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Françoise Couturier-StoreyEcological disaster, literature and eternal vigilance in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Craker
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Giacomo ScarpelliFrazer, Hardy e la magia simpatica
Ecological disaster, literature and eternal vigilance in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Craker
Booker Prize author and internationally acclaimed Canadian Literature's author Margaret Atwood quoted Thomas Jefferson in a 1997 interview: «the price of freedom is eternal vigilance». This quote could very appropriately summarize Atwood’s didactic streak in her fiction, poetry and essays. Writing, as the title of her book of essays reveals, is always 'writing with intent'. This profound intentionality, which sometimes borders on the missionary, has often made Atwood something of an outcast from mainstream modern literature which tends to regard didacticism with great suspicion. The fact that Atwood approached such literary genres as science-fiction or romance, often considered as popular sub-genres of literature, reinforced this phenomenon. Atwood’s immense literary success however has naturally absolved her. This is most certainly due to the fact that her fiction has always been informative but not dogmatic and has managed to combine harmoniously the 'desire to inform' and the 'desire to amuse', to use Swiftian terms.
This dual intent is very clearly spelled out in her 2003 speculative novel Oryx and Crake as one of the epigrams of the novel is this precise passage from Gulliver’s Travels. The reader is thus invited, from the very beginning of the novel, to read Oryx and Crake as an allegory and we will see how indeed this allegory functions, by analyzing in particular how these two priorities, to inform and amuse, mutually interact. However, whereas the intent of Gulliver’s Travels was mostly to inform the reader on the political vicissitudes of the author’s time, Oryx and Crake is set in a 21st century background. It tackles mostly environmental questions such as global warming, pollution, over-population, social inequalities in relation to the environment, the alteration and depletion of natural resources, and bio-engineering in a world ruled by technocrats and dominated by capitalistic interests. The novel comes as a warning against the directions our society is taking and the choices it is making in relation to ecology. In this regard, literature is used as a tool to warn the readers against possibly fatal deviations.
However, Atwood’s concern with ecological preoccupations is not exactly new. Almost all of her fiction questions man’s relation to his environment and consequent survival or extinction. Here are just a few examples. The title of her 1979 novel Life Before Man is echoed by a recent article entitled Life After Man. Atwood’s bestselling novel Surfacing (1972) had a strong impact on the environmental awareness of North-Americans. The author also wrote a children’s book entitled For the Birds in order to raise children’s awareness on the protection of wildlife. Even the bestselling novel The Handmaid’s Tale (1986), which is a warning against theocracies, made a reference to a place in North America, a kind of no man’s land, described as an environmental hell, to which the opponents to the regime were sent. This explains why Oryx and Crake, which describes this living hell in many details, is often considered a sequel to the 1986 novel, with a more ecological slant.
However, never has this environmental concern been so central, so clearly spelled out in any other of Atwood’s works of fiction. The consequences of ecological carelessness and lack of ethics on society and mankind are explored in great detail. It is also the first time that Atwood explores in depth the Last Man theme initiated by Mary Shelley. But Oryx and Crake situates itself in the more recent line of Ecocriticism which has attempted to look at how literature can influence ecology in very concrete ways. As S.B. Hartman points out, Atwood has clearly evolved from a Survival theory (fear of nature in a hostile environment) which, she sees, characterizes the Canadian imagination, to much more recent environmental preoccupations, pointing out that the sense of threat now comes from man’s own productions.
What is also new is that the link between literature and ecology does not stop here. The novel addresses the author’s fears of a future in which modern science and politics will not look into the possible disastrous consequences of their own productions on ecology because of the absence of any literary influence to counter the phenomenon. Here, it is not just how literature can influence ecology that is explored but how ecology can also have an impact on literature. Soon it becomes apparent that the survival of the human race and the world we know is posited in literary terms: the survival of literature and the survival of our world are intertwined. Allegorically speaking, we will see how Literature and Ecology come to juxtapose.
