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Please see our Calls for Papers page for additional opportunities.

MMLA 2024

Exploring Physical and Mental Health Topics in the Works of Margaret Atwood

14 – 16 November, Chicago

In the spirit of this year’s Midwest Modern Language Association convention theme, “Health in/of the Humanities,” this panel aims to explore the often nuanced portrayals of mental and physical health in the works of Margaret Atwood. Papers discussing works of any genre and era of Atwood’s career are welcome, as are discussions of adaptations. Topics may include representations, stigmas, and societal attitudes of mental health; medicalization and technological & scientific advances, including their ethical implications and consequences; identity & body image; and trauma & resilience. Other related topics will be considered.

Submit a 250-word abstract to organizer Denise Du Vernay, dduvernay@luc.edu by Wednesday, March 13.


PAMLA 2023

26 – 29 October

Adaptations of Atwood

Margaret Atwood’s works include an incredible range of genres, from the usual novels and poems to the unusual librettos and graphic novels. Her works, in turn, have been adapted into an even wider genre range. This panel will discuss Atwood adaptations, from the typical to the atypical, the pedestrian to the otherworldly, and the unqualified successes to the abject failures, including television, film, graphic novel, song, opera, theatre, and ballet adaptations.

Abstracts due June 30th on PAMLA’s submission page.


MMLA 2023

2 – 5 November, Cincinnati

Teaching Atwood to Protect Democracy

The tagline for the Margaret Atwood Society is “Now more relevant than ever,” which we adopted well before the Trump administration, the Hulu adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, the overturn of Roe v. Wade, the virulent attacks on books and LGBTQ rights in the United States, or Brexit and the rise of TERF ideologies in the UK and Canada. When we adopted the unofficial slogan, our concerns focused on voting rights and the marriage of science and politics.

It is increasingly clear that in this age of book banning, teaching Atwood is a political act, and a necessary one, in order to protect democracy. This panel seeks to explore this topic, and can be approached in myriad ways. How do we use Atwood’s works in our classrooms, book clubs, friend circles, or other venues to protect democracy? How should we? Papers may include discussions of adaptations, novels, Atwood’s talks/interviews/Twitter feed, or any other relevant genre.

Send abstract to Denise Du Vernay at dduvernay@luc.edu by June 12, 2023.

MLA 2024

4 – 7 January, Philadelphia, PA

“Dressing the Part: Fashion in Atwood’s Works and Adaptations”

In a 2019 interview in the Sunday Times Style section, Margaret Atwood confessed that she has always had a desire to enter the world of fashion: “I wasn’t just interested in the making of clothes, but more what they looked like. I have been to many fashion shows. I follow the silhouettes.” She further explains her interest in fashion lies in the way it forms histories and influences industries and shapes identities. In Self-Fashioning in Margaret Atwood’s Fiction (2005), Cynthia Kuhn highlights the symbolic value of clothing in Atwood’s fiction and argues that fashion and style function as metaphorical extensions of the public and private lives of her characters. To be sure, fashion is often at the center of Atwood’s work. From the iconic red cloaks worn in The Handmaid’s Tale (and subsequently adopted by activists protesting against governments imposing totalitarian rules) to the futuristic smart self-cleaning gym suits in Oryx and Crake, fashion and dress are frequently used as ciphers in Atwood’s work to address her philosophies concerning art, culture, and politics.

The Margaret Atwood Society invites papers on depictions of fashion in Atwood’s works and adaptations, understood broadly as relating to clothing, style, or expressions of socio-political or technical change.

Submit 250-word abstract to Lauren Rule Maxwell at lauren.maxwell@citadel.edu by March 15, 2023.

Will be held Friday, 5 January, 5:15 – 6:30 p.m.


MLA 2023

5–8 January, 2023, San Francisco, CA

Not Quite Human: Crakers, Pigoons, and Other Others in Margaret Atwood’s Works

Friday, 6 Jan. 2023, 12:00-1:15, Marriott Marquis, Pacific Suite C.

Chair: Lauren Maxwell, The Citadel

  1. Before the End of History, There was History: Discourses of Animality in Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy: Lee Frew, York University
  2. “What is Reality?”: Ethics of Artifice and Authenticity in Atwood’s Oryx and Crake: Chelsea Cabral, University of New Hampshire, Durham
  3. Crake’s Big Reset: Upending Taxonomy to Unhuman the World: Rhona Trauvitch, Florida International University

PAMLA 2022

Los Angeles, California at the UCLA Luskin Conference Center and Hotel, Friday, November 11 to Sunday, November 13, 2022.

Space and Spaces in Atwood’s Works

Saturday, 12 Nov. 2022, 9:45-11:15, Catalyst Room.

Chair: Jason Wiens, University of Calgary

  1. Spaces and Trauma in Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace: Silvia Ghirardelli, University of Sheffield
  2. Women’s Oppression through Enclosed Spaces and Confinement in Margaret Atwood’s the MaddAddam Trilogy: Mabiana Camargo, University of Saskatchewan
  3. Engineering a Paradise: Language and Myth in Atwood: Ryan Lambert, Colorado School of Mines

MLA 2022

Modern Language Association
Washington, DC
January 6 – 9, 2022
“Multilingual U.S.”

“Wilderness (and Other) Tips: Concepts of Survival in Atwood’s Works”

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I took the one most travelled by,” Aunt Lydia sardonically muses in The Testaments. “It was littered with corpses, as such roads are. But as you will have noticed, my own corpse is not among them.” The Margaret Atwood Society’s panel seeks papers exploring the theme of survival in Atwood’s writing. Potential topics include, but are not limited to, grief, trauma, persistence, duty, healing, endurance, and wisdom. We invite papers that consider the intellectual, affective, and ethical implications of survival. While priority will be given to topics that speak to current or recent cultural and political contexts, works may span any part of Atwood’s career.
Panelists must be members of the MLA and the Atwood Society to present. Submit abstracts of 150-250 words and a brief biographical note to Denise Du Vernay at dduvernay@luc.edu by March 15, 2021.

