When it comes to glass-shattering female authors, Margaret Atwood is one of the most famous. Atwood has written highly influential feminist books in literature, her most famous work undeniably being “The Handmaid’s Tale.” On April 28, Margaret Atwood will be here at Binghamton University in the Anderson Center for “An Evening with Margaret Atwood” to discuss her works.
Annette Burnett, director of the Anderson Center, is responsible for bringing Atwood to campus for the event. In an email, Burnett discussed what convinced her to book Atwood, the process of bringing Atwood to campus and what to expect at the event.
“I had just become director of the Anderson Center and was excited about broadening the scope of our traditional programming,” Burnett wrote in an email. “We hadn’t done any speaking arrangements, but it seemed like a great fit.”
Burnett booked Atwood in 2019 and planned to host her in spring 2020. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, theaters went dark and Atwood’s speaking engagement suddenly became impossible. Now, though, it seems that the rescheduling of the event may have been a blessing in disguise.
“[Atwood will] have no shortage of things to talk about — she’s published two books since the pandemic began,” Burnett wrote.
Both of these new books — “Burning Questions: Essays and Occasional Pieces” and “Dearly: New Poems” — will be available to purchase in the lobby area along with “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “The Testaments” from Barnes & Noble. The first 100 books sold will include a signed bookplate.
Despite the original setback in scheduling, Burnett is optimistic about Atwood’s upcoming event.
“Given her stature as, well, one of the world’s greatest living writers, I was very excited to bring her to [BU],” Burnett wrote. “I thought both students and the community would appreciate the opportunity to hear her speak.”
For many, Atwood is a source of inspiration. The Canadian author has been writing since 1961 when she published her first book of poetry, “Double Persephone.” In 1972, Atwood published two novels that helped solidify her as a rising voice in literature: “Surfacing” and “Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature.” In 1985, Atwood published her most famous book to date, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which is regarded by some as one of her best novels. The book explores themes of patriarchy, oppression and authoritarianism, and is currently taught in schools nationwide as required reading, despite getting targeted in recent revitalized book bannings in some districts.
For others, Atwood has been a somewhat controversial figure in recent years, from tweets to political open letters on the #MeToo movement. For example, Atwood has a complicated record on trans rights discourse. In 2021, Atwood shared a Toronto Star column titled “Why Can’t We Say ‘Women’ Anymore?” in which the author argues that there’s an “erasure of women” in today’s use of gender-neutral language. However, in more recent interviews, Atwood affirmed her support for trans rights and validity, shutting down a journalist for her “obsessive” and “gender-critical” questions. As for “The Handmaid’s Tale,” there have been multiple critiques that the novel promotes white feminism, ignoring the histories and lived realities of women of color.
The engagement will open with an introduction by the moderator, Susan Strehle, the University’s director of graduate studies in English. Then, there will be a Q&A period. Due to COVID-19 safety risks, audience members are asked to submit questions in advance for Atwood to answer.
The event will take place at 7:30 in the Anderson Center on April 28. Tickets can be purchased on the Anderson Center’s website for $64 to $84 for the public. There are a limited number of $10 student tickets available at the Anderson Center.