Focusing her attention on the many questions raised by biotechnologies and in particular gene manipulation, Atwood explores a futuristic world where science, fuelled by capitalistic interests, has genetically modified the human race, giving birth to a new species of human beings, the «children of Crake» (after the nickname of the scientist who created them), who, apart from being sane, well-balanced and perfectly well adapted to survive in the post-apocalyptic world that has apparently eradicated the human race as we know it, have a gene that prevents them from reading or writing. For Crake, a modern misanthropic scientist, as any form of artistic expression (literature included) would ultimately lead to a repeat of the downfall of civilization, the eradication of any potential for art would equal a world freed from perversion: «Gone were [the ancient primate brain]’s destructive features, the features responsible for the world’s current illnesses». Allegorically speaking, the link between literature and ecology is raised and questioned. In reference to a society that has turned to computers and has started turning its back on literature, the author addresses the reader’s sense of civil responsibility. This possibly dangerous direction our society is taking in relation to literature is exemplified by public libraries choosing to keep or throw away books by digitizing some and not others, and by the fact that, in Jimmy’s world, our possible near future, literature is no longer an important educational component taught to the technocrat elite who rule the world. The only type of common ‘literary’ production Jimmy’s society seems to have preserved is self-help books and fridge magnets.
The principal aspect of this allegorical exploration is the fundamental difference between Crake and Jimmy. Jimmy, alias Snowman, is apparently the only human survivor left after the biological disaster that Crake initiated intentionally by distributing BlyssPluss, a birth-control pill with Viagra-like effects, that will end up eradicating humanity. While being complex characters for a work of speculative fiction, Crake and Jimmy are also types. Crake is a scientist, most would say a mad scientist, mad because like many before him, he has decided that the best way to save the human race is to wipe it out and start over. Mad also because, as Earl G. Ingersoll pointed out, he is very much like Mary Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstein whose master plan (i.e scientific experiment) gets out of hand and ends up wreaking havoc on humanity. Crake is clearly a scientist, and is depicted as such, far to the right end of the spectrum of human knowledge, math, genetics, etc. He is a 'numbers' person, a category of people, often part of the elite, which is clearly opposed to the 'words' people in the futuristic society that is described in the novel (but which of course strongly reminds us of ours). Jimmy is a 'words' man with a liberal arts education. The humanities in his repertoire, his ability to use words, nearly obsessively, are, in a pejorative form, his bread and butter. He is recruited after university as an ad man, using his knowledge of words to write what amounts to misinformation and propaganda to help market and sell the wide-ranging self-help products that characterize this futuristic society. It is this asset that makes him valuable to Crake, his old friend, who recruits him to be an unwitting part of the master plan. Jimmy is used to help market BlyssPlus, and is thereby a direct instrument in the genocide. The novel makes it clear that Crake’s master plan (i.e. science) would not have been viable without the support of the market industry which the combination of Jimmy and Oryx, to some degree, represent. To the question of what role literature, or words, might play in ecology, then, the answer is ambiguous viewed from this particular perspective. It is said the devil can quote scripture, a nice reminder that words can be used in twisted or contradictory ways, that interpretation is always partially subjective. Jimmy, as a character, embodies literature in this novel. Literature, then can be interpreted as being a necessary tool in the destruction of the human race, a tool that has been misused innumerable times in Atwood’s dystopia to provide the propaganda required to make projects like «pigoons» (hybridized animals that have been given human DNA), for example, palatable to the general public, when indeed they are better understood by the reader as symbolizing a potential danger to ecology as we understand it at the present time.
