Margaret Atwood

Ivor Griffiths, Poet, Novelist & Short Story Writer

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Margaret Atwood
Born: November 18, 1939 (1939-11-18) (age 67)
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Occupation: Novelist, Poet
Nationality: Canadian
Genres: Romance, Historical fiction, Speculative fiction, Dystopian fiction

Margaret Eleanor Atwood, OC (born November 18, 1939) is a Canadian writer. A prolific poet, novelist, literary critic, feminist and activist, she has received national and international recognition for her writing.


  • 1 Life
  • 2 Work
  • 3 Works
    • 3.1 Novels
    • 3.2 Poetry collections
    • 3.3 Short fiction collections
    • 3.4 Anthologies edited
    • 3.5 Other short stories
    • 3.6 Children's books
    • 3.7 Non-fiction
    • 3.8 Drawings
  • 4 See also
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links


Born in Ottawa, Ontario, Atwood was the second of three children of Carl Edmund Atwood, a zoologist, and Margaret Dorothy Killiam, a former dietician and nutritionist. Due to her father’s ongoing research in forest entomology, Atwood spent much of her childhood in the backwoods of Northern Quebec and back and forth between Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie and Toronto. She did not complete a full year of school until grade eight. She became a voracious reader of refined literature, Dell pocketbook mysteries, Grimm's Fairy Tales, Canadian animal stories, and comic books. She attended Leaside High School in Leaside, Toronto.

Atwood began writing at age sixteen. In 1957, she began studying at Victoria University in the University of Toronto. Her professors included Jay Macpherson and Northrop Frye. She graduated in 1961 with a Bachelor of Arts in English (honours) and minors in philosophy and French.

In the fall of 1961, after winning the E.J. Pratt Medal for her privately-printed book of poems, Double Persephone, she began graduate studies at Harvard's Radcliffe College with a Woodrow Wilson fellowship. She obtained a master's degree (MA) from Radcliffe in 1962 and pursued further graduate studies at Harvard, for two 2-year periods, but never took a degree. She has taught at the University of British Columbia (1965), Sir George Williams University in Montreal (1967-68), the University of Alberta (1969-79), York University in Toronto (1971-72), and New York University, where she was Berg professor of English.

In 1968, Atwood married Jim Polk, whom she divorced in 1973. She married fellow novelist Graeme Gibson soon after and moved to Alliston, Ontario, north of Toronto. In 1976 their daughter, Eleanor Jess Atwood Gibson, was born. (Graeme Gibson had two sons, Matt and Grae, from a previous marriage.) She returned to Toronto in 1980.

She divides her time between Toronto and Pelee Island, Ontario.


Cover for Oryx and Crake
Cover for Oryx and Crake

Atwood has written thematically diverse novels from a number of genres and traditions, including speculative fiction, space opera and Southern Ontario Gothic. She is often described as a feminist writer, as issues of gender often (but not always) appear prominently in her work. Her work has focused on Canadian national identity, Canada’s relations with the United States and Europe, human rights issues, environmental issues, the Canadian wilderness, the social myths of femininity, representations of women’s bodies in art, women’s social and economic exploitation, as well as women’s relations with each other and with men (Howells 163). In her novel Oryx and Crake and in recent essays, she has demonstrated great interest in (and wariness of) unchecked biotechnology.

Her first collection of poetry was Double Persephone (1961). The Circle Game (1964), her second, won the Governor General's award for poetry. Of Atwood's poetry collections, the most well-known is perhaps The Journals of Susanna Moodie (1970), in which Atwood writes poems from the viewpoint of Susanna Moodie, a historical nineteenth-century Canadian pioneer on the frontier.

As a literary critic, she is best known as author of the seminal Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature (1972), which is credited with sparking renewed interest in Canadian literature in the 1970s. She also wrote several television scripts, The Servant Girl (1974) and Days of the Rebels: 1815-1840 (1977).

Atwood has been vice-chairman of the Writers' Union of Canada and president of International PEN (1984-1986), an international group committed to promoting freedom of expression and freeing writers who are political prisoners. Elected a Senior Fellow of Massey College at the University of Toronto, she has sixteen honorary degrees, including a doctorate from Victoria College (1987), and was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame in 2001. Her literary papers are housed at the University of Toronto's Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library.

Though frequently identified with the left, Atwood has described herself as a Red Tory. Among her more notable acts of activism, Atwood donated all of her Booker Prize money to environmental causes and gave up her house in France after Jacques Chirac resumed nuclear testing. An active member of Amnesty International, Atwood once promised a free subscription to its bimonthly reports to the next person who accused her of being too pessimistic; it is unknown who, if anyone, has collected.[citation needed]

She invented "The Long Pen," billed as "the world's first long distance signing device."[citation needed]



  • The Edible Woman (1969)
  • Surfacing (1972)
  • Lady Oracle (1976)
  • Life Before Man (1979) - finalist for the 1979 Governor General's Award
  • Bodily Harm (1981)
  • The Handmaid's Tale (1985) - winner of the 1987 Arthur C. Clarke Award and the 1985 Governor General's Award.
  • Cat's Eye (1988) - finalist for the 1988 Governor General's Award
  • The Robber Bride (1993) - finalist for the 1994 Governor General's Award
  • Alias Grace (1996) - winner of the 1996 Giller Prize and finalist for the 1996 Governor General's Award
  • The Blind Assassin (2000) - winner of the 2000 Booker Prize and finalist for the 2000 Governor General's Award
  • Oryx and Crake (2003) - finalist for the 2003 Governor General's Award
  • The Penelopiad (2005) - longlisted for the 2007 IMPAC Award

