Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has become in recent years increasingly prescient, as large swaths of our world have become ever more like Gilead, the dystopia it depicts in the body of the novel, and increasingly aspirational, as we pine for the opportunity to mirror Gilead’s downfall, as acknowledged in its “Historical Notes.” Bruce Miller’s provocative television adaptation, having visualized in its first season Gilead’s establishment and early years, has moved since to flesh out the early years leading to its demise. Atwood’s long-awaited sequel, The Testaments, which appeared less than a month after season three’s finale, offers us now an overall blueprint. As we await season four, to appear sometime next year, and a promised adaptation of The Testaments eventually, we do well to wonder what in Atwood’s and Miller’s developing narrative may help us to save ourselves from various slippery slopes to various real-life Gileads.
“There are no sure-fire formulas” in resisting “totalitarianisms,” that is, Atwood reminds us, in The Testaments’ acknowledgements, “since very little in history is inevitable.” In the absence of silver bullets, that is, we take up whatever arms are at our disposal, however intangible they may be. Among these are the literary and visual arts, popular culture generally, on the assumption that however much they may be designed to please and entertain, their design cannot help but reflect the culture in which they are created, purport to serve. In this spirit, each chapter of the book will explore a broadly or specifically philosophical, political, or social lesson gleaned from the fictional resistance to Gilead that is at the core of Atwood and Miller’s developing narrative, with an eye to its actual or potential role in resisting real-life Gileads, now and in the future.
• Publication details:
The collection will be published with Vernon Press, pending successful peer review. A dozen chapters are currently in various stages of preparation, originating from sessions at the 2020 Northeast Modern Language Association conference, and scheduled sessions at the 2020 Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association and New Directions in the Humanities conferences. They fall into four broad categories: (i) broadly feminist analyses, (ii) feminist analyses with an emphasis on motherhood in particular, (iii) broadly political analyses, within more overtly literary frameworks, (iii) broadly political analyses, within more overtly philosophical frameworks, with a higher concentration falling into (i)-(ii).
All approaches are welcome, ones falling into (iii)-(iv) in particular. In addition, for those who are unable or unwilling to contribute full chapters, we are also seeking narrower, more targeted interventions from various disciplinary perspectives, which will, we hope, contribute provocatively to the overall narrative, in helping the reader to transition from section of the book to another, one chapter to another, or in some other way.
• Submission guidelines:
Please forward detailed abstracts, roughly three to five hundred words in length, by December 15, to firstname.lastname@example.org. First draft would be due relatively quickly thereafter, by the end of January.
• Inquiries, expressions of interest, general or particular, questions and concerns, and so on and so forth to: email@example.com.