Collecting Clues: Margaret Atwood's Bodily Harm


113 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55022-150-7
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by Beverly Rasporich

Beverly Rasporich is an associate professor at the University of Calgary
and the author of Dance of the Sexes: Art and Gender in the Fiction of
Alice Munro.


Lorna Irvine is an exceptional literary critic who has created a
particularly fine reading of Atwood’s Bodily Harm (1981). Irvine
writes from States-side, but she was born in Ottawa and educated in
Canada; thus, she has a thorough understanding of the complexities of
Canadian culture and of the significant relationships between Atwood’s
art and her Canadian nationalism.

Irvine’s work is always engaging and true to the fiction under
consideration, and this monograph is no exception. In the reading of the
text, Irvine manages to re-create the ambience and texture of Atwood’s
multilayered fiction of mutilated body parts, reviving the novelist’s
art even as she offers her own wise glosses about gender and political
themes. Her criticism is also creative in source and application. Her
reading of the novel in the light of the archival discovery of a short
prose piece by Atwood entitled “Inter/view: Considering R” (the
protagonist in the novel is named Rennie), and her further textual
exploration through the metaphor of the game of “Clue” are
fascinating. Her suggestion that the novel’s temporal space is only
really a few hours—and that Rennie’s seemingly lived South American
experience is located in her own consciousness as she is hospitalized
and undergoing cancer surgery—is an intriguing possibility. The
section on the critical reception of the novel also has an added bonus
of interpretation, in that Irvine, sensitive to different cultural
responses to literary works, has included and commented on reviews from
Canada, the United States, and other countries. This monograph is
intelligent literary criticism, a pleasure to read, it is surely among
the best of the ECW series.


Irvine, Lorna., “Collecting Clues: Margaret Atwood's Bodily Harm,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,