PAMLA 2020
PAMLA website was reopened for submissions January 15, 2021
April 15, 2021

(Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association)
Las Vegas, NV
November 12 – 15
“City of God, City of Destruction”

Organizer: Shelley Boyd Kwantlen, Polytechnic University

NOTE: PAMLA will be a combination of virtual and in-person this year. We have learned that our panel will be virtual.

Drawing inspiration from PAMLA’s conference theme “City of God, City of Destruction,” this virtual panel will explore the intersections of place, systems of belief, and despair within Margaret Atwood’s speculative fiction. Described as the “Prophet of Dystopia” in a 2017 issue of The New Yorker, Margaret Atwood has garnered critical praise throughout her career for the duality of her dystopian/utopian visions, whether it be the palimpsestic settings of Gilead in her 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, the God’s Gardeners’ eco-religious commune in her MaddAddam trilogy, the Positron Project in The Heart Goes Last, or most recently Aunt Lydia’s Ardua Hall in The Testaments, which was awarded the Booker Prize in 2019. Although Atwood herself is an agnostic, she fully appreciates the significant role of religion and systems of belief in telling stories and thereby shaping the world. Within Atwood’s speculative fiction, the powers of belief and religious doctrine often result in characters inhabiting or journeying through settings that are simultaneously experienced as exile and salvation, imprisonment, and sanctuary.

Panelists are invited to examine how systems of belief and/or religion have shaped Atwood’s visions of place within her speculative fiction by focusing on one particular work or by exploring a common setting across multiple works.

All approved panelists must join PAMLA to present at the conference and must be members of the Margaret Atwood Society to present as part the Society’s panel.

Paper proposals, brief abstracts, and bio statements must be submitted through PAMLA’s website by creating a user account at https://pamla.ballastacademic.com/ by no later than April 15, 2021. Any questions about the panel may be directed to the chair Shelley Boyd (shelley.boyd@kpu.ca).

MMLA 2020


Due to concerns related to the pandemic, the 2021 MMLA convention for Cleveland has been canceled and the Milwaukee meeting scheduled for November 2020 will be postponed to 2021 and will be held in Milwaukee in November 2021, with the same venue and topic. 

(Midwest Modern Language Association)
Milwaukee, WI
November 5 – 8
“Cultures of Collectivity”

Organizer: Denise Du Vernay, Loyola University Chicago

“The Cultures and Subcultures created and inspired by Margaret Atwood”

In all of Atwood’s works of fiction, cultures are created (usually with their own vernacular) whether they are the post-apocalyptic survivors of the MaddAddam trilogy, the mean girls of Cat’s Eye, the academics of The Edible Woman and Life Before Man, or Mayday in The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments, Atwood’s works are rife with cultures of collectivity.

Additionally, cultures created outside Atwood’s works are inspired by these works (and even to an extent inspired by Atwood herself), such as the handmaids who appear at statehouses to protest limitations on women’s reproductive rights (not to mention handmaids who may appear at the occasional ill-conceived theme party or bridal photo shoot); the numerous ballet, opera, television, and stage adaptations of Atwood’s works which have created multiple extant storylines of various works; and Atwood-focused book clubs, sessions and panels at academic conferences, and even the Margaret Atwood Society itself, all of which are concerned with Atwood and her works and have the specialized vernacular and rules one would find in any subculture.

This panel seeks to delve into how Atwood’s works derive and create meaning through subcultures, collective acts found inside and outside the works themselves, or the formation of communities. Papers that discuss how this Atwoodian moment is of particular importance will be of particular interest.

Please email your submissions to Denise Du Vernay at dduvernay@luc.edu by May 31, 2020.

Note: MMLA has pushed back registration for the conference to September 1, so if you are interested in the panel, please submit your abstract by the deadline but know that you won’t have any financial obligation until the end of summer when we have more of an idea of COVID-19’s effects on safety of travel to Milwaukee.





International Conference, 14-16 Oct 2021, University of Göttingen, Germany
Conveners: Dr. Dunja Mohr (Erfurt)
and PD Dr. Kirsten Sandrock (Göttingen)

For Margaret Atwood, politics and art inherently belong together. In the pioneering poetry collection Power Politics (1971), Atwood addresses the intertwining of the personal and the political, which has run through her oeuvre ever since; “Power is our environment. We live surrounded by it: it pervades everything we are and do, invisible and soundless, like air.” (1973, 7) For decades Atwood’s work has resonated as tales of and testaments to political, socio-economic, and (bio)technological concerns of our present times. While Atwood has been vocal about politics, an environmental activist, and keenly involved with the PEN association, her writings have recently acquired a new international impact that underlines the fusion of politics and aesthetics in her work. Her classic female dystopia The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) has gained momentum as a prophetic 20th-century allegory of 21st-century political developments in the US, seeing a 670% year-on-year increase in sales and firmly sitting on the Sunday Times bestseller list for sixteen weeks in 2017. Exceptionally popularized by the multi-Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning Hulu TV series adaptation (Miller 2017–), Atwood’s dystopian work has received a surprising fan following, including admonitory dress-ups in Handmaiden gowns. The publication of Atwood’s recent Booker prize winning The Testaments (2019), a revisiting of The Handmaid’s Tale, came along with a global fanfare, midnight book store launches including staff in the signature Handmaiden gowns, live readings, and a ‘Margaret Atwood Live’ broadcast to cinemas around the world.

