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Margaret Atwood as Canadian literary critic

The Story

Margaret Atwood's Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature is dubbed the most startling book ever written about Canadian literature. Published in 1972 when Atwood is just 32, the book points to survival as the central theme in Canadian literature. Atwood tells CBC's Adrienne Clarkson that she wrote the book after being asked to define what is Canadian about Canadian literature. Atwood concludes that Canadian literature is primarily concerned with victims and the victims' ability to survive. Her observations set off a major public discussion. Survival quickly becomes a best-seller and required reading for literature students across the country. 

Medium: Television
Program: Take 30
Broadcast Date: Nov. 6, 1972
Guest(s): Margaret Atwood
Host: Adrienne Clarkson
Duration: 11:17
This is the audio of a TV report for which video is unavailable.

Did You know?

• Atwood's work frequently explores the themes of nationalism and the role of women. Atwood came of age in the 1960s, a time when Canadian cultural identity and the role of women were rapidly evolving.

• Atwood explored topics of nationalism and feminism as an editor for House of Anansi Press (1971-73) and as an editor and political cartoonist for This Magazine.

• Atwood edited The New Oxford Book of Canadian Verse in English in 1982, establishing her importance in Canadian poetry. In 1986, she co-edited with Robert Weaver The Oxford Book of Canadian Short Stories in English, marking her eminence as a prose writer.

• Atwood helped define a uniquely Canadian literature distinct from its American and British counterparts with the publication of Survival.


Margaret Atwood: Queen of CanLit more