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Myth and Intersections of Myth and Gender in Canadian Culture: Margaret Atwood’s Revision of the Odyssey in The Penelopiad

Reingard M. Nischik

Abstract

The first part of the article deals with the national myths of Canada. It demonstrates that the long-time supposed lack of myths in Canada may itself be regarded as a myth. After presenting useful meanings of the term myth, the intersections of myth/mythology and gender are considered, both in Canadian culture and in Greek mythology. Linking Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey—the canonized beginnings of Western literature and their foundation on ancient myth—with Canadian culture, Margaret Atwood’s works and their treatment of ancient and social myths are then focussed on, particularly her revisionist rewriting of Homer’s Odyssey in her novel The Penelopiad (2005). This women-centered rewriting of the originally male-dominated story starts from two issues: what led to the hanging of the 12 maids, and what was Penelope really up to? Among the results are an intriguing re-conception of the original main characters, an upgrading of female domestic life, and a debunking not only of Odysseus and his supposedly heroic deeds but also of the authority of ancient myths where precarious not least concerning their conception of gender and gender relations.


Corresponding author: Prof. Dr. Reingard M. Nischik, Department of Literature, Art and Media Studies, University of Konstanz, FB Literatur-, Kunst- und Medienwissenschaften, Fach 166, 78457Konstanz, Germany, E-mail:

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Published Online: 2020-11-16
Published in Print: 2020-11-26

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