Biography of Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood, born in 1939, is a Canadian writer, activist, and educator. She is known for both the quality and the quantity of her writing. She published her first novel—The Edible Womanin 1969, and has gone on to publish 18 novels, 9 collections of short stories, 18 poetry collections, as well as various children's books, essays, and works of literary criticism. As a critic, she is best known for Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature, which came out at a time when Canadian literature was mostly absent from the larger literary canon. Atwood is credited with having drawn attention to Canadian writers, and her identity as a Canadian author has featured heavily in the settings she uses for her realist novels.

Atwood attended Victoria College at the University of Toronto as well as Radcliffe College at Harvard University, where she earned a master's degree before going on to pursue a doctorate in literary studies, although she did not complete her dissertation and left the program after two years. After the release of her first novel, Atwood went on to teach at York University while continuing to write and publish works of poetry and fiction. In 1985, she published The Handmaid's Tale, a novel that is often referred to as Atwood's most famous work.

Atwood has gone on to win numerous awards for her work and is one of the most decorated authors of the past few decades, garnering international acclaim for her prolific work. In 1989, Atwood's novel Cat's Eye (1988) was a finalist for the Booker Prize. In 2000, her novel The Blind Assassin won the Booker Prize, among a series of other awards and nominations. Her most recent work, The Testaments, is a sequel to The Handmaid's Tale and also won the 2019 Booker Prize.

The Handmaid's Tale and The Testaments have become symbols for feminist resistance around the world, enjoying a resurgence in 2016 after Donald Trump won the American presidency. The Handmaid's Tale has been adapted into a popular Hulu TV series. It has also been adapted into "a 1990 movie, an opera, a play, a ballet, a one-woman show, and the inspiration for a concept album by the band Lakes of Canada" (Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic). Atwood has intentionally remained ambiguous about the meaning of The Handmaid's Tale and The Testaments, saying that each reader brings her own meaning to the novels. As she told The Atlantic, "there are different sorts and levels of judgmentalism in people... [Each reader] brings to every book who they are, and each one of those who they ares is different." In the end, the novels are meant to cause the reader to question their own character: “the question for them is, probably, what would you do? What would you have done?” (Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic).

Atwood's work spans a variety of genres, incorporating elements of science fiction, autobiography, realism, and satire. Although her novels are often put in a single genre category—many, for example, refer to The Handmaid's Tale as a work of science fiction—Atwood has always been skeptical of attempts to label her work. Her work, as well as her public commentary, often focuses on issues of women's identity and bodily autonomy, environmentalism, religion, and national identity.


Study Guides on Works by Margaret Atwood

Alias Grace was inspired by a real-life Canadian murder case. Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery, were killed on 23 July 1843. Kinnear was shot, Nancy was strangled, and both bodies were dumped in Kinnear's cellar. Nancy was...

Although Canadian author Margaret Atwood is best-known for writing the book The Handmaid's Tale, she is the author of a number of very well-respected novels. Among them is Cat's Eye, which released after The Handmaid's Tale.

When writing Cat's...

The Edible Woman, Margaret Atwood's first novel, was published in 1969 and established Margaret Atwood as one of the most important writers of the late 20th century. Atwood would go on to become famous for her use of socially conscious themes and...

Hag-Seed is a 2016 novel by the prolific novelist Margaret Atwood and is the seventh book in Hogarth's "Hogarth Shakespeare" series. Like the other novels of the series, it is a standalone retelling of one of Shakespeare's classics.

In Hag-Seed, ...

Since 1961, Margaret Atwood has published 18 novels, 18 poetry books, and 9 collections of her short fiction, as well as many other works. In 2000, Atwood won the Booker Prize for her tenth novel, The Blind Assassin, and followed this up with Oryx...

The final installment of Canadian writer Margaret Atwood's three book dystopian trilogy, MaddAddam was published in August 2013. It concludes the storyline which started with Oryx and Crake, continuing on to The Year of the Flood.

MaddAddam...

After establishing herself as one of the leading 20th-century poets in Canada, the publication of Surfacing in 1972 instantly confirmed Margaret Atwood’s status as one the country’s most important novelists. Atwood’s unnamed heroine goes into the...

On November 28th, 2018, Margaret Atwood announced a sequel to her 1985 classic novel The Handmaid's Tale. Announcing the novel on her Twitter profile, she wrote: "Yes indeed to those who asked: I’m writing a sequel to The #HandmaidsTale....

In 1977, Canadian author Margaret Atwood published Dancing Girls, which would be her first of many short story collections. In sum, that collection totaled 14 stories. And though "When It Happens" was not the best-known short story contained in...