Margaret Atwood’s publishing history is a testimonial to her remarkable productivity and versatility as a writer. As well as a poet, she is a novelist, a short-fiction writer, a children’s author, an editor, and an essayist. The Edible Woman (1969), Atwood’s first novel, defined the focus of her fiction: mainly satirical explorations of sexual politics, where self-deprecating female protagonists defend themselves against men, chiefly with the weapon of language. Other novels include Surfacing (1972), Lady Oracle (1976), Life Before Man (1979), Bodily Harm (1981), Cat’s Eye (1988), The Robber Bride (1993), Alias Grace (1996), The Blind Assassin (2000), Oryx and Crake (2003), The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus (2005), and The Year of the Flood (2009). The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), a dystopian novel set in a postnuclear, monotheocratic Boston, where life is restricted by censorship and state control of reproduction, is the best known of Atwood’s novels and was made into a commercial film of the same title, directed by Volker Schlöndorff.
Dancing Girls, and Other Stories (1977) and Bluebeard’s Egg (1983) are books of short fiction, as are Wilderness Tips (1991), Good Bones (1992), and Moral Disorder (2006). Atwood has written children’s books: Up in the Tree (1978), which she also illustrated, Anna’s Pet (1980, with Joyce Barkhouse), For the Birds (1990), Princess Prunella and the Purple Peanut (1995), Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes (2003), and Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda (2004). A nonfiction book for young readers is Days of the Rebels: 1815-1840 (1977).
Atwood’s contributions to literary theory and criticism have also been significant. Her idiosyncratic, controversial, but well-researched Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature (1972) is essential for the student interested in Atwood’s version of the themes that have shaped Canadian creative writing over a century. Her Second Words: Selected Critical Prose (1982) is one of the first works of the feminist criticism that has flourished in Canada. She also produced Strange Things: The Malevolent North in Canadian Literature (1995). A related title is Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing (2002).