“always a potent object”? The Shifting Role of the Bible in Margaret Atwood’s Novels

Strømmen, H. (2020) “always a potent object”? The Shifting Role of the Bible in Margaret Atwood’s Novels. In: “Who Knows What We’d Ever Make of It, If We Ever Got Our Hands on It?”: The Bible and Margaret Atwood. Biblical Intersections 18 . Gorgias Press LLC, Piscataway, NJ, pp. 27-53. ISBN 9781463241353

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The Bible comes up frequently in Margaret Atwood’s novels, from The Edible Woman in 1969 to The Testaments in 2019. As it is put in The Robber Bride, the Bible is 'always a potent object'. But the Bible of The Handmaid’s Tale is a very different Bible to that of the Maddaddam trilogy, for instance. In the former novel, the Bible is an object kept from the eyes and hands of women, used to justify their subjugation. In the latter trilogy, the Bible is used to critique the capitalist forces that have caused environmental crisis, and the main character encourages the creation of a new Bible-like 'Book' to be cared for, copied and recopied for posterity. But rather than marking a simple progression from a critical-negative to a constructive-positive view of the Bible, I argue that the variations of Atwood’s Bibles indicate the polarising potentials of biblical literature. What Atwood’s Bibles demonstrate is the potency of informal biblical canons forming in conjunction with political matters from totalitarianism through misogyny to environmentalism. There are only ever words rather than the Word, only ever scripts rather than Scripture. In this Atwood can be seen as a secular author par excellence – but one who is ever-attentive to the inescapable allure of classic canons for present concerns.

Publication Type: Book Sections
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BS The Bible
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Divisions: Academic Areas > Institute of Arts and Humanities > Theology, Philosophy and Religion
Depositing User: Hannah Strommen
Date Deposited: 05 Mar 2020 11:35
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2021 10:25
URI: https://eprints.chi.ac.uk/id/eprint/4926

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