In this thesis I look at the critical reception of five of Margaret Atwood’s works. I consider reviews from large American newspapers and magazines, and my aim is to see whether Atwood’s gender influences the reception of her works. Is gender a critical category in the American press?
My first chapter presents an earlier historical example, where I discuss the American reception of the Brontë sisters’ novels. The criticism from the nineteenth century and the pseudonyms the sisters used show how the authors’ gender was crucial for how their works were received. In chapter two I move on to the 1970s and the reception of Atwood’s The Edible Woman (1969), Surfacing (1972), and Lady Oracle (1976), and I consider how the women’s movement affected the reviews of Atwood’s novels. During the 1970s the stereotypes of which the Brontës were victims came under attack, and critics were simultaneously more aware of the stereotypes and more consciously preoccupied with them.
The two last chapters concern Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (2003) and Moral Disorder (2006). In these chapters I discuss whether Atwood’s gender still affects the reception of her books, and also how Atwood’s fame becomes important for the contemporary reception. I consider how Atwood has not simply been a victim of gendered criticism but has continuously engaged with this criticism. The thesis will show how the critics’ situatedness and preconceptions are crucial for how they read a text, and also that an author’s name is vital for the reception of a book. During the 1970s Margaret Atwood’s name to a large extent meant “woman writer,” while today the name “Margaret Atwood” has a signification of its own, as she ranks among the most highly respected authors in the world.