Sweet configurations : feminine figures and culinary creativity in Chatelaine and Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman
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My thesis focuses on the way in which a reading of Chatelaine, a Canadian women’s magazine, between 1959-1969 informs an interpretation of Margaret Atwood’s first published novel, The Edible Woman. The late 1950s and 1960s were a defining period for women, and this was reflected in Chatelaine. The notion that a domestic life was ideal for women was beginning to erode, as women entered the workplace in greater numbers. Firmly rooted in the reality of its time, The Edible Woman expresses the effects of femininity in a state flux. In this thesis, I focus on the novel’s main character Marian who experiences a gradual crisis as she becomes aware of her future at a dead-end office job, as a wife, and likely as a mother. In the novel, the body becomes one of the primary sites through which the crisis of femininity is experienced. My thesis argues that Chatelaine’s pervasive diet and body image articles and advertisements expressed the fear of the potential for women’s bodies to grow and transform beyond their control, and that dieting was offered as a way to both confine and define the self. The tension between the civilized and the grotesque body evident in Chatelaine finds fictional expression in the novel through the story of Marian as she becomes increasingly frightened of food and the female body. This thesis also explores baking content in the magazine as a means of interpreting Marian’s edible creation. In the magazine, the idea of a woman baking and serving a cake to a loved one is deeply tied to femininity. Atwood parodies this cultural construction of femininity in the final scenes of the novel. True to the realist genre, Atwood’s depiction of a young woman’s evasion of her own maturing body and her role in society do reflect the ideology of the times. Yet, Atwood blends realism with elements of the grotesque and gothic already present in popular culture in order to illuminate some of society’s more frightening or humorous beliefs.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
CommitteeLovrod, Marie; Van Styvendale, Nancy; Smith, Lisa
Copyright DateJune 2012
The Edible Woman