The fact that the pigoons possess human DNA is all the more significant as they embody a drastic reassessment of humanity as we know it. To echo Chung-Hao Ku, the pigoons and the Crakers allegorically warn the readers against possible irreversible and monstrous twists given to humankind:
«humanity» is no longer a monolithic and homogeneous appellation as in homo sapiens (man, the knower) or homo faber (man, the toolmaker). Instead, it becomes a collective, heterogeneous term that encompasses «numbers people» and «word people» before the plague, and afterward the bioengineered and non-bioengineered beings. Thus conceived, the (human) self/other (non-human) divide is in effect reversed: the genographer Crake and his superhuman Crakers now take priority as the favored human subjects on this side of the grand «self»; the non-bioengineered Snowman, even if more «human» in the traditional (organic) sense, now becomes the «other».
Dr Frankenstein’s monster was reversible in the sense that it did not endanger the whole species. The pigoons and the Crakers force us to question the very notion of what being human really is all about.
To go a little further, Jimmy, or Snowman now, is also the only surviving guardian of the Crakers. It is hard to say just how good a guardian he is, that also is a very subjective matter, but for the simple fact that Snowman got the Crakers out of Paradice (the scientific dome where the Crakers were manufactured) and settled them in an environment in which they could survive, we must conclude that Snowman is successful in his role as protector. So, on one hand, we have Jimmy – who, for the sake of argument we will consider 'synonymous' with literature – as a direct actor in the destruction of the pre-apocalypse ecology, while on the other hand he is also the 'savior' of the group of post-apocalypse vegetarians who embody the very notion of living in harmony with the environment. Allegorically speaking, literature, heart of the humanities, can be equated with ethics. This is a view to which Atwood personally subscribes and after all, that is the point of dystopian literature, which stated simply always amounts to a warning in the shape of an allegory. In Bradbury’s novel Farenheit 451, the end of literature equaled the end of liberty. In Atwood, it equals the abuse of nature, with unknown and potentially irreversible consequences. However, the fact that the Crakers’ reading gene has been removed has political undertones as in dictatorships reading is often forbidden or limited. The Handmaid’s Tale had illustrated this point clearly as the handmaids were not allowed to read. Literature, Oryx and Crake implies, is intimately linked to political and consequently environmental preoccupations in general. In a large sense, literature – and we can not ignore the obvious etymology linking 'humanities' to 'humanity' – is a key component to survival, in that literature can provide an ethical soundboard necessary to keep the scientists in check, if only through the fact that it describes what is at the core of our humanity. Protecting the Humanities comes to equate protecting humanity.
If the reader goes on interpreting the clues he/she is invited to decipher, we may wonder then why Crake, a 'numbers' person, used his best friend Jimmy, a 'words' person, to become the Crakers’ guardian. Furthermore, the Crakers have been given language, an apparently necessary tool for survival. Before her death, Oryx began teaching them the names of things in their physical world, beginners’ courses in botany, one might say. Snowman continues in this role, providing instruction for the curious Crakers, when they have questions, most notably about ‘before’, i.e. where they came from, and what has become of their creators, Oryx and Crake (who are now both dead). The increasing complexity of their questions, coupled with their construction of an effigy of Snowman at one point in the novel – an act of symbolic thinking and expression – presupposes the ultimate leap from oral language to written language at some future point in the Crakers’ evolution. Thus, by subtly indicating that the Crakers might not be that different from regular 'Homo sapiens' as we know him, as they are clearly evolving in this direction, the novel points out that literature might be intrinsic to human nature. Despite the scientist’s effort to eradicate literacy and literature, the Crakers’ human genes take over and impose them. In a sense, we could say that the effigy is the Crakers’ first literary production. It is what is deeply human in them – the fear of the unknown, their suffering in the absence of their parental guide, their need for a sacred and communal symbolic act – that leads them to create the effigy.
Crake’s mistake was to think that literature was merely a superfluous activity that could easily be discarded. He compared the arts to the frog’s desire to amplify its croaking for reproductive purposes: «So that’s what art is, for the artist», said Crake. «An empty drainpipe. An amplifier. A stab at getting laid». Crake failed to see that what the Arts reflected was deeply human and could not be done without. The Humanities have to do with what it is to be human in our essence. To use Jimmy’s words:
«“When any civilization is dust and ashes”, he said, “art is all that’s left over. Images, words, music. Imaginative structures. Meaning – human meaning, that is – is defined by them”».
