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Tal e

i d ’ s 20 17

dm a 1▼
Spring

H a n u ) ▼ WM ST 10

e c.e d

T h n e( n k a u gust @live .un

t i
Au gus
Nora
Overview
▼ Feminist research: Literary studies.

▼ Context of The Handmaid’s Tale.

▼ Introduction to the Republic of Gilead.

▼ Conclusions (or lack thereof).


WGST at UNC
▼ Literature & WGST.
● “Interdisciplinary.”
“Women’s and Gender Studies expands the ● Why literature?
● Feminist criticism.
process of knowledge production by
considering what it means to take gender, ▼ Context of THT.
● Who is M. Atwood?
race, class, and sexuality seriously in our ● Genre, genre, genre.
explanations of the world. It provides a ● Reading dystopia.
methodology that is interdisciplinary, ▼ Gileadean Studies 101.
multicultural, and feminist. Our goal is to ● Origins.
● Social roles.
offer courses and programming that take full ● What remains?
account of the broadest spectrum of issues
▼ Un/realistic books.
concerning women and gender in the U.S. and ● Narrative frame!
globally.” ● Feeling is meaning.
Why study literature?
Briefly discuss this statement with a neighbor:

“I think we are reading The


Handmaid’s Tale in WGST 101
because...”
Challenging “the canon” ▼ Literature & WGST.
● “Interdisciplinary.”
“One of the devastating weaknesses of university ● Why literature?
learning… has been its almost total erasure of ● Feminist criticism.

women’s experience and thought from the ▼ Context of THT.


curriculum, and its exclusion of women as members ● Who is M. Atwood?
● Genre, genre, genre.
of the academic community… When you read or hear ● Reading dystopia.
about ‘great issues,’ ‘major texts,’ ‘the mainstream
▼ Gileadean Studies 101.
of Western thought,’ you are hearing about what ● Origins.
men, above all white men, in their male ● Social roles.
subjectivity, have decided is important.” ● What remains?

▼ Un/realistic books.
—Adrienne Rich, “Claiming an Education,” 1977. ● Narrative frame!
● Feeling is meaning.
Feminist literary criticism!
▼ Primary text (e.g.): ▼ Critique: Sandra Gilbert and
Charlotte Brontë, Jane Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in
Eyre, 1847. the Attic: The Woman Writer
and the Nineteenth Century
Literary Imagination, 1979.
Angels or monsters?
▼ Literature & WGST.
“Even the most apparently conservative and ● “Interdisciplinary.”
● Why literature?
decorous women writers obsessively create ● Feminist criticism.
fiercely independent characters who seek to
destroy all the patriarchal structures which both ▼ Context of THT.
● Who is M. Atwood?
their authors and their authors’ submissive ● Genre, genre, genre.
heroines seem to accept as inevitable... [T]he ● Reading dystopia.
madwoman in literature by women is not merely, as ▼ Gileadean Studies 101.
she might be in male literature, an antagonist or ● Origins.
● Social roles.
foil to the heroine. Rather, she is usually in some ● What remains?
sense the author’s double, an image of her own
anxiety and rage.” ▼ Un/realistic books.
● Narrative frame!
● Feeling is meaning.
—Gilbert & Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic, 1979.
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Margaret Atwood: Key facts
▼ Born Nov. 18, 1939; Ottawa, Canada.

▼ B.A., Victoria College (Toronto);


M.A., Radcliffe College; graduate
work at Harvard.

▼ Noteworthy works: Surfacing (1973),


The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), Cat’s Eye
(1988), The Blind Assassin (2000),
Oryx and Crake (2003), poetry, short
stories, etc…

▼ Common themes: Women and feminism;


environmentalism; North American
politics; future worlds.
This story is told...
▼ Literature & WGST.
● “Interdisciplinary.”
● Why literature?
...by a woman, Offred. ● Feminist criticism.

...in first person (“I”). ▼



Context of THT.
Who is M. Atwood?
● Genre, genre, genre.
...in present tense. ● Reading dystopia.

▼ Gileadean Studies 101.


...in a frame (“Historical Notes”). ● Origins.
● Social roles.
● What remains?
...in a non-linear fashion.
▼ Un/realistic books.
● Narrative frame!
...about the future? ● Feeling is meaning.
“Speculative fiction”
▼ Literature & WGST.
● “Interdisciplinary.”
● Why literature?
● Feminist criticism.

▼ Context of THT.
● Who is M. Atwood?
● Genre, genre, genre.
● Reading dystopia.

▼ Gileadean Studies 101.


● Origins.
● Social roles.
● What remains?

▼ Un/realistic books.
● Narrative frame!
● Feeling is meaning.

https://youtu.be/5FwVOsDrp7E
(Brief) history of dystopian fiction:

Kurt Philip K. Dick,


Aldous George Vonnegut, Do Androids Margaret
Huxley, Orwell, “Harrison Dream of Atwood, The
Brave New 1984, Bergeron,” Electric Handmaid’s
World, 1932. 1949. 1961. Sheep?, 1968. Tale, 1985.