In Political Aesthetics (2010) Crispin Sartwell terms the conceptual “intimate” (11) relationship between politics and aesthetics “artpolitical,” arguing that all political systems, and politics of resistance, use aesthetics and an aesthetic system. With reference to the importance of aesthetics for a political philosophy, Ernst Bloch has emphasized the important political function of narration, “Stage and story can be either a protective park or a laboratory; sometimes they console or appease, sometimes they incite; they can be a flight from or a prefiguring of the future” (1968). In this sense, literary and media representations and cultural adaptation practices contain a significant transformative potential that reaches beyond the page. Although arguably not all literature is driven by a political impetus, literature that intentionally triangularly oscillates between reality, speculation, and fiction provides an exceptional imaginary laboratory—what John Gardner called a “moral laboratory” (1978)—for ethical, political, and personal choices and for concerns about resilience, responsibilities/respons-abilities, and vulnerabilities (cf. Johnson 1993; Nussbaum 1995, 1997, Butler 2016, Haraway 2016).

Our conference seeks to address this interaction between politics and aesthetics in Atwood’s oeuvre as well as its various transmedial adaptations. We seek to explore the various facets and layers of the artpolitical in her work, including for example the themes of social and environmental justice, Anthropocene, posthumanism, the role of religion or political satire as well as social control, and (biotech-)identity. While The Handmaid’s Tale and its adaptations have gained special attention in recent years, we also welcome papers that address different works by Margaret Atwood, including her poetic, fictional, and non-fictional work as well as her speculative fiction. We invite contributions from different fields of research and are particularly interested in interdisciplinary and intersectional approaches, including political sciences, cultural and media studies or sociology.
Topics may include, but are not restricted to:

  • political and literary aesthetics
  • Canadian literature and power politics
  • genre politics
  • narratological approaches to artpolitical
  • prosumers, fan culture, and political organization
  • gender, body, and (national) identities
  • teaching artpolitical
  • the politics of writing: testimony and witnessing, knowledge and power
  • posthumanism and biotech
  • transmedia adaptations
  • serialization, sequels and re-visions
  • environmental justice, Anthropocene
  • totalitarianism, political systems, surveillance, corporatism
  • vulnerabilities, response-abilities, acts of resistance

ABSTRACT SUBMISSION: Please submit your abstract for a 20-minute presentation (no more than 250 words) and a brief bio (max. 150 words) to dunja.mohr@uni-erfurt.de and ksandro@uni-goettingen.de.

The DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS was 20 February 2020
The Margaret Atwood Society is co-sponsoring the conference and will confer a “Best conference paper Margaret Atwood Society” Award ($250 USD) and granting one-year free memberships to the winner and the two runners up. For eligibility, please submit your full conference paper until 14 September 2020.

MLA 2021

(Modern Language Association)
Toronto, ON
January 7 – 10

Organizer: Lauren Rule Maxwell, The Citadel

“Examining the Longest International Border: The US and Canada in Atwood’s Works”

The Margaret Atwood Society’s panel will explore the representation of Canada and the U.S.A. in Atwood’s works. Papers may investigate depictions of the nations themselves, the relationship between the two nations’ peoples, or instances of navigating/crossing the long border. Papers considering how Atwood is taught, e.g. her inclusion in American Lit syllabi, will also be considered. Panelists must be members of The Margaret Atwood Society and the MLA to present. Submit abstracts of 250-500 words and a brief biographical note to Lauren Rule Maxwell at lauren.maxwell@citadel.edu by 1 April 2020.

ACCUTE 2020 London, Ontario
(May 30 – June 5)
“Testaments, Testimonies, and Intertexts”

Organizer: Karen Macfarlane, Mount Saint Vincent University

Proposals are invited that address Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments and issues that are raised in the novel itself and that are raised by its publication. Such issues may include (but are not limited to): Witnessing, perspective, storytelling, testimony (in both a legal sense and in the sense of its relation to trauma), sequels, re-visions of previous texts/worlds, and adaptations. Please submit by 15 November 2019 through the ACCUTE Proposal Submission Form.

The ACCUTE (Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English) conference will take place May 30 – June 5, 2020 as part of the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences at Western University in London, Ontario. More information is available at https://accute.ca/accute-conference/accute-cfp-jointly-sponsored-panels/


Conference will be November 14-17, 2019 at the Hilton Chicago, the Atwood Society-sponsored panel will be Saturday the 16th at 1:00.

Panel Title: Duality & Doubles in Margaret Atwood

Organizer: Denise Du Vernay, Loyola University Chicago

This panel seeks to explore the complexity of Atwood’s characters and works through the lens of the MMLA’s theme for 2019: “Duality, Doubles, and Doppelgängers.” Society President Karma Waltonen is presenting a paper on Alias Grace. Other presenters will be discussing The Handmaid’s Tale and the MaddAddam trilogy.


Panel 1: Graphic Atwood: Atwood’s Graphic Novels and Illustrated Works (including literature for children).

Panel 2: We are proposing a roundtable discussion of The Handmaid’s Tale sequel. MLA needs our proposals well before the book is out, so your abstract would tell us which lens you will use to discuss the text and why.

Organizer: Karma Waltonen, University of California, Davis


Conference will be June 1-4, during the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, this year held at University of British Columbia, Vancouver campus.

