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College’s Departments Come Together to Host Handmaid’s Tale Event

College’s Departments Come Together to Host Handmaid’s Tale Event

For months, The Handmaid's Tale has been part of the average American's daily conversations due to recent political and social movements, and the recently popularized Hulu original adaptation of the 1985 novel. At ISU, two professors integrated the novel into their respective courses and together put on an event for the community.

Kellee Kirkpatrick, professor in the Department of Political Science, used The Handmaid's Tale in her Women in Politics course. Amanda Zink, professor in the Department of English and Philosophy, taught the novel in her Gender in Literature course. Through casual conversation, the professors learned both were implementing the novel in their fall semester classes, and began planning a student-led event that would inform and engage the public.

"Though we taught the novel separately, we both saw the opportunity to develop an inspiring and educational experience for our students," said Kirkpatrick. "So after teaching and discussing independently, we brought our classes together and co-taught The Handmaid's Tale."

Combining a political science and a literature class created the opportunity for students to broaden their understanding of the novel and its political and literary implications.

"It was interesting for my class to evaluate the novel in a new perspective," Zink said. "Both classes read the same novel, but picked up on different themes. My students appreciated the historical contextualization offered by the political science class."

Together, the professors and their students developed the idea for a community event that would integrate in-class discussions, commentary from panelists and a screening of the first episode of The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu. The students broke down into committees, planned the event, gathered donations and advertised the event.

"Our students were so proud of and excited for the event," Zink said. "It really helped them take ownership of their educations."

The community event included an information table for attendees to learn more about the novel and the points of discussion the students had learned during the semester. Copies of The Handmaid's Tale were also available for purchase. The event drew students, university faculty and staff, League of Women Voters and area high school teachers interested in including the novel in their own curriculum.

"It was fun to have a student-led event," Kirkpatrick said. "We had impressive word-of-mouth turnout thanks to our students, and many of them brought friends. It was also nice to have the support of many of our colleagues."

The night began with a presentation on the literary approach to The Handmaid's Tale by Zink, followed by a presentation on the politics of the novel by Kirkpatrick. After, there was a screening of the first episode of the Hulu original series of The Handmaid's Tale, an adaptation of the novel.

The event featured a panel made up of both students and faculty members who answered questions and led a discussion after the screening. Faculty panelists included Tera J. Cole and Alan Johnson from the Department of English and Philosophy, Kirkpatrick and Zink. Student panelists included Thomas Attebery, Chris R. Brown and Holly Kartchner from the Department of Political Science, and Reagan Gochnour and Tyler Haack from the Department of English and Philosophy.

After the panelist commentary, students facilitated an open discussion with audience members.

"Our students did an excellent job fielding questions," Kirkpatrick said. " They were so excited to share and discuss what they learned in classes."

Students from both classes hoped their efforts helped the community gain a better understanding not only of the political- and gender-related themes of The Handmaid’s Tale, but the application of those themes in the real world. For Kirkpatrick and Zink, the event broadened their interpretations of the novel and its themes.

“Collaborative teaching can be daunting, but it ended up being such an enriching experience for both of us,” Zink said. “It helped us develop as teachers and researchers.”


Written by Katie Damron, College of Arts & Letters intern


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