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Creating the Future: Margaret Atwood & Mark Kingwell in Conversation

Photo of Margaret Atwood

September 24, 2020
7:30 pm – 9:00 pm

Virtual powered by EventStream

Register online now!

“Any novel is hopeful in that it presupposes a reader. It is, actually, a hopeful act just to write anything, really, because you’re assuming that someone will be around to read it.” – Margaret Atwood

“We don’t know what the future will bring, but that’s because we are ever in the process of creating it, not because it is an alien force to which we have to submit.” – Mark Kingwell

Margaret Atwood has been described as a ”buoyant doomsayer.” The author of The Handmaid’s Tale, however, describes herself as a realist: “Optimism means better than reality; pessimism means worse than reality. I’m a realist.” Join us for a lively discussion with one of Canada’s most respected authors, activists and thinkers.

Margaret Atwood

“Every totalitarian government on the planet has always taken a very great interest in women’s reproductive rights,” says Margaret Atwood; a disquieting insight at any time, but particularly in today’s portentous political landscape. Just as it did when it was published, the story of The Handmaid’s Tale—a future where women’s reproductive rights are governed by a conservative (and patriarchal) administration—is unearthing chilling patterns to an uneasy public.  Atwood’s newest novel and sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments, has performed so well, it broke the record for best first-day sales of any Penguin Random House title in 2019. Having initially gone to press on the novel for 500,000 copies, the publisher has gone back twice already for more copies of The Testaments—in just over a week.

And with her work already producing two blockbuster television adaptations—first The Handmaid’s Tale, then Alias Grace—Atwood’s vision is reaching a wider audience than ever before. The Handmaid’s Tale received 13 Emmy nominations and eight awards—including for Best Drama. Atwood herself received a standing ovation. Alias Grace, now streaming on Netflix, is based on Atwood’s Giller-winning, Booker-shortlisted murder mystery, and is notable for being written, produced, and directed by women.

Atwood is the winner of many international literary awards, including the prestigious Booker Prize, Arthur C. Clarke Award, Governor General’s Award, the PEN Pinter Prize, the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Book Critics Circle, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In October 2019, she was presented with the Companion of Honor award—given for achievements in the arts, literature, science and politics—by Queen Elizabeth, making Atwood only the third Canadian to receive the honor.

She is the author of more than fifty volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction; perhaps best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman, The Robber Bride, The Blind Assassin, Oryx and Crake, and The Year of the Flood. Her non-fiction book Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, part of the Massey Lecture series, was made into a documentary.  The Oryx and Crake trilogy is being adapted into an HBO TV series by celebrated filmmaker Darren Aronofsky. Her work has been published in more than 40 languages, including Farsi, Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, Korean, Icelandic and Estonian. She co-invented the LongPen, a remote signing device that allows someone to write in ink anywhere in the world via tablet PC and the internet. She is a founder of ther Writers’ Trust of Canada and a founding trustee of the Griffin Poetry Prize. She is also a popular personality on Twitter, with over two million followers.

Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master’s degree from Radcliffe College.

Mark Kingwell is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto and a contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine. He has lectured widely to academic and popular audiences throughout North America, Europe, Australia, and the Middle East. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and of the Royal Society of Arts (U.K.).

Since his first book, A Civil Tongue, won the 1995 Spitz Prize in political theory, he has authored or co-authored twenty books of political, cultural and aesthetic theory, including the national bestsellers Better Living (1998), The World We Want (2000), Concrete Reveries (2008), and Glenn Gould (2009), whose French translation won the Governor-General’s Award. In addition to many scholarly articles, his writing has appeared in more than 40 mainstream publications, among them Harper’s, the New York Times, the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, the Globe and Mail, the National Post, and the Toronto Star. His most recent books are the companion essay collections Unruly Voices (2012) and Measure Yourself Against the Earth (2015); Fail Better: Why Baseball Matters (2017); and Wish I Were Here: Boredom and the Interface (2019), which won the 2020 Erving Goffman Award for Scholarship in Media Ecology. His latest book, On Risk, will be published in October.

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