Panel Title: Margaret Atwood in Collaboration

Organizer: Karen Macfarlane, Mount Saint Vincent University


Conference will be held January 3-6, 2019 in Chicago. The presidential theme for the convention is Textual Transactions. The Margaret Atwood Society is hosting the following panels:

008: Adapting Atwood: Textual Transactions in the Streaming Era

 12:00 PM–1:15 PM Thursday, Jan 3, 2019

 Hyatt Regency – Acapulco

1: Through the Looking Glass: The War on Terror in The Handmaid’s Tale

Ambereen Dadabhoy, Harvey Mudd C

2: Teaching The Handmaid’s Tale with Hulu

Kathryn Ludwig, Ball State U

3: Alias Grace and The Handmaid’s Tale: Gender, Power, and the Interior

Pamela Flanagan, Glasgow School of Art

Presider, Karma Waltonen, U of California, Davis

349. Atwood on TV: Adaptations

Friday, January 4, 3:30 p.m.–4:45 p.m., Randolph 1 (Hyatt Regency)


  1. The Handmaid’s TaleSeries as Post-trilogy, Debrah K. Raschke (Southeast Missouri State U) [#7440]
  2. Revisiting a Diary from the Apocalypse in the Era of Hulu, Michael Matin (Warren Wilson C) [#7436]
  3. The Handmaid’s Tale: Under His Eye, Ellen Grabiner (Simmons C) [#7448]

Presiding: Karma Waltonen (U of California, Davis)

The annual business meeting will be right after this panel.


MMLA (Midwest Modern Language Association) – November 15-18 Kansas City

Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction have long been tied to a critique of consumerist capitalism. Writers like Ursula K. LeGuin and Nancy Kress have questioned how scientific discoveries resulting in consumable products and technologies (Churten Theory, the ansible, Y Energy) can alter social and economic realities. Margaret Atwood discusses the identities generated as a result of magazine reading. Kornbluth and Pohl describe consumerism in the terms of exploitative corporate practices. This panel will consider how consumerism in science fiction has been discussed in SF over the past century including thoughts on the relationship of science fiction to scientific discoveries and science fiction and diverse media. This panel is sponsored by the Margaret Atwood Society; papers incorporating Margaret Atwood’s works will get preference.


  1. Renegades and Revenge: Hag-Seedand The Heart Goes Last



  1. ‘Master(s) of a Full Poor Cell’: Magic and Constraining Spaces in Hag-Seedand The Tempest, C. Bruna Mancini (U of Calabria)
  2. ‘Who Are the Inmates and Who Are the Guards?’: Prisons as Sites of Resistance in Atwood, Karma Waltonen (U of California, Davis)
  3. Revenge ‘Melted into Air’: Staging Transformation in Hag-Seed, Debrah K. Raschke (Southeast Missouri State U)
  4. The Heart Goes Last (2015), a Contemporary Narrative of Slavery, Christine Lorre-Johnston (U of Paris 3)


Eleonora Rao (U of Salerno, Fisciano (SA) Italy)


Margaret Atwood Society is pleased to announce our new affiliation with Midwest MLA. The 2017 convention is November 9-12 at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza in Cincinnati, OH. The panel at MMLA hosted by the Margaret Atwood Society is titled “The Handmaid’s Tale: Past, Present, and Future” and will be at 11:30 am on Friday, November 10 in the Caprice 3 Room. See us there! The editor of Margaret Atwood Studies, Karma Waltonen, and the treasurer/website & social media manager, Denise Du Vernay, will be on hand afterward to answer any questions about the Society and benefits of membership to the Margaret Atwood Society.


  1. Humor as Social Critique in Margaret Atwood’s Novels, Short Stories, and Poetry

Friday, 6 January

5:15–6:30 p.m., 110B, Pennsylvania Convention Center

Presiding: Eleonora Rao, Univ. of Salerno

  1. “The Place You Would Rather Not Know About: Bearing Witness through Humor,” Lauren Rule Maxwell, The Citadel
  2. “Satirical Freudianism in Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman,” Kate Marantz, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst
  3. “Epistolary Atwood: Humor, the Open Letter, and Readerly Communities,” Collin Campbell, Memorial Univ. of Newfoundland


  1. Lauren Rule Maxwell (The Citadel)
    The Place You Would Rather Not Know About:Bearing Witness Through Humor

Margaret Atwood’s poem “Notes Towards a Poem That Can Never Be Written” (True Stories 1981) begins with the lines

This is the place

you would rather not know about,

this is the place that will inhabit you,

this is the place you cannot imagine,

this is the place that will finally defeat you (1-5).

In many of her poems, short stories, and novels, Atwood creates a dystopian world through which we can, in fact, imagine this place we “would rather not know about,” a place where people commit unspeakable acts of violence against each other to solidify their positions of power. These things are actually happening all around us every day: Atwood insists, “This has been happening, / this happens” (“Notes” 15-16). It is the charge of the artist, the writer, to show us these things we would rather not see. As Atwood goes on to assert in the poem, when you see the “facts of this world…clearly,” “[w]itness is what you must bear” (42, 57). Atwood bears witness to these facts in her works of fiction and poetry by drawing us in to places that reflect the realities of our own word, fictional places like the Republic of Gilead or the Compounds. In creating these dystopian places, Atwood draws our attention to the importance of place itself—not only geographic place, but also social place.

In this paper, I will examine how Atwood uses humor to depict the ways people are “put in their place” in various works of fiction and poetry, including The Handmaid’s Tale, the MaddAddam trilogy, and the “Circe/Mud Poems.” In my reading of these texts, I will argue that humor is crucial for Atwood’s act of bearing witness. “The facts of this world seen clearly / are seen through tears,” Atwood tells us, and “no one will listen” to “the poem that invents / nothing and excuses nothing” (“Notes” 42-43, 62-63). By using humor to draw us into her invented worlds, Atwood makes us pay attention.

2. Kate Marantz (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Satirical Freudianism in Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman

Margaret Atwood’s 1969 novel The Edible Woman is a scathing send-up of patriarchal culture and confining notions of femininity. It features laughably stereotypical characters: Duncan, the comically morose graduate student hunting literary symbols; Ainsley, a psychologizing pseudo-feminist; Len, a misogynist whose behaviors are revealed to stem from his mother once making him eat an egg containing an unborn chick. But there are also serious issues at stake: protagonist Marian McAlpin’s fear of her dominating fiancé; her paranoid hallucinations of being hunted; her growing inability to eat. In this paper, I argue that the novel’s toggling between exaggerated humor and disillusioned social commentary is central to its enactment of a kind of satirical Freudianism.

