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Title: Dialogism and the interrogation of social, ontological and aesthetic orthodoxies in the writing of Margaret Atwood
Author: Choi, Tae-Sook
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2007
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This thesis offers a psychoanalytic reading of dialogism and the interrogation of social, ontological and aesthetic orthodoxies in the writing of Margaret Atwood. It draws, in particular, on the psychoanalytic and narratological theories of Julia Kristeva in order to demonstrate the various ways in which Atwood collapses or challenges boundaries between self and other, and art and social reality. Chapter one discusses Atwood’s explorations of cultural plurality and gender politics in terms of her enduring interest in cultural ontological and geographical borders and boundaries. Focusing in particular on Atwood’s poetry collections The Circle Game (1966) and The Animals in That Country (1968), the chapter explores her representations of female subjects located on social borders and peripheries, as well as her interest in the environment, which is focused upon the geographical borderlands of Canada as postcolonial space, and upon animals as victims of human cruelty and domination. Chapter two focuses on dialogic relationships in Atwood’s texts. Through a discussion of Atwood’s novels Lady Oracle (1976), Bluebeard’s Egg (1983) and The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), the chapter investigates transpositions between sign systems in Atwood’s work, including the metamorphosis of life into art and vice-versa, in terms of Kristeva’s adaptation of Mikhail Bakhtin’s theories on dialogism. Chapter three focuses upon hysteria in Atwood’s work, examining the way in which Atwood’s hysterical female characters embody the potential for the transformation of conventional semantic and ontological systems. The life stories of the three female protagonists in Atwood’s works The Journals of Susanna Moodie (1970), Surfacing (1972) and Alias Grace (1996) I will argue, foreground the discourse of hysteria as a means by which to challenge social and psychological repression. Drawing upon the work of Sigmund Freud as well as Kristeva, the chapter investigates the extent to which the incomplete, failed work of hysteria (as Freud analyses it) paradoxically opens up a possible model for representation that goes beyond binary oppositions and dominant discourses. Chapter four explores processes of identification brought about by the experience of love or empathy, focusing upon various kinds of inter-relationships explored in Atwood’s poetry collections You Are Happy (1974) and Two-Headed Poems (1978). In many of the poems in these collections, corporeality is foregrounded as a means by which to transcend rigid social oppositions and conventions, and even the species barrier. Chapter five examines mourning and melancholia in Atwood’s writing, using the melancholic focus for exploring various kinds of complexity and indeterminacy.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available