Margaret Atwood and Sexual Assault


Margaret Atwood is routinely described as a feminist writer, whose novel The Handmaid’s Tale is a feminist dystopian classic. Her sequel The Testaments, appeared in 2019 to a rapturous reception as another feminist text. But from the fall of 2016 until 2018, Atwood was at the centre of a controversy in Canada that presented a much more complex picture of her as a feminist, particularly with regards to her view of sexual assault. This essay examines Atwood’s interviews, social media posts, essays and fiction to examine what her understanding and portrayal of sexual assault involves, and what kind of feminist she might be. The goal is to see whether or not representations of sexual assault in Atwood’s fiction can be understood as feminist in their portrayals of consent, of testimony and even how sexual assault itself is defined.

This article “Margaret Atwood and Sexual Assault” originally appeared in Canadian Literature 250 (2022): 79-111.

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