I read The Edible Woman as an uneasy feminist critique of  Freudian ideas in the mid-twentieth century in North America. Atwood humorously indicts the pervasiveness of Freudianism as pop-psychology, satirizing the pervasiveness of empty buzzwords and oversimplified formulations of complex gender relations. At the same time, she reveals how neo-Freudian(mis)conceptions of femininity and sexuality have real, problematic effects on her characters and their relationships. On another level, however, the novel’s mocking tone also masks an underlying discomfort with its own textual inability to break free of Freud’s influence. For despite its suspicion—whether ironic or earnest—of Freud’s ideas and cultural impact, Atwood’s novel in many ways operates firmly within a Freudian context. Indeed, with its focus on connections between mental states, bodily disorders, and symbolic manifestations, The Edible Woman is deeply invested in key aspects of Freudian psychology; in fact, it invites Freudian readings even as it pokes fun at them. With its darkly comic representations, then, this novel of uneven gender politics and unstable female identity reveals itself as wary of Freudian frameworks but ultimately, and quite self-consciously, unable to get outside of them.

  1.  Collin Campbell (Memorial Univ. of Newfoundland)

Epistolary Atwood: Humour, the Open Letter, and Readerly Communities

This paper puts into conversation Margaret Atwood’s experiments in epistolary narrative and poetry, primarily Alias Grace (1996) and The Journals of Susanna Moodie (1970), with her letter writing in nonfiction genres, including her “Letter to America” and a select few other published open letters. Although this panel seeks to address humour and critique in Atwood’s fiction and poetry, this paper contends that her nonfiction letters operate through critical structures, like historical communities, time, place, etc., that correspond to her epistolary fiction and poetry. That is to say, Atwood’s prolific nonfiction writing deserves the same critical attention as her fiction and poetry, since it is in many ways as “literary” as the latter two. Atwood’s fiction and poetry has received some attention for its epistolary experiments. For instance, Kym Brindle provides a substantive reading of the documents in Alias Grace, arguing that they serve as a postmodern critique of historical epistemologies and the dichotomy between public and private identities. However, by examining Atwood’s nonfiction letters, particularly their moments of humour, play, and satire, new ways of reading the genre of the letter reveal themselves. A substantive analysis of Atwood’s prolific nonfiction letters has not yet been done. The genre of the “open letter” itself, which is simultaneously dialogic and overheard, reconfigures the concept of a literary community: this paper argues that humour and satire in her letters collapses geographic distance by way of the letters’ careful management of social boundaries, which are sometimes thwarted and sometimes reinforced. Ultimately, the letters forge a critical intimacy, a way of reading that calls us into community, the analysis of which has vital implications for our reading of her fiction and poetry as well.


We had an official MAS panel at the Modern Language Association Convention in Austin, January 2016.

Sunday, 10 January, 2016. MLA: Austin, TX

797. Bouncing on the Stone Mattress: Atwood’s Short Fiction

12:00 noon–1:15 p.m.

Presiding: Eleonora Rao, Univ. of Salerno

1. “Sweet Are the Uses of Revenge; or, The Revenger’s Comedy in Stone Mattress,” Shuli Barzilai, Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem

Abstract: A famous musical theme song tells us that money (not love) makes the world go round. But in many of the tales Margaret Atwood spins in Stone Mattress, as elsewhere in her writings, it is neither love nor money that makes the fictional world turn merrily around. Rather, the prime interest and profit for the main protagonists – and, confessionally speaking, for Atwood’s incorrigible readers such as myself – derives from a sweet, satisfactorily accomplished revenge. The old law and spirit of talion, of tit for tat, of tooth-for-tooth presides over these stories. Even when Atwood’s injured ones seem to turn the other cheek, bow their heads, and submit to the unkind strokes of other folks, they are biding time, waiting for an opening, an opportunity not merely to equal but better the score. Upping the ante is often the name of their game.

Take the case of Atwood’s Lady Bluebeard, Verna, in the collection’s title story. Every well-heeled husband whose death she kindly and efficiently precipitates – and each “departed not only happy but grateful, if a little sooner than might have been expected” – is a surrogate for “golden-boy Bob,” the rich Mr. Heartthrob and Senior Football Star, who brutally raped, impregnated, and discarded her in high school. Bob gets his comeuppance decades later, on an Arctic cruise, when Verna achieves a neat and ruthlessly appropriate revenge, apparently getting away with murder. Likewise, in other stories a protagonist settles old scores in inventively devious and sometimes comedic ways. Not always is murder required for revenge. A sharp pen and well-wrought story-within-the-story, such as the “International Horror Classic” titled The Dead Hand Loves You, written by Jack Dace to stick it to his college housemates, will do a surprising trick or two, leading many years later to a promise of romance or, at least, a bouquet of red roses. A trick or two is comparably turned by a “mystery-mix” dog like Charis’s Ouida, in whose body the defunct Zenia possibly reincarnates herself on the occasion when, gallantly leaping out of a bedroom closet, this shaggy defender-avenger sinks its teeth into Billy’s tumescent, treacherous member because Zenia (aka Ouida) knows that Billy slit the throat of Charis’s cherished chickens long ago. Although this is revenge achieved via proxy, a bloody but still clear case of what Freudians call displacement downward, it provides no less satisfactory closure, especially since by the story’s end Charis has achieved clarity about scheming Billy and the promise of benevolent companionship: “a jovial retired plumber” with whom Oudia shamelessly flirts. In story after story, as I propose to show, revenge moves events along and leads to well-deserved consequences for some, while sweet retaliation is allotted others, former victims now turned victors. They laugh best, Atwood’s fictions gleefully and, or grimly remind us, who laugh last.