1920 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990

Franz Ayn Rand, Ray Anthony Dr. Seuss,


Kafka, The Anthem, Bradbury, Burgess, A The Lorax,
Trial, 1938. Fahrenheit Clockwork 1971.
1925. 451, 1953. Orange,
1962.
What do these books do?
▼ Literature & WGST.
“They can explore proposed changes in social ● “Interdisciplinary.”
● Why literature?
organisation, by showing what they might actually ● Feminist criticism.
be like for those living within them. Thus, the
▼ Context of THT.
utopia and the dystopia, which have proved over
● Who is M. Atwood?
and over again that we have a better idea about how ● Genre, genre, genre.
to make hell on earth than we do about how to make ● Reading dystopia.
heaven. The history of the 20th century, where a ▼ Gileadean Studies 101.
couple of societies took a crack at utopia on a ● Origins.
● Social roles.
large scale and ended up with the inferno, would ● What remains?
bear this out.”
▼ Un/realistic books.
● Narrative frame!
—Atwood, “Aliens Have Taken the Place of Angels: ● Feeling is meaning.
Margaret Atwood on Why We Need Science Fiction.”
1 0 1
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d ea n p r es si
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G reau
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T
Institutionalizing inequality
▼ Literature & WGST.
▼ Early meetings of the Sons of Jacob. ● “Interdisciplinary.”
● Why literature?
▼ Assassination of the President and members of ● Feminist criticism.

Congress; overthrow of U.S. government; ▼ Context of THT.


suspension of the Constitution. ● Who is M. Atwood?
● Genre, genre, genre.
● Reading dystopia.
▼ Laws passed to prohibit women from owning
property; Compucredit accounts frozen and ▼ Gileadean Studies 101.
● Origins.
transferred to husband or male next-of-kin. ● Social roles.
● What remains?
▼ Increased army/police presence; women are ▼ Un/realistic books.
assigned roles (re: fertility, class, marital ● Narrative frame!
● Feeling is meaning.
status, etc) and forcibly placed into them.
Social roles in Gilead
Women Men
Wives Commanders
Eyes
Aunts Angels
Marthas Guardians
Handmaids
Econowives Non-persons
Unwomen
Unbabies
What is “natural”? ▼ Literature & WGST.
● “Interdisciplinary.”
▼ Mitsuye Yamada, “Invisibility is an Unnatural ● Why literature?
Disaster,” 1981: “This mindset is the result of ● Feminist criticism.
not believing that the political and social ▼ Context of THT.
forces affecting our lives are determined by ● Who is M. Atwood?
some person, or a group of persons, probably ● Genre, genre, genre.
● Reading dystopia.
sitting behind a desk or around a conference
table.” ▼ Gileadean Studies 101.
● Origins.
● Social roles.
▼ The Handmaid’s Tale, Historical Notes: “...a ● What remains?
participant in the first of the top-secret ▼ Un/realistic books.
Sons of Jacob Think Tanks, at which the ● Narrative frame!
philosophy and social structure of Gilead ● Feeling is meaning.

were hammered out” (306).


What remains?
“Ordinary, said Aunt Lydia, is what you are used
to. This may not seem ordinary to you now, but
after a time it will. It will become ordinary” (33).

“But we lived as usual. Everyone does, most of the


time. Whatever is going on is usual. Even this is as
usual, now. We lived, as usual, by ignoring.
Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to
work at it. Nothing changes instantaneously: in a
gradually heating bathtub you’d be boiled to death
before you knew it” (56).
o k s
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Why
Some notes about The Notes
▼ Literature & WGST.
● “Interdisciplinary.”
▼ Dr. James Darcy Pieixoto, 12th Symposium on ● Why literature?
● Feminist criticism.
Gileadean Studies, International Historical
Association Convention (June 25, 2195): ▼ Context of THT.
● Who is M. Atwood?
“Problems of Authentication in Reference to ● Genre, genre, genre.
The Handmaid’s Tale.” ● Reading dystopia.

▼ Gileadean Studies 101.


▼ What does this frame narrative tell us about: ● Origins.
● Social roles.
● What remains?
● Truthiness?
● Permanence? ▼ Un/realistic books.
● Narrative frame!
● Historiography? ● Feeling is meaning.
Reading, writing, thinking, feeling...
“[O]f course we should make social change all
over the place. But the words we use can also
reinforce current realities when they are
sexist (or racist or heterosexist). Words are
tools of thought. We can use words to maintain
the status quo or to think in new ways—which
in turn creates the possibility of a new
reality. It makes a difference.”

—Kleinman, “Why Sexist Language Matters,” 2007.


Skepticism abounds...
▼ Literature & WGST.
“I just can't see the intolerance of the far right, ● “Interdisciplinary.”
● Why literature?
presently directed not only at abortion clinics ● Feminist criticism.
and homosexuals but also at high school libraries
and small-town schoolteachers, as leading to a ▼ Context of THT.
● Who is M. Atwood?
super-biblical puritanism by which procreation ● Genre, genre, genre.
will be insisted on and reading of any kind banned. ● Reading dystopia.
Nor, on the other hand, do I fear our ‘excesses’ of ▼ Gileadean Studies 101.
tolerance as pointing in the same direction... ● Origins.
● Social roles.
Where are the signs of it? A backlash is only a ● What remains?
backlash, that is, a reaction. Fear of a backlash, in
politics, ought not to deter anybody from adhering ▼ Un/realistic books.
● Narrative frame!
to principle.” ● Feeling is meaning.

—Mary McCarthy, New York Times review, 1986.


...curiosity persists!
Tal e
i d ’ s 20 17

dm a 1▼
Spring

H a n u ) ▼ WM ST 10

e c.e d

T h n e( n k a u gust @live .un

t i
Au gus
Nora

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