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Margaret Atwood's Environmentalism: Apocalypse and Satire in the MaddAddam Trilogy
Örebro University, University Library. Institutionen för språk, litteratur och interkultur (from 2013), Karlstads universitet, Karlstad.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0126-5655
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This study considers the way in which Margaret Atwood’s post-apocalyptic MaddAddam Trilogy functions as an environmental project. The main focus is on how the three novels, Oryx and Crake (2003), The Year of the Flood (2009), and MaddAddam (2013), simultaneously draw on and destabilise the apocalypticism inherent in so much environmental discourse, primarily through the use of satire. The trilogy is securely anchored in the concerns of contemporary readers, and transposition of the action to the near future is integral to Atwood’s environmental project: attention is focussed on the present causes of anticipated environmental catastrophe, which readers implicitly are implored to avoid. Atwood’s environmentalism is performed in the interplay between her literary stature, the equivocal content of her work, and the irreverence with which she metaleptically blurs distinctions between fact and fiction, art and commodity, and activism and aesthetics. Whereas the satiric mode serves as a way of avoiding some of the limitations of apocalyptic thinking by maintaining and even creating complexity, it also renders the entire project ambiguous. Uncertainty about the exact environmental injunction presented in the trilogy creates doubts about the degree to which Atwood’s extradiegetic environmental activism should be taken seriously, or conversely. Storytelling is foregrounded in all three novels, and through its concurrent critique of and reliance on market forces and the political potential of art, the MaddAddam Trilogy demonstrates that there is no external position from which the imagination can perform environmentalist miracles. As such, Atwood’s environmental project furthers a profoundly ecological understanding of the world.

Abstract [en]

Margaret Atwood routinely eludes her readers, and the MaddAddam Trilogy is no exception. These three novels, Oryx and Crake (2003), The Year of the Flood (2009), and MaddAddam (2013), are ostensibly written in the tradition of environmental apocalypse, yet they constantly undermine its conventions through satire. This study considers the trilogy as an environmental project, performed in the interplay between Atwood’s literary stature, the ambiguous content of her work, and the irreverence with which she blurs distinctions between fact and fiction, art and commodity, and activism and aesthetics. Atwood’s use of the MaddAddam Trilogy in her real-world environmental activism creates uncertainty about how seriously both her art and her activism should be taken. Her opinions on environmental matters are legitimised, but at the same time an urgent environmental ‘message’ is presented as entertainment. Atwood’s message often appears circular: her art carries no message, but Margaret Atwood the writer does have an important message, which she gets to deliver precisely because of her art. Storytelling is a central theme in all three novels, and through both critiquing and relying on commercialism, the MaddAddam Trilogy demonstrates that there is no external position from which the imagination can perform environmentalist miracles. As such, Atwood’s environmental project furthers a profoundly ecological understanding of the world.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlstad: Karlstads universitet , 2017. , p. 286
Series
Karlstad University Studies, ISSN 1403-8099 ; 15
Keywords [en]
Margaret Atwood; MaddAddam Trilogy, environmentalism, apocalypse, satire, celebrity activism, metalepsis, commodity aesthetics, storytelling
National Category
General Literature Studies
Research subject
English
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-76031ISBN: 978-91-7063-771-1 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7063-772-8 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:oru-76031DiVA, id: diva2:1348223
Public defence
2017-06-16, Sjöströmsalen, 1B309, Karlstads universitet, 10:15 (English)
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Supervisors
Available from: 2019-09-06 Created: 2019-09-03 Last updated: 2019-09-06Bibliographically approved

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1617181920212219 of 116
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