Margaret Atwood Biography


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Margaret Eleanor “Peggy” Atwood was born in Ottawa, Ontario, on November 18, 1939, the second of three children of Margaret Dorothy (Killam) and Carl Edmund Atwood. Her father was an entomologist who conducted research in the bush country of Quebec and Ontario. Therefore, Atwood spent many of her summers at the family cottage exploring the Canadian wilderness until her family would return to Toronto for the school year. This connection to and exploration of the natural world would have a dramatic effect on her later writing.

Atwood’s passion for the creative arts began at a young age. Between the ages of eight and sixteen, she was more interested in painting and designing clothing than in writing. She jokingly calls this time her “dark period” because beyond these years, she was devoted to writing; however, she would go on to illustrate some of her books of poetry and to win respect as a painter.

Atwood wrote for the school paper during her teens at Leaside High School and contributed to the school magazine Clan Call. From 1957 to 1961, she attended the University of Toronto, where she pursued her B.A. in English. During her undergraduate career, she formed a bond with teacher and critic Northrop Frye. Her mentor introduced her to the poetry of William Blake, which would subsequently impact her own poetry. Even the titles of some of her books, such as Double Persephone (1961) and Two-Headed Poems (1978), reveal a double vision of mythic contradictions that stems from the influence of Blake’s writings. Even more important was her friendship with professor and poet Jay Macpherson, whose irony and formal choices are also reflected in Atwood’s work. After graduating with honors from her undergraduate studies and publishing numerous poems in the college’s magazines, Atwood completed her master’s degree in English at Radcliffe College, Harvard University, in 1963.

That year, Atwood took a position at a marketing research firm, which...

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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Atwood is a multitalented writer with a flare for sardonic humor. In her novels, poetry, and short stories, she makes bold stylistic choices which resonate with the reader. Her concerns with feminist issues, with the struggle between humankind and the natural world, and with Canadian nationalism are inherent in her work. She is a voice of magnitude in her native land and a critic of Canadian matters of trade, culture, and foreign policy. Atwood’s pieces are studied in many secondary schools and universities worldwide. She has won a variety of prestigious awards throughout her career.

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(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Margaret Eleanor Atwood was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on November 18, 1939. She grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. Following graduation from Victoria College, University of Toronto, she attended Radcliffe College at Harvard University on a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, receiving a master’s degree in English in 1962. She taught at a number of Canadian universities and traveled extensively. In the early 1990’s Atwood was a lecturer of English at the University of British Columbia at Vancouver. She later settled in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson and their daughter, Jess.

Atwood’s output was steady in fiction and particularly in nonfiction. She made successful forays into the fields of script...

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(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Margaret Eleanor Atwood was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on November 18, 1939, the second of Carl Edmund Atwood and Margaret Killam Atwood’s three children. At the age of six months, she was backpacked into the Quebec wilderness, where her father, an entomologist, pursued his special interests in bees, spruce budworms, and forest tent caterpillars. Throughout her childhood, Atwood’s family spent several months of the year in the bush of Quebec and northern Ontario. She did not attend school full time until she was twelve.

Though often interrupted, Atwood’s education seems to have been more than adequate. She was encouraged by her parents to read and write at an early age, and her creative efforts started at...

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(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Margaret Atwood achieved fame with provocative novels and challenging poems while still a young woman. By age fifty she was acclaimed worldwide for her poetry, fiction, criticism, and essays. Quotable and frequently abrasive, she became a media celebrity as well. Two concerns remained foremost in her work: the self-realization of women and the cultural independence of Canada. To celebrate Canada was also to venerate its environment and respect the habitat of wild animals.

Atwood’s early years provided broad experience of North American life. The daughter of a University of Toronto scientist, she accompanied her father on field trips into the Quebec bush. After undergraduate work in Ontario, she attended Radcliffe on...

(The entire section is 361 words.)