Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing / Edition 1

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Overview

What is the role of the Writer? Prophet? High Priest of Art? Court Jester? Or witness to the real world? Looking back on her own childhood and writing career, Margaret Atwood examines the metaphors which writers of fiction and poetry have used to explain--or excuse!--their activities, looking at what costumes they have assumed, what roles they have chosen to play. In her final chapter she takes up the challenge of the title: if a writer is to be seen as "gifted", who is doing the giving and what are the terms of the gift? Atwood's wide reference to other writers, living and dead, is balanced by anecdotes from her own experiences, both in Canada and elsewhere. The lightness of her touch is offset by a seriousness about the purpose and the pleasures of writing, and by a deep familiarity with the myths and traditions of western literature. Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Quebec, Ontario, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master's degree from Radcliffe College. Throughout her thirty years of writing, Atwood has received numerous awards and honorary degrees. Hew newest novel, The Blind Assassin, won the 2000 Booker Prize for Fiction. She is the author of more than twenty-five volumes of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction and is perhaps best known for her novels, which include Alias Grace (1996), The Robber Bride (1994), Cat's Eye (1988), The Handmaid's Tale (1983), Surfacing (1972) and The Edible Woman (1970). Acclaimed for her talent for portraying both personal lives and worldly problems of universal concern, Atwood's work has been published in more than thirty-five languages, including Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, Korean, Icelandic, and Estonian.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In the spring of 2000, novelist and poet Margaret Atwood delivered the Empson Lectures at Cambridge University. Now, Cambridge University Press has gathered Atwood’s six memorable lectures into a delectable book. In Negotiating with the Dead, the Canadian-born author moves brightly between personal stories, literary judgments, and a sage inquiry into the role of the writer. Long a master and advocate of mischief, Atwood explains how the crafty disruption of prose transforms us all. Her insights make every reader a co-conspirator.
From the Publisher
"Atwood deserves respect for her willingness to engage a wide readership in discussing the social meaning of literature, and she has undoubtedly created an accessible volume that will enable interested readers to follow up on the magnificent sources she has brought together." Janice Fiamengo, Canadian Literature

"[Atwood] has an uncanny knack for writing books that anticipate the popular preoccupations of her public." Dowagiac, MI News

"...erudite and witty, down to earth while literary, insightful, and practical...As in her fiction, her brilliant thinking and sense of humour make this a joy to read...Negotiating with the Dead is Margaret Atwood at her best." Canadian Woman Studies

"Because it is so richly textured, so intellectually complex, and so subtly structured, Negotiating with the Dead is a work that deserves a second reading and even a third. With this critical work, in which she identifies so clearly all the risks of her call but yet expresses her faith in its work, she has proven her mastery of another genre." Magill's Literary Annual

"[Atwood] teases, probes, tickles, punches and enlightens." Globe & Mail

"Atwood's style glistens with sharp details and sly wit. The range of reference is deliciously eclectiv." Quill and Quire

"This is fine reading for all of us who believe that literature really matters." The American Review of Canadian Studies

"...the conversational tone, the personal anecdotes, and the brilliant references to myth and literature make this critical work by Margaret Atwood almost as fascinating as one of her novels." Magill Book Reviews

"A bracing performance." Susan Balee, Women's Review of Books

"The prominent woman of letters reworks a series of lectures into a cavalcade of intellectual insights." Wisconsin State Journal

