Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in English and Writing Studies



First Reader/Committee Chair

Robert Kyriakos Smith


Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, The Handmaid's Tale, and her 2019 sequel, The Testaments, illuminate the author’s continued interest in the connection between a woman’s age and the notion of her usefulness and complicity within a hegemonically masculine society. Focusing on literary gerontology and the author’s late style, this essay highlights Atwood’s persistent rejection of patriarchal representations of older women in literature. I analyze the ways in which Atwood’s “ustopian” (Atwood’s literary genre invention, combining “dystopia” and “utopia”) novels develop older women characters beyond “old age as motif and metaphor” by removing age and gender as significant barriers to their primary purpose (Wallace 391). I explore Anne M. Wyatt-Brown’s discussion of literary gerontology as an interdisciplinary development and expand upon Kathleen Woodward’s notion of late style by observing Atwood’s age as it impacts her creativity as a writer. Moreover, I examine Atwood’s overlapping concerns about power and subjectivity in old age and how the sociocultural constructs of age often deter feminist writers away from engaging with the perspectives of older women in their creative processes. While this essay extends conversations interested in perceptions of societal ageism embedded in feminist literature and theory, my analysis is more invested in uncovering how literary gerontology and the author’s late style contribute to our understanding of Margaret Atwood’s portrayal of older women in her speculative works.