CFP: Margaret Atwood Society Panel (PAMLA, Las Vegas, November 12-15, 2020; Deadline: 17 May 2020)

“‘Prophet of Dystopia’: Margaret Atwood, Place, and Speculative Fiction”

Margaret Atwood Society Panel

PAMLA Conference (Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association)

Las Vegas, Nevada, November 12-15, 2020

Drawing inspiration from PAMLA’s 2020 conference theme “City of God, City of Destruction,” this 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. Please visit the Society’s website ( for information about becoming a member or membership renewal.

Paper proposals, brief abstracts, and bio statements must be submitted through PAMLA’s website by creating a user account at by no later than May 17, 2020.  Any questions about the panel may be directed to the chair Shelley Boyd (​​

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