2. “Through the Fun House Looking Glass: The Fantastic Mirror in Stone Mattress,” Allan B. Weiss, York Univ.

Abstract: As scholars have often said, and as Margaret Atwood herself asserts in In Other Worlds (55-65), fantasy and science fiction are modern embodiments of myth, reflecting the world about us and our deepest questions concerning our place in it. Atwood’s definition of “speculative fiction,” while controversial, reveals her view of the genre in which she writes: she says that her fantastic fiction is not an escape from the real world but an extrapolation from it, thus highlighting its relationship to that world (“Handmaid’s Talepassim). Fantastic literature, no matter what its setting, holds up a mirror to the here and now by portraying the there and then.

In Stone Mattress, Atwood uses the tropes of science fiction and fantasy to reflect and reflect on social and philosophical questions. She insists on calling the texts “tales” rather than “stories,” using the distinction Nathaniel Hawthorne made to differentiate his moral fables, with their fantastic or grotesque elements, from more realistic narrative fiction. Atwood’s collection begins with what I call a “mini-cycle”: three related short stories (or tales) in a collection of otherwise unconnected texts. The mini-cycle—“Alphinland,” “Revenant,” and “Dark Lady”—invokes the conventions and characters of fantasy to explore romantic love, jealousy, and the effects of time on human relationships. At the end of the collection, “Torching the Dusties” fits snugly into the category of dystopian fiction, extending current social trends into a near-future scenario in which the youth arise to punish and rid the world of the oldest generation.

Mirrors and mirroring play a role at both the symbolic and structural level in these stories. First, there are references to mirrors in scenes in which characters confront their deeper selves or less pleasant attributes, such as the magnifying bathroom mirror on p. 2. Second, mini-cycles are linked by common characters and motifs, and the three stories in Atwood’s mini-cycle mirror each other in various ways, most notably their treatment of the theme of art and the role of the imagination. Third, these stories—despite the portrayal of apparently “real” ghosts and presently non-existent political movements—hold up a mirror to our society and psychology. While offering an alternative reality, these tales mirror each other and ourselves.

3. “Dreams, Nightmares, Myths, Stories: Margaret Atwood’s ‘Re-visions’ in Stone Mattress,” Mary Green, Ryerson Univ.

Abstract: In Margaret Atwood’s novels, her female characters struggle with identity issues and their world. To use her own term, Atwood’s characters are “spiritual survivors” as they analyse, assess, metamorphose, and/or vanquish opposing forces, be they traumatic childhoods, domineering or ‘absent’ mothers, abusive men, fairy tale ‘evil’ women, patriarchal society, political turmoil, even dystopian worlds. Although Atwood’s protagonists, her “spiritual survivors” generally overcome obstacles and cease to be victimized by the end of her novels, endings are often indeterminate and all questions and issues are not always resolved or neatly concluded.

It is perhaps this very indeterminacy that allows for a glimpse into often reflective but at times carnivalistic mirror images of stories, what we witness in her new collection of short stories titled Stone Mattress. Drawing on Linda Hutcheon and blurring the boundaries of past and present, Atwood’s metafictions challenge the notion of narrators telling their story, reconstructing and “re-visioning,” to use Adrienne Rich’s term, reality/art, as Joan Foster does in Lady Oracle and Constance does in “Alphinland.” As Atwood noted in Negotiating with the Dead, “The act of writing takes place at the moment when Alice passes through the mirror. At one instant, the glass barrier between the doubles dissolves, and Alice is neither here nor there, neither art nor life, neither the one thing nor the other, though at the same time she is all of these at once” (57). Ultimately, Joan Foster enters her fantasy world rejecting oppressive men and synthesizing her identity, thus vanquishing escapism. In contrast, Constance’s fantasy world “Alphinland” draws her in to protect her husband Ewan, who faces danger, is “runeless” and may become lost in fantasy, a reflection perhaps of her own fantastical mental state.


The Political Atwood

Presiding: Karma Waltonen, Univ. of California, Davis

  1. “Species Thinking, Ecology, and Biopolitics in Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy,” Christopher Walker, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara
  2. “Renegotiating the Social Contract: Governance in the MaddAddam Trilogy,” Lauren Rule Maxwell, The Citadel
  3. “Debt and Profit: Taking Atwood beyond Payback,” Theodore F. Sheckels, Randolph-Macon Coll.
  4. “Margaret Atwood’s Postapocalyptic Trilogy and the Malthusian Moment,” Carl Gutierrez-Jones, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara


Margaret Atwood’s Recent Work

There were two Atwood panels at the 2013 Modern Language Association Convention, Boston, January, 2013

1. Margaret Atwood: Religion, Ethics, and Debt

2. In Other Worlds: Atwood and Lessing’s Speculative Fiction

Program arranged as a collaboration between the Doris Lessing Society and the Margaret Atwood Society.


Margaret Atwood and the Apocalypse

Program arranged by the Margaret Atwood Society

Presiding: Tomoko Kuribayashi

  • Karma Waltonen (UC Davis): “‘it was zero hour, you said Be Brave’: Tracing Atwood’s Apocalypses”
  • Lauren Rule Maxwell (Citadel):  “‘Apocalypse coiled in my tongue’: Apocalyptic Vision in Margaret Atwood’s Poetry”
  • Kathryn VanSpanckeren (U of Tampa): “Atwood’s ‘Last Man’ Novels: Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood”
  • Debrah Raschke:  (Missouri State U): “‘The Post-Modern Condition’ as Apocalypse in Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood”

ACCUTE 2011 — New Brunswick

University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University, May 28-May 31

Organizer/Chair: Karen MacFarlane (Mount St Vincent University)

ACCUTE Joint Session with the Margaret Atwood Society

Margaret Atwood and the Body

  • Jess Huber (Memorial): “’Having a Body is Not Altogether Serious’: Limitless Corporeality in Margaret Atwood’s Short Fiction.
  • Lynda Hall (Calgary): “Margaret Atwood’s model prisoner: Embodied Performances of Oryx and Grace Evoke ‘pure bliss, pure terror.’”
  • Helene Staveley (Memorial) “Margaret Atwood’s Blind Assassin and Alias Grace: Power and the Writing Body.”


