Voice and origin in Margaret Atwood's fiction
Burnham, Julie E.
Morris, Wesley A.
Master of Arts
In contradiction to Lyotard, who posits an equal relationship between listener and speaker in Just Gaming and The Postmodern Condition, Atwood examines the ways in which women's voices are stifled by men's terroristic control of the speaking position. Her novels reveal a significant flaw in Lyotard's work: he ignores the effects which a political or hierarchical system has on his ideal language grid. Within contemporary patriarchal societies, Atwood's heroines must struggle against male dominance in order to fulfill what Lyotard calls "the obligation to retell." Irigaray argues that women's exclusion from discourse can be traced back to Plato's myth of the cave, in which both men and women are encouraged to forget their maternal origins. In Atwood's novels, women must return to and revalue their maternal origins in order to find a voice, and the stories they must retell are altered versions of those of the mother.