Thus Snowman, as mentioned, is spontaneously creating an oral tradition for the Crakers, and this oral tradition, like ours has proven, will lead to a written tradition, as a form of gospels. He rightly calls his own stories to the Crakers a 'liturgy'. The Crakers ask questions, and Snowman answers, explaining the physical universe and the origins of species using a mixture of myth, biblical allusions and general knowledge. He posits himself as the Crakers’ unwilling prophet delivering a truly fascinating and wonderfully inventive cosmogony. Clearly his answers are very far from any kind of rational or scientific reality, and part of the novel’s humour is derived from this fact (an element that also helps the novel’s didactic streak remain palatable). However, he expresses himself through a form of allegory, which eventually, the novel seems to imply, might be the only possible mode of expression left when everything else has failed, a point we will develop later.
Also, his answers are quite satisfying to the Crakers because it is all they have. The Crakers can first be seen as representing a form of original innocence. They are perfectly ecologically friendly. They are vegetarian grass eaters who, like some animal species, can even re-ingest their own feces in order to not impact heavily on the environment. Snowman, however, is just a man, and cannot survive on grass. So the first thing he does is tell the Crakers to catch him a fish each week, a ritualized behavior which will ensure his own survival. Here, the words, in the form of oral tradition, and ecology, are intimately linked. A critical reading of Snowman would be that he has subverted the Crakers’ ecologically friendliness and provided them with stories and explanations and behavior (killing fish) which will ultimately lead them to become less Craker-like and more like pre-apocalypse man. After all, he is their guardian, and so to some degree, a model for them. His relationship with the Crakers is mutualism, a form of symbiosis in which each side benefits. To put it briefly, he is dependant on the Crakers for his own survival as they provide the fish which keeps him alive. The Crakers depend on him for answers to their questions and, without knowing it, for their protection. In a sense, Snowman is exchanging stories for fish, words for food; words therefore equal survival. But it comes at the cost of threatening the environment; the Crakers have taken their first tentative step away from pure vegetarianism, and thus harmony with their environment. It is only a matter of time, thinks the reader, before a curious Craker will want to taste the fish himself, and after that the sky is the limit. As this novel clearly suggests, our current society, left unchecked, might spell utter disaster for the environment. Allegorically speaking, we could then say that the novel encourages the reader to believe that, no matter what, due to their natural propensity for words, stories, and later literature, the Crakers will tend to repeat history and will not be, after all, very different from mankind as we know it today. The fact that Snowman individually gave the Crakers names of famous or historical figures would point in this direction; they are individually and collectively messages in a bottle, the only samples of humanity that will remain. Interestingly, Snowman compares the Crakers to words that need to be protected: «[…] saturnine, adamant. He’d developed a strangely tender feeling towards such words, as if they were children abandoned in the woods and it was his duty to serve them».
A further link between words, here again in the shape of literature, and ecology in the novel is the fact that computer games, in this very familiar-looking futuristic society, have come to replace books as educational tools and this deviation has direct consequences on ecology. Jimmy and Crake essentially spend their formative years stoned, sitting in front of computers exploring three major subjects: sex, political dissidence, and video games. What is particularly interesting is the type of games they play. The games are a kind of ecological role playing in which the players determine the future of the planet in artistic and environmental terms. The first, Blood and Roses, basically posits the forces of good and evil as being comparable to human achievements – largely artistic – and historical atrocities, respectively. Roughly speaking, the game invites players to try to cancel out the opposing side, for example, sacrifice the works of Shakespeare in order to efface the Holocaust – and see which side ultimately comes out on top. In this game, there can theoretically be a winner, but «blood usually triumphs and the trouble is you inherit a wasteland». When we consider the futuristic society of the novel as having played a large-scale version of the game (as the word Para-dice also reveals), determining a winner is much more complex a task. Literature (and all of previous human achievement) is apparently dead, its only remaining vestige being Snowman, wandering around chanting to himself, and trying to remember the words he once knew. It is no subtle commentary, by the way, that he had learned Shakespeare from a reality show on the internet. Human achievement has largely been sacrificed, and the world lies in ruins, although it is nonetheless possible to imagine the Parthenon or the Eiffel Tower still standing, for this has been a sanitary disaster. But this begs an obvious question derived from fundamental communication theory: if there is no one left to gaze at the pyramids, do they still count as an achievement? For without a receiver, what value has the message?
