2019 Student Research Conference:
32nd Annual Student Research Conference

The Interconnectedness of the Female Power Domains of Maternity and Language in Margaret Atwood’s “Spelling”


Dalaney D. Plott
Dr. Christine Harker, Faculty Mentor

This presentation provides a feminist critique of Margaret Atwood’s poem “Spelling.” The poem argues for the interconnectedness of the power realms of motherhood and language. Atwood denounces the dichotomous concept of men being “of the mind” and women being “of the body,” and the patriarchal control it has produced.  The poem begins with a daughter learning to spell. Atwood is critical of female writers who forgo motherhood in purist of writing. Instead, Atwood proves the power of both maternity and language for women through two martyr figures; the woman in labor and the burning witch. The poem proves the power of the female oral language tradition and utilizes the use of mothertongue. The daughter turns into a prophetic figure who speaks truth to patriarchy. The final stanza of the poem returns to the daughter learning to spell with further connections between the power realms of maternity and language.

Keywords: English, Poetry, Maragret Atwood, Feminism, Motherhood, Language

Topic(s):English

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 206-3
Location: BH 251
Time: 10:45

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