Shelley Boyd

The Possibilities of Food in Margaret Atwood's The Heart Goes Last

Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last provides a glimpse of a dystopian/utopian social experiment named the Positron Project as a response to the global financial collapse of 2008. In the novel, prison food and its symbolism serve as a means of critiquing neoliberal capitalism as an imprisoning construct that has permeated human experience. The lack of choice in what the characters consume perpetuates the capitalistic social order, its hierarchies and abuses. Through Positron’s dystopian/utopian foodways, The Heart Goes Last not only communicates human desires but also poses a central question: what created this socioeconomic crisis and its dire solutions?

Shelley Boyd is an associate dean of the Faculty of Arts and a Canadian literature specialist in the English department at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. She is the author of Garden Plots: Canadian Women Writers and Their Literary Gardens (2013) and co-editor of Canadian Culinary Imaginations (2020), which brings together academics, writers, and artists to explore the topic of food expression within a global context.

Mabiana Camargo

Feminist Utopianism in Margaret Atwood's The Testaments

Margaret Atwood’s most recent novel, The Testaments (2019), presents a continuation of the dystopian world from its predecessor novel, The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), that resonates with profound feminist utopianism. In Atwood’s narrative, feminist utopianism is manifested mainly through the themes of redemption and resignation, sacrifice and heroism. These are actions performed by the three women protagonists from the story, Aunt Lydia, Agnes Jemima and Daisy/Nicole, who transgress their social roles to become saviours and heroes when acting together to end Gilead. I draw on utopian theories such as the one proposed by Lucy Sargisson (1996), who defines feminist utopianism as a dynamic phenomenon marked by the presence of politically engaged feminist thinking. The Testaments (2019) challenges patriarchy and emphasises feminist activism through the trope of a revolution created and fought mainly by women, as part of a sisterhood.

Mabiana Camargo is a Brazilian PhD candidate in the Department of English at the University of Saskatchewan. Her research focuses on the representations of women’s bodies in enclosed spaces in Atwood’s speculative oeuvre. She is interested in speculative fiction, women’s literature from post-colonial contexts, and feminisms.

Alyson Cook

The Interrelations Between Contemporary Feminist Cultural Movements and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and The Testaments

After Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election victory, book sales for Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, sky-rocketed. Three years and a Hulu TV adaptation later, Atwood released a highly anticipated sequel entitled The Testaments (2019). While it is easy to see how works of dystopian fiction like Atwood’s novels are influenced by the cultural events around them, this presentation will argue that Atwood’s texts – The Testaments in particular – also work to sway and influence the trajectory of those same social movements. Using an intersectional feminist lens to contextualize the real-world political statements regarding women’s rights and lived experiences that are implanted into the narrative of The Testaments, this presentation will outline the reciprocity that exists between the cultural events that Atwood incorporates into her texts and her texts’ impact on those same cultural events, as well as consider and explore the possible impact The Testaments may have on future social movements.

Alyson Cook is a Master’s student at the University of Saskatchewan who holds a BA (High Honours) in English from USask and will begin her PhD at USask in the fall of 2021. Her research interests include 20th century British Literature written by women in wartime, interwar, and postwar periods.

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