The ultimate question to answer concerns how we view the Crakers. Are they an achievement or an atrocity? It is our belief that Atwood’s suggestion here is that they must be both blood and roses, and they symbolize what our own future may do to the world: the pinnacle of scientific and human achievement is also the most terrifying and potentially hazardous affront to nature. If we look at the Crakers as the mere extrapolation of humankind, the next step of their development, we may consider them and humankind, as we know it, one and the same: beautiful in their variety, curious and witty, infinitely ingenious, fallible, imperfect, thirsty for knowledge, potentially wonderful and equally potentially monstrous. In a way the question of our desire to preserve humankind and our intrinsic humanity is implicit in the novel. For the Crakers symbolize what we might like to become, what we should be afraid of becoming through gene-manipulation, but also what we already are, simply human. This is why this allegory is non-dogmatic: it does not tell the reader what to do, it merely posits what already exists and warns about possible deviations. Atwood pointed out in many interviews on her novel that she had not made anything up, all the glow-in-the-dark rabbits and monstrous food products mentioned in the novel already exist in some ways; «nothing is pure invention». This is why she insists that Oryx and Crake is speculative, and not science fiction. Faithful to the model she had already set for herself in The Handmaid’s Tale, her novel is an extrapolation, an exaggeration, of the world we live in.
The allegorical tone in Oryx and Crake is further developed by the narrative mode that is used, which exactly matches Snowman’s own story to the Crakers. Just like Snowman is aware that he can only speak to the Crakers through myth and an altered language adapted to their limited understanding, the author talks to the reader through a story that is meant to be non-dogmatic. As Walter Ong pointed out, contrary to the written text (i.e. literature), orality offers a form of non dogmatic discourse. In an interview with Bill Moyers, Atwood explains that, for her, the advantage of telling stories is that they are transmitted from person to person. She compares this process to «the moving spirit». Her fascination with the voice, that is so clearly audible in her poems and short stories and the first-person narration that she uses in her work of fiction, reflects this attraction for an oral, non-dogmatic approach. And yet she is definitely an author of written literature who is then constantly confronted with the challenge of the written page making words fixed and permanent. Yet, once again, Atwood manages to make her written words acquire the quality of oral storytelling. In The Handmaid’s Tale already, she had played on this ambiguity by having a handmaid tell her story in a world that forbade her from writing at all. How could she have written this account when she could not even have access to paper, let alone a pen? The clue to how the account remained in history is revealed at the end of the novel, in the Historical Notes, when the reader discovers that the handmaid’s tale was in fact an oral tape recording. The reader has thus to review and reassess his own reading of the handmaid’s tale a posteriori, given this new element. In its own way, the novel attempts to combine the advantages of fixed written literature to those of non-dogmatic oral storytelling. Similarly, set in a third-person narrative mode, Snowman’s account can only remain oral. His story is a book that cannot be. Snowman’s thoughts are made available, as in a form of stream of consciousness, but this is not a diary or a book he is writing, as literature has no place in this world that is ecologically doomed. Papers and pens have been replaced by computers, but now that computers cannot function any more, the tools allowing Snowman to record his story have also disappeared. Snowman addresses himself to a fictitious listener that he has created in order to justify his own existence and avoid insanity. Snowman’s own possible extinction through the extinction of literature is also reflected by his almost obsessive desire to preserve the old words, as if they were becoming extinct, like an archeologist protecting excavations of the old world:
«“Hang on to the words”, he tells himself. “The odd words, the old words, the rare ones. Valence. Norn. Serendipity. Pibroch. Lubricious. When they’re gone out of his head, these words, they’ll be gone, everywhere, forever. As if they had never been”.»
