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An intertextual reading of female characters in Margaret Atwood’s work

Scarano D'Antonio, C. (2021) An intertextual reading of female characters in Margaret Atwood’s work. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00100236


The intertextual dialogue in a selection of Margaret Atwood’s novels is the focus of this thesis. The chapters analyse four novels: The Edible Woman, Surfacing, The Handmaid’s Tale and Cat’s Eye. Chapter 1 posits the theoretical framework, drawing ideas from Bakhtin, Kristeva, Riffaterre, Hutcheon and Foucault. The intertextual conversation in Atwood’s novels questions traditional narratives in a continuous exchange that generates visions that are alternatives to the roles and rules of the androcentric society. The frequent use of intertexts allows a ‘dialogic thought’ that opens up to multiple diverse visions that deny dichotomous restrictive roles that are implemented through traditional narratives in schools and families in a consumerist and exploitative perspective. The openness to different views gives space to a broader human vision and possible multiple readings in a continuous relationship and conversation with the Other that generates identities in flux; it is a never-ending process that creates new meanings in changing contexts where opposites coexist. The incongruous roles proposed by society are therefore exposed as restrictive and menacing and new approaches are proposed that aim for human survival. From this view, humanity is saved in a process of continuous questioning that is selfreflexive as well as in tension with previous narratives from high and low culture and traditional and contemporary discourses where the angle continuously shifts in a revolutionary mode. This entails the intertextual ‘dialogic thought’, the disruptive vision of écriture féminine and the position of the reader function in conversation with the writer function within the novels. Various readings are therefore proposed without a definite closure, allowing further developments that go beyond the ending in a world of language where ‘reality’ is constructed in words. Atwood’s literary world is representative of a political and social context and, at the same time, challenges this ‘reality’ in an attempt to rewrite these narratives from within through the intertextual conversation.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Davies, M. and Stoneley, P.
Thesis/Report Department:Department of English Literature
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Literature
ID Code:100236
Date on Title Page:November 2020


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