Ongoing Objectification, Marginalization and Sexualization of Women in Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient and Divisadero: Old Patterns, New Disguises
Keywords:Michael Ondaatje, feminism, Coming Through Slaughter, The Cinnamon Peeler, The English Patient, Divisadero
The year 2023 marks Michael Ondaatje’s 80th birthday, a landmark in the author’s life and an occasion for literary critics to look back and revisit what are perhaps some of the more troubling aspects of his literary production. Ondaatje’s poetry and fiction have received little attention from feminist literary critics, which is due to the author’s conservative take on the figuration of female characters and representation of women. While some critics have proposed that The English Patient (1992), and therefore also by extension his novel Divisadero (2007), might signify a turning point in Ondaatje’s otherwise problematic gender politics, this article demonstrates that earlier patterns of women’s objectification, sexualization and marginalization found in Ondaatje’s poetry and fiction persist in both of these seemingly more progressive works, albeit in new forms and disguises. This article also introduces a new concept to the field of (feminist) literary theory, the so-called blazon in prose.
Baldick, Chris. 2001. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Bök, Christian. 1992. “Destructive Creation: The Politicization of Violence in the Works of Michael Ondaatje.” South Asian Connections, Special Issue of Canadian Literature 132: 109–24.
Burcar, Lilijana. 2007. “Re-mapping Nation, Body, and Gender in Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient.” In The Flesh Made Text Made Flesh Again, edited by Zoe Detsi-Diamanti, Katerina Kitse-Mytakou, and Effie Yiannopoulou, 99–110. New York: Peter Lang.
Cuddon, J.A. 1991. Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. London: Penguin Books.
Ellis, Susan. 1996. “Trade and Power, Money and War: Rethinking Masculinity in Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient.” Studies in Canadian Literature 21 (2): 22–36.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, The Editors of. 2023. “Michael Ondaatje.” Encyclopedia Britannica, May 11th, 2023. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Michael-Ondaatje.
Jones, Rosalind Ann. 2000. “‘Blond chef, grande conqueste’: Feminist Theories of the Gaze, the blazon anatomique, and Louise Labé’s Sonnet 6.” In Distant Voices Still Heard: Contemporary Readings of French Renaissance Literature, edited by John O’Brien and Malcolm Quainton, 85–106. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.
Lecker, Robert. Email message to author, January 1, 2022.
MacKinnon, A. Catharine. 1994. “Not a Moral Issue.” Yale Law and Policy Review 2 (2): 321–45.
Mandell, Laura. 1996. “Demystifying (with) the Repugnant Female Body: Mary Leapor and Feminist Literary History.” Criticism 38 (4): 551–82.
McClintock, Anne. 1995. Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest. New York: Routledge.
Miller, J. Naomi. 2016. Changing the Subject: Mary Wroth and Figurations of Gender in Early Modern England. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky.
Ondaatje, Michael. 1976. Coming Through Slaughter. Toronto: Anansi.
—. 1992. The Cinnamon Peeler. Toronto: McClelland and Steward.
—. 1993. The English Patient. New York: Vintage International.
—. 2008. Divisadero. London: Bloomsbury.
—. 2009. Divisadero. Toronto: Knopf Random Vintage Canada.
—. 2011. Anil’s Ghost. London: Vintage.
Papadaki, Evangelia (Lina). 2021. “Feminist Perspectives on Objectification.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N. Zalta (Spring Edition, December 16, 2019). https://plato.stanford.edu.
Pease, Bob. 2019. Facing Patriarchy: From a Violent Gender Order to a Culture of Peace. London: Zed Books.
du Plessis, Rory. 2015. “A Discourse Analysis of Male Sexuality in the Magazine Intimacy.” African Journal of Primary Health Care and Family Medicine 7 (1): 1–7. https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v7i1.691.
Smart, Carol. 1995. Law, Crime and Sexuality: Essays in Feminism. London: Sage.
Stephen, Kylie. 1994. “The Legal Language of Rape: A Feminist Reconstruction of Rape.” Alternative Law Journal 19 (5): 224–28.
Stick, Max, and Tina Fetner. 2020. “Feminist Men and Sexual Behaviour: Analyses of Men’s Sex with Women.” Men and Masculinities 24 (5): 780–801. https://doi.org/10.1177/1097184X20980789.
Stout, C. John. 2003. “Le Blason Contemporain: On Women Poets’ Objectifying of the Male Body.” Romance Studies 21 (1): 53–69. https://doi.org/10.1179/ros.2003.21.1.53.
Thomson, Tracey. 1993. “The Changing Representation of Women in Michael Ondaatje’s Prose.” Master’s Thesis, McGill University.
Visano, Livy A. 2002. “A Critical Critique of the Cultures of Control: A Case Study of Cyber Rape.” In Sexual Violence: Policies, Practices, and Challenges in the United States and Canada, edited by James F. Hodgson and Debra S. Kelly, 51–71. Westport: Praeger.
York, M. Lorraine. 1994. “Whirling Blindfolded in the House of Woman: Gender Politics in the Poetry and Fiction of Michael Ondaatje.” Essays on Canadian Writing 53: 71–91.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2023 Lilijana Burcar
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors are confirming that they are the authors of the submitting article, which will be published (print and online) in journal ELOPE by Znanstvena založba Filozofske fakultete Univerze v Ljubljani (University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts, Aškerčeva 2, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia). Author’s name will be evident in the article in journal. All decisions regarding layout and distribution of the work are in hands of the publisher.
- Authors guarantee that the work is their own original creation and does not infringe any statutory or common-law copyright or any proprietary right of any third party. In case of claims by third parties, authors commit their self to defend the interests of the publisher, and shall cover any potential costs.
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work.