The 'world' and the 'word' become synonymous. Borrowing from the powers of the God of the Old Testament, Snowman’s endeavor to name things is meant to be an act of creation. But if words remain oral because they cannot be preserved on paper and the sole survivors cannot read, they are in danger of becoming extinct. At the same time, the novel itself still clearly belongs to literature: it is a warning, in the shape of a sort of message in a bottle, sent to the present-day reader. Yet, just like Snowman with the Crakers, it has no purpose in a world that offers no hope to mankind and whose sole survivors cannot read. The question of the survival of literature thus becomes the same question as the survival of mankind. If mankind disappears, then the message disappears because there is no recipient left. Conversely, if the message disappears or is not heeded, mankind, the intended recipient, may disappear. In other words, it is the reader who gives life to the book, or who doesn’t.
The question of the reader’s responsibility and co-creation in the message that is the novel becomes fully apparent in the last few pages of the novel. As Snowman discovers that there might after all be a few human survivors left, the reader is left with an open-ended story. It is not clear at all indeed if or when Snowman is going to die from the wound to his leg. Other questions pop up, unanswered: is he going to kill the survivors in order to protect the Crakers, as he seems to imply, or is he going to join them in an attempt to rebuild humanity? «Zero hour […]. Time to go», the last words of the novel, remain enigmatic: time to go where? The unanswered question forces the reader to imagine possibilities, thus leaving him/her to imagine the world of tomorrow. In this sense, this open-ending echoes the last few words of The Handmaid’s Tale: «Are there any questions?». However, the emphasis on a verb of action, 'going', indicates that the reader is invited to take action. Not only is the reader invited to be co-author of the story but also co-creator of the world of tomorrow. The way he/she pictures what comes after belongs to him/her. Choices and actions have to be made. In this sense, Snowman is not a modern-day Robinson Crusoe, as Chung-Hao Ku rightly points out. Crusoe is an accomplished survivor and his words will remain. His book survives in a world of surviving human beings. Snowman’s words on the contrary are schizophrenic: they might disappear forever because they might not even be there. It depends on the potentiality of a recipient.
«But even a castaway assumes a future reader, someone who’ll come along later and find his bones and his ledger, and learn his fate. Snowman can make no such assumptions: he’ll have no future reader, because the Crakers can’t read. Any reader he can possibly imagine is in the past.»
The fact that Jimmy chose Snowman as a nickname for himself also points in this direction. As Atwood reveals in a lecture at MIT after the release of her novel, his nickname refers to the Abominable Snowman, «a creature that may or may not exist, or a creature that may or may not be semi-human». Allegorically speaking, it is the reader who will determine if Snowman will melt or not, if humanity will survive or not. By using snow as a tool for her message, Atwood further reinforces the sense of emergency.
We can then only agree with Ingersoll when he comments that Oryx and Crake reflects a common authorial anguish we find in Atwood’s work of fiction regarding literary production:
In this special category of literary Survival, Oryx and Crake is exposing some particularly painful authorial anxieties.[…] Like Snowman, Iris is a «survivor», representing Atwood’s own later-life perspective on survival: What of me will survive in my writing? Will my writing survive in a future where visual and sound images have supplanted the printed word? To those writerly concerns are added those of Oryx and Crake, as suggested in her essays Negotiating with the Dead: Why construct Palaces of Art and «monuments of unageing intellect» for a future that looks like a nightmare waiting to happen?
By asking what part of Snowman’s account will survive, if any, the novel asks what part of Atwood’s work will survive, and what influences it will have on the world of tomorrow. The ball is in the reader’s court.
