Another old speech from the pre-2009 syllabus for for Module B: Critical Study of Texts – Speeches.
There are actually a lot of notes already on Bored of Studies on this speech. I’ve noted 2 particular ones at the bottom of this page under Links.
Atwood’s speech is my favourite of the entire 2009 Prescription set. There’s so much going on it that you can talk about and it’s absolutely filled with literary techniques that I haven’t gone through and listed them off for you below.
Do other students/tutors like this speech?
I find that with some students (particularly those of a non-English background) hate this speech, because (a) it’s so long; and (b) it’s hard to understand.
But if you get half the references/allusions Atwood makes, then you’ll like this speech I think. I personally found it really witty and funny. Maybe this is because I’m doing Writing and Cultural Studies at UTS myself. So as a writer, I can relate to her predicament of “what is a novel” and “how can I write this character”.
Oh, I have not included a Glossary for this speech (because it would be too long I think), but I have gone through and put a list/explanation of all the literary/cultural references in a list below. Enjoy!
Also, here are some things to consider:
- This is obviously a very different feminist speech to Kyi’s Keynote Address at the Beijing World Conference on Women. How is their perspectives on feminism different?
- Unlike the other speeches, Atwood’s is very humourous and literary. Does this make it more effective as a speech?
- Margaret Atwood is a Canadian novelist, poet, critic and social campaigner born in 1939
- She was a feminist campaigner in the 1960s – but was not an extremist.
- She supports feminism, but criticises it for its extremism.
- Mostly middle-aged, intellectual and literary women readers – familiar with all the literary and cultural references
- The speech was given at various events in 1994, for example the American Bookseller Convention and other women’s luncheons
- Extreme feminists – criticised Atwood for misunderstanding feminism
- Delivered in 1994
- In the 1960s, there was a strong feminist push, known as second wave feminism. It focused upon fighting the oppression of women in society and the need for equal rights.
- By the early 1990s (when Atwood made this speech), this had become third wave feminism. It was in a way a response to the backlash of second wave feminism.
- There was a clash between extreme feminists and counter feminists. There was questions of what feminism meant and the changed roles of men/women.
Techniques by Page
Since this speech is much longer than the others – I’ll simply go page by page, instead of paragraph by paragraph. The page numbers are as they are on the PDF of English Prescriptions: Advanced Speeches on the BOS website.
I won’t do your analysis for you, but here is a general guideline:
- Identify where the listed techniques are in the speech.
- Explain their effect/purpose.
- Academic reference – Angel/Whore split
- Satire – The Menopause
- Rhetorical questions
- Literary/cultural references
- Extended metaphor
- Colloquialism/humour – horses
- Religious allusions
- Irony – “We con-artists do tell the truth”
- Dashes (punctuation)
- Direct address to audience
- 2nd person
- School imagery
- Religious allusions
- Humourous analogy
- Dot point questions
- Play on stigma
- Metaphorical imagery
- Humour – Snow White
- Humour – Virgin Mary
- Diplomatic tone
- Play on language – “many-dimensionality”
Here is a (rather exhaustive) breakdown of all the references made in this speech. The links of each are simply to Wikipedia pages if you require more information.
- Dr Jekyll-Mr Hyde: novel which portrayed a character with a split personality (good/evil personality)
- Lady Macbeth: female character in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, who convinced her husband to kill the King then goes insane with guilt
- Ophelia: female character in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, who is innocent but goes insane and commits suicide
- Ibsenian: Ibsen was a playwright. He wrote plays exposing issues in normal, everyday life.
- GB Shaw: also a playwright, who wrote about social issues
- Pinter: another playwright
- Ionesco: I assume she’s talking about this playwright. He wrote plays that ridiculed the most boring of situations.
- Andy Warhol: artist and filmmaker. His films were abstract – one was of a man sleeping for 6 hours, another of a man eating a mushroom for 45mins.
- Emily Dickinson: American poet
- Pride and Prejudice: a classic novel by Jane Austen about life, love etc.
- Keats: English poet
- Iago: villain in Shakespeare’s Othello
- Imogen: character in Shakespeare’s Cymbeline (which I have never heard of…)
- Art for Art’s Sake: refers to the idea that the purpose of art is simply “to make art”, not necessarily to deliver a message etc.
- Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw: novella about a governess who sees ghosts
- Bram Stoker’s Dracula: original novel that introduced Count Dracula
- Miss Marple: crime novel character. She was an old woman who did amateur detective work.
- Harlequin: large publisher that specialised in romances and women’s fiction
- The Perils of Pauline: 1914 serial film that famously examples the “damsel in distress”
- Anna Karenina: famous Russian novel, where the main character has a love affair and later commits suicide by throwing herself in front of a train
- Mephistopheles: a demon in German legends
- Jezebel: female Biblical character, who was characterised as evil and manipulative
- Medea: female character in Greek mythology and Euripides’ play, who is an enchantress and eventually murders her 2 children
- Medusa: female character in Greek mythology, who had snakes instead of hair and turned people who looked at her into stone
- Delilah: female Biblical character, who is famous for being a betrayer and temptress
- Regan and Goneril: female characters in Shakespeare’s King Lear, who betray their father and then eventually die when they betray each other
- She: Rider Haggard’s novel in which there is a white queen, who is a all-powerful female – both desired and feared
- Sula: Tony Morrison’s novel in which the female protagonist, Sula, is portrayed as “bad”
- Queen of the Night: character in Mozart’s opera, Magic Flute
- Grimm’s Fairy Tales: collection of German fairy tales, which were the origins of many Disney films. The collection was unsuitable for children – much more violent with sexual references.
- The Youth Who Set Out to Learn What Fear Was: a story in the Grimm’s Fairy Tales
- Virgin Mary: female Biblical character, who was the mother of Jesus
- Euripides: playwright, who wrote Medea. In that play, Medea is betrayed by her husband. It is seen as a sympathetic, feminist play.
- Beloved: novel by Tony Morrison, in which the main female character Sethe, a slave, kills her daughter
- Tess of the D’Ubervilles: novel by Thomas Hardy. The main protagonist is Tess.
- Time: an American newsmagazine
- Mata Hari: an exotic dancer and courtesan, who was a double agent during WW1
- Judith and Holofernes: Judith is a female Biblical character, who gains the trust of the enemy general, Holofernes, and later decapitates him in his sleep
- The Scarlet Letter: novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, in which the female protagonist, Hester Prynne commits adultery with a priest and fall pregnant
- Madame Bovary: play in which the female protagonist, a doctor’s wife, has many adulterous affairs
- Vanity Fair: novel by William Thackeray, in which the female protagonist, Becky Sharpe, who tries to attain social status through manipulation
- The Custom of the Country: novel, in which the female protagonist, Undine Spragg, tries to climb the New York social ladder
- Felix Krull, Confidence Man
- Jane Eyre: novel by Charlotte Bronte in which the female protagonist stands up to her oppressive aunt
- Jungian: refers to the psychological theories of Carl Jung
- Tales of Hoffman: opera by Hoffman, in which his own character gives his shadow to a courtesan
- Point Counter Point: novel by Huxley in which a female character, Lucy Tantamount is both abhorrent and attractive
- Dame Rebecca West: a feminist writer and journalist