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A Feminist Perspective of Atwood's Surfacing

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A Feminist Perspective of Surfacing          

    Often referred to as a "feminist / ecological treatise" by critics, Margaret Atwood's Surfacing reflects the politics and issues of the postmodern society (Hutcheon 145). The narrator of the story (who remains nameless) returns to the undeveloped island that she grew up on to search for her missing father; in the process, she unmasks the dualities and inconsistencies in both her personal life and her patriarchal society. Through the struggle to reclaim her identity and roots, the Surfacer begins a psychological journey that leads her directly into the natural world. Like the journey itself, the language, events, and characters in Atwood's novel reflect a world that oppresses and dominates both femininity and nature. Strong and unmistakable in Surfacing, the ecofeminist theory establishes itself in three specific ways: through the references to patriarchal reasoned dualities between the masculine and feminine world; through the domination and oppression of the feminine and natural world, and through the Surfacer's own internal struggle and re-embracement of nature.

Since "the voices of ecofeminism are diverse," it requires definition (Zabinski 315). A postmodern movement that "abandons the hardheaded scientific approach . . . in favor of a more spiritual consciousness," ecofeminist theory links the oppression of women with the oppression of nature (Salleh 339). More specifically, "ecological feminism is the position that there are important connections -- historical, experiential, symbolic, theoretical -- between the domination of women and the domination of nature, an understanding which is crucial to both feminism and environmental ethics" (Warren, The Power and the P...

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... Ecology." Healing the Wounds: The Promise of Ecofeminism. Ed. Judith Plant. Philedelphia: New Society Publishers, 1989: 18-28.

Legleer, Gretchen T. "Ecofeminism Literary Criticism." Warren, Ecofeminism 227-238.

Salleh, Ariel. "Deeper than Deep Ecology: The Eco-feminist Connection." Environmental Ethics. Vol.6. 339-345.

Warren, Karen, ed. Ecofeminism: Women, Culture, and Nature. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1997.

---. "Taking Empirical Data Seriously: An Ecofeminist Philosophical Perspective." Warren, Ecofeminism 3-20.

---. "The Power and the Promise of Ecological Feminism." Environmental Ethics: 125-146.

Zabinski, Catherine. "Scientific Ecology and the Ecological Feminism: The Potential for Dialougue." Warren, Ecofeminism 314-322.

Zimmerman, Michael. "Feminism, Deep Ecology, and Environmental Ethics." Environmental Ethics. Vol. 9, 22-44.


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