Library Journal
This book grew out of the series of Empsom lectures that prize-winning novelist Atwood gave at the University of Cambridge in 2000. In it, she addresses a number of fundamental questions: not how to write but the basic position of the writer, why a writer writes, "and for whom? And what is this writing anyway?" Wearing her learning lightly, Atwood allows her wit to shine on almost every page. She probes her life and work along with those of many other writers and brings in myths, fairy tales, movies whatever feeds her themes. Following an initial autobiographical chapter, Atwood addresses major issues: the duplicity evidently inherent in writing; the problems of art vs. money; the problems of art vs. social relevance; the nature of the triangular relationship of writer, reader, and book; and, in the final title chapter, the provocative idea that "all writing of the narrative kind, and perhaps all writing, is motivated, deep down, by a fear of and a fascination with mortality by a desire to make the risky trip to the Underworld, and to bring something or someone back from the dead." Atwood is not looking to provide answers or solutions but to explore the parameters of some interesting questions. The result is engaging food for thought for all who care about writers and writing. Recommended for academic and large public libraries. Mary Paumier Jones, Westminster P.L., CO Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521662604
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 3/15/2002
  • Series: Empson Lectures Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 248
  • Product dimensions: 5.08 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Margaret  Atwood
Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master's degree from Radcliffe College. Throughout her thirty years of writing, Margaret Atwood has received numerous awards and several honorary degrees. She is the author of more than twenty-five volumes of poetry, fiction and non-fiction and is perhaps best-known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman (1970), The Handmaid's Tale (1983), The Robber Bride (1994), Cat's Eye (1988) and Alias Grace (1996). Her novel The Blind Assassin won the 2000 Booker Prize for Fiction. She has an uncanny knack for writing books which anticipate the popular preoccupations of her public. Margaret Atwood has been aclaimed for her talent for portraying both personal and worldly problems of universal concern. Her work has been published in more than thirty languages, including Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, Korean, Icelandic and Estonian.

Biography

When Margaret Atwood announced to her friends that she wanted to be a writer, she was only 16 years old. It was Canada. It was the 1950s. No one knew what to think. Nonetheless, Atwood began her writing career as a poet. Published In 1964 while she was still a student at Harvard, her second poetry anthology, The Circle Game, was awarded the Governor General's Award, one of Canada's most esteemed literary prizes. Since then, Atwood has gone on to publish many more volumes of poetry (as well as literary criticism, essays, and short stories), but it is her novels for which she is best known.

Atwood's first foray into fiction was 1966's The Edible Woman, an arresting story about a woman who stops eating because she feels her life is consuming her. Grabbing the attention of critics, who applauded its startlingly original premise, the novel explored feminist themes Atwood has revisited time and time again during her long, prolific literary career. She is famous for strong, compelling female protagonists -- from the breast cancer survivor in Bodily Harm to the rueful artist in Cat's Eye to the fatefully intertwined sisters in her Booker Prize-winning novel The Blind Asassin.

Perhaps Atwood's most legendary character is Offred, the tragic "breeder" in what is arguably her most famous book, 1985's The Handmaid's Tale. Part fable, part science fiction, and part dystopian nightmare, this novel presented a harrowing vision of women's lives in an oppressive futuristic society. The Washington Post compared it (favorably) to George Orwell's iconic 1984.

As if her status as a multi-award-winning, triple-threat writer (fiction, poetry, and essays) were not enough, Atwood has also produced several children's books, including Princess Prunella and the Purple Peanut (1995) and Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes (2003) -- delicious alliterative delights that introduce a wealth of new vocabulary to young readers.

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    1. Hometown:
      Toronto, Ontario
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 18, 1939
    2. Place of Birth:
      Ottawa, Ontario
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of Toronto, 1961; M.A. Radcliffe, 1962; Ph.D., Harvard University, 1967
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Acclaimed author Margaret Atwood’s definitive look at the role of the writer.
What is the role of the writer? Prophet? High Priest of Art? Court Jester? Or witness to the real world? Looking back on her own childhood and the development of her writing career, Margaret Atwood examines the metaphors that writers of fiction and poetry have used to explain -- or excuse -- their activities, looking at what roles they have chosen to play.
Margaret Atwood’s wide and eclectic reference to other writers, living and dead, is balanced by personal anecdotes from her own experiences as a writer. The lightness of her touch is offset by a seriousness about the purpose and the pleasures of writing, and by a deep familiarity with the myths and traditions of western literature.

Author Biography: Throughout her thirty-five years of writing, Margaret Atwood has received numerous awards and honorary degrees. She is the author of more than thirty books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction. Her novel, The Blind Assassin, won the 2000 Booker Prize for Fiction. Her work has been published in more than thirty-five languages.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. Orientation: who do you think you are?; 2. Duplicity: the Jekyll hand, the Hyde hand, and the slippery double; 3. Dedication: the great god Pen; 4. Temptation: Prospero, the Wizard of Oz, Mephisto and Co; 5. Communion: nobody to nobody; 6. Descent: negotiating with the dead.
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