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Volume 19, Number 1 (1994)

Moving Beyond "The Blank White Spaces": Atwood's Gilead, Postmodernism, and Strategic Resistance

  • Marta Caminero-Santangelo
May 22, 2008


Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale represents a postmodern feminist sensibility in its conceptualizing of resistance to a dominant order and of the constraints upon such resistance. Postmodernism looks for ways to resist oppressive ideologies from within. Postmodern feminist studies argue for a notion of the subject as both constituted by the discourses into which it is inserted (including sexuality and gender) as well as "class, race, ethnicity, sexual preference, education, social role and so on" (Linda Hutcheon) and as constitutive of meaning by its location at the intersections of such discourses. A recognition of complicity with mass culture, along with an understanding that only within this area can effective resistance be waged, marks The Handmaid's Tale as what Andreas Hayssen might call a resistant postmodern novel. The novel suggests that the spaces for resistance are located within the discourses of the symbolic order (including technologically produced and disseminated discourse) rather than in opposition to them.