Fall 2019 - ENGL 486W D100

Topics in Gender, Sexuality and Literature (4)

The Handmaid's Tale in 21st Century

Class Number: 7715

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 3 – Dec 2, 2019: Mon, Wed, 12:30–2:20 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Ronda Arab
    Office Hours: M: 2:30-3:30pm Th: 10:00am-11:00am
  • Prerequisites:

    One 300 division English course. Reserved for English honours, major, joint major and minor students.



The study of selected literary works as they intersect with and are shaped by issues of gender and sexuality. May be organized by theme, critical approach, historical period, or individual author. This course may be repeated for credit if a different topic is taught. Students who obtained credit for ENGL 486W prior to Summer 2015 may not take this course for further credit. Students who obtained credit for ENGL 486 may not take this course for further credit. Writing.


The Handmaid’s Tale in the Twenty-First Century

Trigger Warning:
The mandatory reading and viewing for this class deals with extremely difficult material, including misogyny, abortion, sexual assault, and other forms of physical violence. Since this material is mandatory, this class may not be appropriate for everyone.

In Engl 486W, we will study Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) and seasons 1-3 of the recent TV series. Our purpose will be to consider both the politics and the aesthetics of adapting Atwood’s dystopic novel, written over 30 years ago, in our current era, during which, some would argue, Atwood’s vision has proven to be prophetic. Atwood’s novel and its TV adaptation are set in a future during which the US has been transformed into a totalitarian Christian fundamentalist theocracy, in a world in which environmental devastation has caused the birth rate to plummet. Women and men must live within rigidly prescribed social identities, and all aspects of women’s lives  are controlled; women are forbidden from reading, holding jobs, or owning property. The Handmaid’s Tale is told from the perspective of Offred, a handmaid whose prescribed social role is to become pregnant and provide her commander and his wife with a child.


  • analytical response paper to a portion of the novel (400-600 words) 10%
  • 2 analytical episode summaries of the TV series (400-600 words each) 20%
  • critical article presentation (1500-1800 words) 20%
  • final seminar paper (10-12 pages) 40%
  • seminar attendance & participation 10%



Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale.  Emblem Edition. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2011.
ISBN-13: 978-0771008795 

Reliable, high quality access to Seasons 1-3 of the Hulu production, The Handmaid’s Tale (Ex. Producer, Bruce Miller, 2017-19). All episodes are available on Crave.com.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

IMPORTANT NOTE Re 300 and 400 level courses: 75% of spaces in 300 level English courses, and 100% of spaces in 400 level English courses, are reserved for declared English Major, Minor, Extended Minor, Joint Major, and Honours students only, until open enrollment begins.

For all On-Campus Courses, please note the following:
- To receive credit for the course, students must complete all requirements.
- Tutorials/Seminars WILL be held the first week of classes.
- When choosing your schedule, remember to check "Show lab/tutorial sections" to see all Lecture/Seminar/Tutorial times required.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html