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Women Poets and National History: Reading Margaret Atwood, Anna Akhmatova, and Lina Kostenko Open Access


Other title
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Tsobrova, Iryna
Supervisor and department
Sywenky, Irene (Modern Languages and Cultural Studies)
Braz, Albert (English and Film Studies)
Examining committee member and department
Christine Wiesenthal (English and Film Studies)
Daniel Fried (East Asian Studies)
Oleh Ilnytzkyj (Modern Languages and Cultural Studies)
Comparative Literature

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This dissertation focuses on the portrayal of historical events in the works of Margaret Atwood, Anna Akhmatova, and Lina Kostenko. These Canadian, Russian, and Ukrainian poets present women as participants in political events, possessing historical agency, and taking part in the creation of a national past. While acknowledging the epistemological limitations of history writing (its inherent narrative mode, ideological and political implications, and other factors), I argue that the three authors uncover the tangible link that unites two remote points in history and enhances our perception of the current situation. Atwood’s awareness of the hermeneutic limitations of the writing of history informs her literary works; however, Akhmatova and Kostenko hold a more traditional view of generating historical accounts and their validity. What unites these poets is the belief that past events have an impact on the decision-making process of future generations. Adopting a new historical and a postcolonial approach, I demonstrate how the texts under investigation enter into a complex relationship with hegemonic ideologies and how their position changes in relation to power structures. These writers’ poems act as dynamic forces that reflect past events and simultaneously reshape the discursive field, producing and negotiating new meanings. These works function at the intersection of the present and the past, mapping a “third space” that has a discernible connection to the past and offers the possibility of different futures. Historical poetry offers a unique perspective on past events because it describes a specific historical context that resists homogenizing tendencies. This genre amalgamates the realms of the individual and the collective, making it a profoundly private and at the same time a communal experience.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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