Poetry collections

  • Double Persephone (1961)
  • The Circle Game (1964) - winner of the 1966 Governor General's Award
  • Expeditions (1965)
  • Speeches for Doctor Frankenstein (1966)
  • The Animals in That Country (1968)
  • The Journals of Susanna Moodie (1970)
  • Procedures for Underground (1970)
  • Power Politics (1971)
  • You Are Happy (1974)
  • Selected Poems (1976)
  • Two-Headed Poems (1978)
  • True Stories (1981)
  • Love songs of a Terminator (1983)
  • Interlunar (1984)
  • Morning in the Burned House (1996)
  • "The Moment" from Morning in Burned House, online at CBC Words at Large
  • Eating Fire: Selected Poems, 1965-1995 (1998)
  • The Door (2007)

Short fiction collections

  • Dancing Girls (1977) - winner of the St. Lawrence Award for Fiction and the award of The Periodical Distributors of Canada for Short Fiction
  • Murder in the Dark (1983)
  • Bluebeard's Egg (1983)
  • Through the One-Way Mirror (1986)
  • Wilderness Tips (1991) - finalist for the 1991 Governor General's Award
  • Good Bones (1992)
  • Good Bones and Simple Murders (1994)
  • The Tent (2006)
  • Moral Disorder (2006)

Anthologies edited

  • The New Oxford Book of Canadian Verse (1982)
  • The Canlit Foodbook: From Pen to palate - A Collection of Tasty Literary Fare (1987)
  • The Oxford Book of Canadian Short Stories in English (1988)
  • The Best American Short Stories 1989 (1989) (with Shannon Ravenel)
  • The New Oxford Book of Canadian Short Stories in English (1995)

Other short stories

  • Death by Landscape
  • Rape Fantasies (1977)
  • Unearthing Suite (1983)
  • When it Happens (1983)
  • Freeforall (1986)
  • Homelanding (1989)
  • Daphne and Laura and So Forth (1995)
  • Half-Hanged Mary (1995)
  • The Labrador Fiasco (1996)
  • Shopping (1998)
  • Bread
  • Happy Endings

Children's books

  • Up in the Tree (1978)
  • Anna's Pet (1980) with Joyce C. Barkhouse
  • For the Birds (1990) (with Shelly Tanaka)
  • Princess Prunella and the Purple Peanut (1995)
  • Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes
  • Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda (2006)


  • Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature (1972)
  • Days of the Rebels 1815-1840 (1977)
  • Second Words: Selected Critical Prose (1982)
  • Strange Things: The Malevolent North in Canadian Literature (1995)
  • Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing (2002)
  • Moving Targets: Writing with Intent, 1982-2004 (2004)
  • Writing with Intent: Essays, Reviews, Personal Prose--1983-2005 (2005)


  • Kanadian Kultchur Komix featuring "Survivalwoman" in This Magazine under the pseudonym, Bart Gerrard 1975-1980
  • Others appear on her website.

See also

  • Canadian literature
  • Canadian poetry
  • Carrington de Papp, I. Margaret Atwood and Her Works. Toronto: EWC, 1985.
  • Cooke, N. Margaret Atwood: A Biography. Toronto: ECW, 1998.
  • Howells, Coral Ann. Margaret Atwood. New York: St. Martin’s, 1996.
  • Howells, Coral Ann. The Cambridge Companion to Margaret Atwood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. ISBN 0-521-54851-9
  • Rigney, B. Margaret Atwood. Totowa, NJ: Barnes & Noble, 1987.
  • Rosenburg H. J. Margaret Atwood. Boston: Twayne, 1984.
  • Sullivan, Rosemary. The Red Shoes: Margaret Atwood Starting Out. Toronto: HarperFlamingoCanada, 1998. ISBN 0-00-255423-2
  • Margaret Atwood at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
  • Margaret Atwood at
  • Margaret Atwood at the Internet Book List
  • Margaret Atwood Speaker Profile at The Lavin Agency
  • The Margaret Atwood Society home page
  • Luminarium Margaret Atwood Research guides to novels and short stories
  • Profile from The Guardian
  • January 1997 Interview with
  • Unotchit Inc. official website
  • Poems by Margaret Atwood at
  • Commentary on Unotchit from Neil Gaiman
  • Commentary on Unotchit from Neal Pollack
  • 1986 Audio Interview with Margaret Atwood - RealAudio (30 min 14 s)
  • Guardian Books "Author Page", with profile and links to further articles.
  • Order of Canada Citation
  • Margaret Atwood's LongPen invention Atwood invents a device that allows her to sign books from anywhere in the world.
  • Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry Atwood is a founding trustee.
  • CBC Digital Archives - Margaret Atwood: Queen of CanLit
  • Reading report: Margaret Atwood at Barnes & Noble from (November 2006)
  • [1] Long Pen
  • Lesson plans for The Handmaid's Tale and Cat's Eye at Web English Teacher
  • Audio Interview from BBC4
  • Margaret Atwood discusses her book Moral Disorder, online at CBC Words at Large (audio)
  • Acceptance speech for The Blue Metropolis International Literary Grand Prix 2007, online at CBC Words at Large (audio)

  • Persondata
    NAME Atwood, Margaret Eleanor
    SHORT DESCRIPTION Canadian Novelist, Poet
    DATE OF BIRTH November 18, 1939
    PLACE OF BIRTH Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
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