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“Neatly Severing The Body From The Head:” Female Abjection In Margaret Atwood’S The Edible Woman

Ulla Kriebernegg
Published Online: 2013-02-12 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/v10318-012-0020-8


In Margaret Atwood’s fiction and poetry, wounded female bodies are a frequently used metaphor for the central characters’ severe identity crises. Atwood’s female protagonists or lyric personae fight marginalization and victimization and often struggle to position themselves in patriarchal society. In order to maintain the illusion of a stable identity, the characters often disavow parts of themselves and surrender to a subversive memory that plays all sorts of tricks on them. However, these “abject” aspects (J. Kristeva, Powers of Horror) cannot be repressed and keep returning, threatening the women’s only seemingly unified selves: In Surfacing, for example, the protagonist suffers from emotional numbness after an abortion. In The Edible Woman, the protagonist’s crisis results in severe eating disorders and in Cat’s Eye and The Robber Bride the central characters’ conflicts are externalized and projected onto haunting ghost-like trickster figures.

In this paper, I will look at various representations of “wounded bodies and wounded minds” in samples of Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman, focusing on the intersection of memory and identity and analyzing the strategies for healing that Margaret Atwood offers.

Keywords : Canadian literature; female identity; abjection; healing strategies; symbolic cannibalism

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About the article

Published Online: 2013-02-12

Published in Print: 2012-12-01

Citation Information: Linguaculture, Volume 2012, Issue 1, Pages 53–64, ISSN (Online) 2067-9696, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/v10318-012-0020-8.

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