English 20

Modern British and American Literature: The Handmaid's Tale in Adaptation

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2019 Snyder, Katherine
TTh 12:30-2 20 Wheeler

Book List

Atwood, Margaret: The Handmaid's Tale; Atwood, Margaret: The Testaments; Nault, Renee: The Handmaid's Tale (Graphic Novel)


With the advent of the Trump presidency (2016-present), Margaret Atwood’s dystopian, feminist masterpiece, The Handmaid’s Tale, has gained new relevance. And with the popular and critical success of its Hulu TV series adaptation (2017-present), this prophetic novel has reached a new and broader audience.

In this class, we will consider some of the many adaptations of Atwood’s prophetic novel, looking backward at the more than 30-year afterlife of this novel in order to assess its still-evolving vision of our present and our future. Since it was published in 1985, the novel has not only been translated into 35 languages, but it has also been adapted as a stage play, an opera, a ballet, and even a pop album. In addition to reading the novel carefully in various critical contexts, we will consider the (awful) 1990 movie version, the 2000 BBC radio play, the 2012 audio book, the ongoing Hulu series (with a primary focus on Season One), the graphic novel adaptation (just published this March), and Atwood’s sequel, The Testaments (to be released in September 2019). We will also read critical theory on intertextuality, intermediality, and adaptation in order to provide a framework for our explorations.

In additional to the required reading and viewing, assignments for the course will include a number of short analytical essays, book and movie/TV reviews, in-class presentations, and your own  creative adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale in your choice of media.

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