Ecocritical Perspectives on Margaret Atwood’s Recent Fiction

8 January 2010, 10:15–11:30 a.m., Platinum Salon B, J. W. Marriott

Program arranged by the Margaret Atwood Society

Presiding: Tomoko Kuribayashi

  • Lauren J. Lacey,“Oryx and Crake as Ecofeminist Fiction”
  • Lynda Hall, “‘O Honey. You’re My Only Hope. Don’t Let Me Down’: Oryx and Nature in Jimmy’s Extinctathon Game of Life”
  • Amanda Thibodeau,“Feminist Political Ecology and Reading The Year of the Flood
  • Danette DiMarco, “‘The Echoing Green’: Blakean Form in Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood

Narrating Past, Present, and Future: Doris Lessing and Margaret Atwood

10:15–11:30 a.m., Platinum Salon I, J. W. Marriott

Program arranged by the Doris Lessing Society and the Margaret Atwood Society

Presiding: Tonya M. Krouse

  • Earl G. Ingersoll, “Engendering Utopia and Dystopia: Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake, Lessing’s The Marriages between Zones Three, Four, and Five
  • Lynda A. Hall, “The Puppets Jerk to Their Invisible Strings: Performances of Oryx and Emily in Memoirs of a Survivor and Oryx and Crake
  • Virginia Tiger, “Fables for Tomorrow from Today in the Speculative Fables of Doris Lessing and Margaret Atwood”

Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture since 1900
February 2010

Margaret Atwood Society Panel

Chairs: Susanna Hoeness-Krupsaw and Drew Shannon Patrick

  • Hannele Kivinen, “Looking forward by Moving Backwards: Revisionary Psychoanalysis in Selected Poems by Margaret Atwood”
  • Dibakar Pal, “Of Pride and Vanity”
  • Debrah Raschke, “Canadian Landscape Painting and Atwood’s  ‘Death by Landscape'”
  • Françoise Couturier-Storey and Jeff Storey “Spirituality, Voice, and the ‘Language of the Marshes’ in Margaret Atwood’s World of Fiction”


Margaret Atwood’s Most Recent Work

Politics and Economics in Works by Margaret Atwood

Chair: Tomoko Kuribayashi

  • Theodore F. Sheckels, “The Difficult Quest for Integrative Power in Atwood’s Fiction”
  • Earl G. Ingersoll, “Hard Times in the Chase Family: Politics and Economics in Atwood’s The Blind Assassin
  • Fiona Tolan,  “‘Alone on a wide, wide sea’: Atwood’s Liberal Vision in Oryx and Crake
  • Sarah Appleton, “Corp(Se)ocracy: The Body as Commodity in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood

Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture since 1900
February 2009

Margaret Atwood Society Panel
Chair: Tomoko Kuribayashi

  • Carol Osborne, “Saving Graces: Narrative Designs in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake
  • Nancy Peled, “Wicked Woman Writing: Narrator as Witch in Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin


The Door and Other Atwoodian Spaces
Organizers: Deborah Rosenthal and Tomoko Kuribayashi

  • Ted Sheckels, “Spaces of Retreat: Temporary Respites in Atwood’s Threatening World”
  • Earl Ingersoll, “Doors and Other Spaces in Atwood”
  • Lynda Hall, “‘Born with mortality’s hook in us’: Atwood’s The Door on the Thresholds of Life”
  • Paul Huebener, “Dark Stories: Poet-Audience Relations and the Journey Underground in The Door

Modern Myths and Popular Culture in Atwood’s Works
Organizers: Karma Waltonen and Denise Du Vernay

  • Jenni G. Halpin, “Distressed Distribution in ‘Encounters with the Element Man’”
  • Lorraine York, “’I’ve Broken the Sound Barrier’: Margaret Atwood’s Literary Celebrity and Popular Culture”
  • Sharon R. Wilson, “Magical Realism in Atwood’s The Blind Assassin
  • Eric Aronoff, “’We’re Hard-Wired for Dreams’: Mythology, Biology, and the Human in Atwood’s Oryx and Crake


Atwood’s Recent Shorter Fiction
Organizers:  Sharon Wilson and Lisa Weckerle

Presiding: Lisa Weckerle

  • Kiley Kapuscinski, “Writing the Wrong: Ethical Responses to Female Violence in the Mythic Minifiction of Margaret Atwood”
  • Camille Harris, “‘Who Are We Now?’: Societal Constructions in Margaret Atwood’s The Tent
  • Karma Waltonen, “‘Your Tent Is Made of Paper’: Self-Reflexive Writing in The Tent
  • Alice Rachel Ridout, “The Relation between Time and Space in Margaret Atwood’s Moral Disorder

Atwood as a Poet
Organizers: Karma Waltonen and Debby Rosenthal

  • Marilyn J. Rose, “Tender (Though Far from Toothless): Margaret Atwood on Love”
  • Tomoko Kuribayashi, “‘Consider the Body’: Remaking the Myth of Female Sexuality in Margaret Atwood’s Recent Poems”
  • H. Louise Davis, “Atwood, Ambiguous, and Accusatory: Circe/Mud Poems and ‘The Bog Man’ as Models for Ecofeminist Fiction”

