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Title: The machineries of uncivilization: technology and the gendered body in the fiction of Margaret Atwood and William Gibson
Authors: Lapointe, Annette
Supervisor: Libin, Mark (English, Film, and Theatre)
Examining Committee: Calder, Alison (English, Film, and Theatre) Jones, Esyllt (History) Hollinger, Veronica (Cultural Studies, Trent University)
Graduation Date: February 2011
Keywords: feminist criticicm
science fiction
Canadian literature
body studies
Margaret Atwood
Willaim Gibson
Issue Date: 10-Jan-2011
Abstract: My dissertation examines some of the ways in which new technologies alter traditional readings of the female body and of feminine subjectivity in contemporary fiction. To illustrate these alterations, I have selected two short stories, one by William Gibson and the other by Margaret Atwood, published in the speculative fiction Tesseracts2 anthology in 1987, both of which deal with disease and women's technological access. Within this context, I examine how feminine sexuality and embodiment are deconstructed and re-written. While historically women have been represented as victims of technology and/or intimately connected with the natural world, I propose that women's increased access to both bio-technologies and communications technologies offers an unprecedented route to self-definition and cultural power. I explore ways in which analogue technology mimics women's reproductive enslavement in Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, and in which the emergence of digital technology offers some emancipation in The Blind Assassin. Subsequently, I discuss the intersections of sex work and virtual reality in William Gibson's Cyberpunk Trilogy and associated short fiction, demonstrating that digitality is not a panacea for gendered oppression. However, digitized women may have unexpected opportunities for self-definition. In comparing Gibson's Idoru and Atwood's Oryx and Crake, I discuss how women “created” for the male gaze (either virtually or by cloning) may evade that gaze and both assert their individuality and create communities among women with similar origins. Subsequently, I examine the interconnections among women, animals, and food that emerge within technologized cultures. Self-protective anorexia provides a link among Atwood's earliest writing (The Edible Woman) and her most recent (Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood), and suggests that the same technological facility which provides access to power also induces profound bodily anxieties in female characters. Building on those anxieties, I conclude with a discussion of the ways in which disability disrupts expectations of feminine embodiment. The constant abjection of women with disabilities is counter-balanced by those women's ability to create radical innovations of technology that transform the larger culture.
Appears in Collection(s):FGS - Electronic Theses & Dissertations (Public)

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