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584 LETTERS IN CANADA 1997 his references to Atwood's daughterly revisions ofProust's A Ia recherche du temps perdu, Shakespeare's King Lem· and Macbeth, and Dante's Inferno. His survey of initial reviews and later studies of Cal's Eye lays out the key critical debates about Atwood's ambivalent feminism, her female artist's self-representation in the double narrative of memory and a retrospective painting exhibition, as well as wider issues like Canadian social history since the 1940s and postcolonialism. Within Ecw's prescribed format Davidson manages to present a nuanced reading of this novel, adopting allusive section headings like 'On First Looking into Atwood's Cal's Eye' or 'The Portrait of the Young Artist as a Falling Woman' to remind readers of Atwood's intertextuality, while using these headings to mark crucial stages in the plot. His reading follows the narrative sequence, conunenting on its double structure of present and past, the 'two Elaines' and the narrator's other doubles in the text (Cordelia, Susie, and her brother Stephen). H.is discussion of the title and its implications sets up a pattern of close reading which draws attention to the poetic texture of the novel. Davidson's own critical narrative tells Cat's Eye as a novel about time and memory, a quest novel and a fictive autobiography. Emphasizing that the text is suffused with anxiety and pain, he locates its source in gender troubles - 'the problems of being female in a sexist society' - and the vicious childhood games which are a girl's schooling in becoming a woman. Disturbingly, these are games where girls practise on one another. Davidson shows how Elaine's narrative is a process not only of coming to terms with her own past but also of realizing that her tormentors suffered the same insecurities and learning to forgive them. /Seeing in the dark' accommodates both the artist's vision and ambiguous moments of revelation- Elaine's vision of the Virgin Mary on the bridge in the ravine, her realization of artistic vocation in a biology exam, and her Proustian moment of total recall when she rediscovers the old eat's eye marble. By the end Elaine can see in the dark ( as her brother had tried to teach her in their childhood commando games) as she looks out at the stars in the night sky from a plane window, a condition which Davidson describes as 'seeing in a different light,' closer to metaphysics or to Stephen's Unified Field Theory. How, we may ask, does Elaine the woman artist, daughter of a biologist and sister of a theoretical physicist, respond to the master discourse of science? Davidson's exemplary reading stimulates such questions. It seems to me a model of what this ECW series aims to achieve. (CORAL ANN HOWELLS) Sharon R. Wilson, Thomas B. Friedman, and Shannon Hengen, editors. Approaches to Teaching Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale' and Other Works Modern Language Association of America 1996. x, 218. us$18.oo Some years ago, the large state university at which I teach introduced an experimentalprogram in which everyone was encouraged to read the same HUMANITIES 585 book and attend events related to that reading. Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale was the book chosen. One event focused on faculty from economics, philosophy,biology,history, sociology, and English, discussing the novel from their own disciplinary perspective. These discussions resulted in the same kind of imaginative and cross-disciplinary observations that mark the essays in this collection. Throughout, scholar-teachers from diverse institutions bear witness to both their versatility and Atwood's. While no single essayist specifically defends singling Atwood out from other Canadian women writers, in toto the volume makes a persuasive case for Atwood's distinctiveness. Apart from her prolific output and generic variety, Atwood's outspoken political views, familiarity with contemporarycritical theory, and candid interviews and talks are impressive. As much as what she has written, Atwood herself is a contemporary icon. The essays are not of uniform complexity, some being directed to the teaching of quite specific undergraduate classes (reading aloud in a communication class; The journals of Susanna Moodie in a life-writing...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 584-586
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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