Margaret Atwood’s invitation towards a more active, even militant, approach to literature in relation to ecology has been reasserted by the very recent release of her latest novel, The Year of the Flood (also entitled, says the website, The God’s Garderners, with reference to the futuristic community described), which is the sequel to Oryx and Crake and which also covers ecological matters. An interesting anecdote found on the novel’s website clearly makes the connection between literature and ecology. The question of literature and ecology mutually benefitting from each other, covering similar grounds, is made clear through the fund-raiser. Indeed, in parallel to the advertising tour and the blog on the novel, the reader is invited, in the Book-Reading list, to post the banner of any book on the novel website in exchange for 50] that will be donated to an ecological non-profit organization. The page interestingly reads as follows: «Here are some of the books it is thought may have influenced the founders of The God’s Gardeners in their youth, before they discarded electronic modes of communication and severely limited the use of paper products». Atwood thus once again invites the reader to question his/her own participation, even collaboration, in the world of tomorrow, through books and literature. Her powerful yarns invite us to keep a wider perspective on our human creations through vigilance, relying, with some amount of doubt and a great amount of hope, on mankind’s eternal fascination for storytelling and the eternal truths about humanity that literature portrays.
 D.J. Dodson, An Interview with Margaret Atwood, «Critique», XXXVIII, 1997.
 M. Atwood, Writing with Intent: Essays, Reviews, Personal Prose 1983-2005, New York, Carroll and Graf Publishers, 2005.
 M. Atwood, Life Before Man, Toronto, McClelland & Stewart, 1979; M. Atwood, Life after Man, «New Scientist», 3 May 2003, p. 40.
 M. Atwood, Surfacing, Toronto, McClelland & Stewart, 1972.
 M. Atwood, S. Tanaka, For the Birds, Toronto, McClelland & Stewart, 1990.
 M. Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale, Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1986.
 S. Birgitt Hartman, Feminist and postcolonial perspectives on ecocriticism in a Canadian context: toward a ‘situate’ literary theory and practice of ecofeminism and environmental justice, in Nature in Literary and cultural studies: transatlantic conversations on Ecocriticism, a c. di C. Gersdorf, S. Mayer, Amsterdam, Rodopi, 2006, pp. 90.
 M. Atwood, Oryx and Crake, cit., p. 305.
 Ivi, p. 242.
 E.G. Ingersoll, Survival in Margaret Atwood’s Novel “Oryx and Crake”, cit., p. 166.
 Ivi, p. 112.
 Margaret Atwood further develops her views on the link between reading, writing and political freedom in the interview with Danita Dodson.
 M. Atwood, Oryx and Crake, cit., p. 168.
 Ivi, p. 167.
 Ivi, p. 103.
 Ivi, p. 195.
 Ivi, p. 80.
 M. Atwood, Oryx and Crake revealed, http://mitworld.mit.edu/video/196.
 W. Ong, Orality and Literacy: the technologizing of the Word, London, Routledge, 1982.
 B. Moyers, On Faith & Reason, 2005 (BBC interview with Margaret Atwood).
 M. Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale, cit., pp. 299-311.
 M. Atwood, Oryx and Crake, cit., p. 307: «not a tale, something he tells himself in his head».
 Ivi, p. 68.
 Cfr. the motto of the computer game Extinctathon, which is said to be monitored by MaddAddam: «Adam named the living animals, MaddAdam names the dead ones», M. Atwood, Oryx and Crake, cit., p. 80.
 Ivi, p. 374.
 M. Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale, cit., p. 311.
 K.-C. Ku, Of Monster and Man, cit., p. 125
 M. Atwood, Oryx and Crake, cit., p. 41.
 M. Atwood, Oryx and Crake revealed, http://mitworld.mit.edu/video/196
 E.G. Ingersoll, Survival in Margaret Atwood’s Novel “Oryx and Crake”, cit., pp. 170-173.
 http://www.yearoftheflood.com/ (official website of Atwood’s latest novel published in September 2009, The Year of the Flood).