Modern Language Association Convention
December 2006

Myth and Intertextuality in the Works of Margaret Atwood

Presiding: Deborah Rosenthal and Lisa Weckerle

  • Sharon R. Wilson, “The Crone Creator Goddess in Atwood’s The Penelopiad
  • Earl G. Ingersoll, “Myth in Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad
  • Hilde Staels, “The Penelopiad: Atwood’s Parodic and Burlesque Transformation of the Penelope Myth”
  • Lauren J. Lacey, “Unmaking Myth in The Penelopiad
  • Tomoko Kuribayashi, “Margaret Atwood’s Myth Remaking in Recent Poems and The Penelopiad

Performing Atwood

Presiding: Jennifer M. Hoofard and Tomoko Kuribayashi

  • Deborah Phelps,  “Misconceiving Atwood: The Edible Woman in Performance”
  • Lisa Weckerle, “Multiple Identities: A One-Woman Show of the Writing of Margaret Atwood”
  • Gilya Hodos and Eileen Strempel “(In)Habitation: Settings of Margaret Atwood Poems by Women Composers”

Twentieth-Century Literature Conference
February 2006

Margaret Atwood Society Panel
Organizer: Cynthia Kuhn
Presiding: Debrah Raschke

  • Elizabeth J. Fleitz, “Troubling Gender:  Rethinking the Disordered Body in Atwood’s The Edible Woman
  • Cathia Jenainati, “Narratives of Aging and Melancholia: Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel and Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin
  • Debrah Raschke, “’Shock and Awe’: Machiavellian Politics in Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride

Modern Language Association Convention
December 2005

Teaching Margaret Atwood’s Works
Presiding: Jennifer M. Hoofard

  • Shuli Barzilai, “Atwood in the Classroom: Looking Back, Looking Forward”
  • Tomoko Kuribayashi, “Teaching Margaret Atwood’s Poems Along with Sylvia Plath’s”
  • Marie I. Lovrod, “Teaching Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale in the Context of Transnational Feminisms”
  • Lynne Bruckner, “Surfacing in the Ecofeminist Classroom”

Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake
Presiding: Dunja M. Mohr

  • Karma Waltonen, “Beyond Didacticism: The Relations between the Personal and the Political in Oryx and Crake
  • Deborah Rosenthal,  “’Here and Not Here’: Fragmentation in the Absence and Presence of Maternal and Romantic Bonding in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake
  • Alice Rachel Ridout, “Tragic Triangles: Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and The Blind Assassin
  • Tara Johnson, “Locating Sources of Knowledge and Truth in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake

Twentieth-Century Literature Conference
February 2005

Margaret Atwood Society Panel
Organizers: Karen Macfarlane and Cynthia Kuhn
Presiding: Sally A. Jacobsen

  • Karma Waltonen, “Transgressing Through Humor in Oryx and Crake.”
  • Ian Williams, “Or What: Voicing Irony in Morning in the Burned House.”
  • Sue Sorensen, “‘Death by Landscape’: Atwood’s Revision of Wordsworth’s Lucy Poems.
  • Sally A. Jacobsen, “Fishy Food, Global Business and Atwood’s Postmodern High Jinks in Oryx and Crake.”

Modern Language Association Convention
December 2004

Margaret Atwood’s Dystopian Visions
Presiding: Joy Arbor

Sharon R. Wilson, “Dr. Frankenstein in Oryx and Crake

  • Debrah Raschke,  “The Temptation to Apocalypse in Atwood’s The Robber Bride
  • Dunja M. Mohr, “‘The Rag Ends of Language’: The Poetic Discourse of Survival in Atwood’s Future Visions”
  • Deborah Phelps, “Apocalyptic Canada: The Nationalist Lessons of Susanna Moodie.

Margaret Atwood and the Craft of Narrativity

Presiding: Lynda Hall

  • Sally A. Jacobsen, “The Blind Assassin: Negotiating with the Canadian Postmodern.”
  • Earl G. Ingersoll, “Margaret Atwood as Narrative Innovator: The Handmaid’s Tale.”
  • Theodore F. Sheckels, “Critic as Storyteller: Margaret Atwood’s Use of Narrative in Survival and Second Words.”
  • Radmila Nastic, “Narrating Alterity in Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing.”

Twentieth-Century Literature Conference
February 2004

Sleight-of-Hand: Transgressive Strategies in Margaret Atwood’s Fiction
Presiding: Shuli Barzilai

  • Sally Jacobsen, “Negotiating with the Dead in The Blind Assassin
  • Susan Hoeness-Krupsaw,  “Snowman goes Windigo: Ironic Reversals in Oryx and Crake
  • Shuli Barzilai, “Gothic Fractures in Lady Oracle

Modern Language Association Convention
December 2003

Margaret Atwood and the Environment
Presiding: Charlotte Templin and Karen Macfarlane

  • Holly Blackford, “The Ecological Movement of the Female Body in Surfacing
  • Susan Fisher,  “‘The Faces of Animals’: Margaret Atwood and the Animal Story”
  • Patricia Merivale, “Oryx and Crake: The Unhinging of the Ecological Imagination”

Margaret Atwood’s Multiple Bodies
Presiding: Phyllis Perrakis and Joy Arbor

  • Sally Chivers and Nicole Markotic, “Margaret Atwood’s Problem Bodies”
  • Jennifer Hoofard, “‘It Is Her Body, Silent / and Fingerless, Writing This Poem’: Margaret Atwood’s “Notes toward a Poem That Can Never Be Written”
  • Laura Wright, “National Photographic: Embodying the Animal in Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing
  • Steven Bruhm, “Lepers Leaping, Ladies Dancing: Aesthetics and Kinesthetics in Margaret Atwood”