabelais and his World, trans. M. Iswolsky Resolution: Global (Bloomington, Ind., 1984) p. 215.Google Scholar
  20. 26.
    R. Jackson, Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion Resolution: Global (London, 1981), p. 198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 27.
    D. Punter, The Literature of Terror Resolution: Global (London, 1980) p. 73.Google Scholar
  22. 28.
    Quoted by S. Grace, Violent Duality: A Study of Margaret Atwood Resolution: Global (Montreal, 1980) p. 76.Google Scholar
  23. 30.
    Margaret Atwood, ‘A Place: Fragments’, in The Circle Game Resolution: Global (Toronto, 1966) p. 76.Google Scholar
  24. 32.
    R. B. du Plessis, ‘For the Etruscans’, in E. Showalter (ed.), The New Feminist Criticism Resolution: Global (London, 1985) pp. 271–91, esp. p. 276.Google Scholar
  25. 33.
    T. Moi, Sexuality/Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Criticism Resolution: Global (London, 1985) p. 167.Google Scholar
  26. 34.
    Margaret Atwood, You Are Happy Resolution: Global (Toronto, 1974) p. 43.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eleonora Rao

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations