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Virginia Woolf and the Common(wealth) Reader$
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Helen Wussow and Mary Ann Gillies

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780989082679

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9780989082679.001.0001

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Documenting Fascism in Three Guineas and The Handmaid’s Tale

Documenting Fascism in Three Guineas and The Handmaid’s Tale

An Examination of Woolf’s Textual Notes and Scrapbooks and Atwood’s “Historical Notes”

(p.183) Documenting Fascism in Three Guineas and The Handmaid’s Tale
Virginia Woolf and the Common(wealth) Reader

Vara Neverow

Liverpool University Press

This chapter presents a reading of Virginia Woolf's 1938 essay, Three Guineas and Margaret Atwood's 1985 dystopian speculative novel, The Handmaid's Tale. These visionary works engage explicitly with the virulently sexist agenda of fascism and address the systemic oppression and exploitation of women under totalitarian rule. Both authors focus on the sex-based fascistic partitioning that divides the private from the public sphere and relegates women to the domestic sector; both investigate how female reproductive functions are exploited and used to prop up the specious patriarchal rationale for excluding women from positions of authority; both accentuate the specific sartorial conventions that demarcate women from men; both deliberately un-name key figures in the works; both emphasize the politics of a visual culture and both position their readers as witnesses to systemic crimes against women. In all these instances, the books function as inverse parallels or distorted mirror images of each other because each posits a different possible future.

Keywords:   Virginia Woolf, Margaret Atwood, fascism, oppression, exploitation, women

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