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Title: Margaret Atwood’s transformative use of the crime fiction genre
Author: Shead, Jackie
ISNI:       0000 0004 2735 7237
Awarding Body: University of Bristol
Current Institution: University of Bristol
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis examines Atwood's transformation of the crime genre, more particularly the whodunit and the spy thriller, in some of her longer fiction. Her protagonists are considered as detective figures needing to decipher experiences made mysterious to them by acceptance of hegemonic scripts. Discussion explores their discoveries that they are not only victims of the crime fabulae they unravel, but accessories, their complicity arising from an acculturation to ideologies of power, particularly those of patriarchy, class and colonialism. A gendered inflection of the crime narrative is also evident in one of the texts under discussion, Alias Grace, which depicts an unsuccessful male investigator. Using the concept of abduction - the interpretation of signs according to inherited mental frameworks - this thesis demonstrates that the protagonists' understanding of their conditions requires profound changes in their mental mapping of their worlds. While the body and the environment are shown to provide pressing evidence of crime, analysis demonstrates that mysteries are only unlocked by adjustments in the protagonists' mindsets. Careful tracking of those adjustments also makes clear that Atwood treats the romance narrative as a barrier to understanding. This thesis considers detection as an activity required by Atwood's readers as well as her characters. The penultimate chapter, on the metafictive detective story, therefore examines those authorial techniques that engage readers as investigators needing to deconstruct false stories generated by blinkered focalizers. Underpinning the entire thesis, but especially addressed in its closing chapters, is the belief that Atwood' s metafictive strategies are not symptoms of a postmodem depthlessness. Instead, pursuing Atwood's assertion that popular forms of literature embody mythologies which she terms the 'dreams of society', transformation of the crime genre is discussed as part of the author's wider project: interrogation of ways of seeing in order to encourage a sounder apprehension of ourselves and our worlds.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available