Where Does the Gileadverse Go?: Adaptation and Transmediality in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale


  • Nicolangelo Becce




transmedia storytelling, Margaret Atwood, Canadian literature, American TV series, adaptation studies


The ‘negative capability’ and openness of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) represents an ideal starting point for the building of a transmedia universe. Atwood explains that the expansion of a ‘Gileadverse’ started as a bottom-up process after fans eventually convinced the author to write the 2019 sequel The Testaments. Besides, an aggressive marketing campaign to promote the eponymous MGM-Hulu TV series represents a top-down effort to further expand the transmedia universe of Gilead, and Handmaids have become a worldwide popular source of inspiration for voicing political dissent. Both the TV series and The Testaments present a systematic expansion in terms of storyline and character development; as a result, the main character of Atwood’s novel has been transformed into an unstoppable heroine of the Gileadverse, and her legacy is finally capable of pushing the Gilead regime to its demise. The article analyzes how The Handmaid’s Tale has been adapted in recent years, focusing on the ways the storyline has been transformed and updated in relation to the different media employed. Special attention is given to the significance of the choice made by Atwood to embrace transmedia storytelling as a narrative model capable of supporting a continuous interaction between the Gileadverse and the real world of its audience.

Author Biography

Nicolangelo Becce

Nicolangelo Becce is Assistant Professor of American Literature at Roma Tre University. He is the author of Apparizioni spiritiche e fantasmi letterari. Il Modern Spiritualism e lo sviluppo della ghost story (2016) and of Positive Outcomes. A Corpus-Based Analysis of a Placement Interview System for EFL Students in Higher Education (2019). He also published essays on American literature, corpus linguistics, the CEFR, American TV series and graphic novels.


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