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Date

5-6-2020

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What is the role of literature in the face of real-life crises? When literary critics ask ourselves that question, we hope to reply that literature holds an essential, progressive place in the political world. In a case study, Elaine Showalter observes that, after the attacks on the World Trade Center in September 2001, some American schoolteachers reported "a depth of tragic understanding they had never anticipated" within the primary texts they'd taught for many years.1 In the case of those teachers, literature provided a new perspective on a human problem, and the tangible result of that perspective was emotional peace. From seemingly inescapable grief, they found assurance in the fact that others also "understand" loss. As a general principle, then, part of the role of literature is its ability to teach us alternative ways of seeing the world around us. In this dissertation, I focus on Margaret Atwood's experiments with the formal components of literature. I ask what impact her formal innovations have on literature as a tool for thinking about political realities. I study Atwood's Hag-Seed (2016), which is her contribution to the Hogarth Shakespeare project. I ask specifically what her uses of tone and genre do to create empathy and progressive thinking, regardless of thematic material.

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May 6th, 12:00 AM

Wide Thinking? What Is That?: The Critical Consciousness of Tone and Genre in Margaret Atwood's Hag-Seed

What is the role of literature in the face of real-life crises? When literary critics ask ourselves that question, we hope to reply that literature holds an essential, progressive place in the political world. In a case study, Elaine Showalter observes that, after the attacks on the World Trade Center in September 2001, some American schoolteachers reported "a depth of tragic understanding they had never anticipated" within the primary texts they'd taught for many years.1 In the case of those teachers, literature provided a new perspective on a human problem, and the tangible result of that perspective was emotional peace. From seemingly inescapable grief, they found assurance in the fact that others also "understand" loss. As a general principle, then, part of the role of literature is its ability to teach us alternative ways of seeing the world around us. In this dissertation, I focus on Margaret Atwood's experiments with the formal components of literature. I ask what impact her formal innovations have on literature as a tool for thinking about political realities. I study Atwood's Hag-Seed (2016), which is her contribution to the Hogarth Shakespeare project. I ask specifically what her uses of tone and genre do to create empathy and progressive thinking, regardless of thematic material.