- Term Papers and Free Essays

Michel Foucaults Influence on the Handmaids Tale

Essay by   •  September 4, 2017  •  Study Guide  •  410 Words (2 Pages)  •  1,399 Views

Essay Preview: Michel Foucaults Influence on the Handmaids Tale

Report this essay
Page 1 of 2

The Thinking of Michel Foucault about Gender, Society and the Body

Who was Foucault?

  • Foucault has influenced several critical theorists, whom believe that his analysis of power structures may be able to aid the ongoing struggle against inequality
  • French Philosopher, historian of ideas, social theorist, philologist and literary critic, 1926-1984.
  • His theories were mainly relating to the relationship between power and knowledge, and how societal institutions use them as a form of social control – this theme is clearly prominent within The Handmaid’s Tale.
  • Foucault referred to his way of thinking as a critical history of modernity – this is a possible interpretation of the moral message of The Handmaid’s Tale.
  • He has been recognized for his influence of both academic and activist groups, for instance as within post-anarchism

Foucault’s Thoughts on Gender:

  • Foucault only makes few references to women or to the issue of gender in his writing – Atwood’s novel is arguably based on this matter.
  • Foucault’s theory that sexuality and the body are merely cultural constructs rather than natural phenomena has made a noticeable contribution to the feminist critique of essentialism – women in The Handmaid’s Tale are often treated as objects with one sole purpose.
  • While feminists have found Foucault’s analysis of the relations between power and the body eye-opening, some have also drawn attention to its limitations; in the point of view of feminist politics that aims to promote women’s autonomy, the Foucauldian account of power to reduce social agents to bodies seems problematic.
  • Others have argued that in his late work he develops a more robust account of subjectivity and resistance which, while not without its problems from a feminist perspective, nevertheless has a lot to offer a feminist politics.

Foucault’s Thoughts on Society:

  • Foucault has been seen rejecting the idea of universal morality; he argued against the possibility of any fixed human nature – this idea can be seen expressed within the novel, for we see the inhumane treatment of other fellow human beings, particularly women.
  • He spoke much about the relationship between power and knowledge, claiming that social control is achieved by societal institutions through their use – this idea is overtly illustrated within The Handmaid’s Tale.

Foucault’s Thoughts on the Body:

  • Foucault's viewpoint of the body as the principal target of power has been used by feminists to analyze contemporary forms of social control over women's bodies and minds – this is therefore perhaps an inspiration of Atwood for her novel.



Download as:   txt (2.6 Kb)   pdf (55 Kb)   docx (9.5 Kb)  
Continue for 1 more page »
Only available on
Citation Generator

(2017, 09). Michel Foucaults Influence on the Handmaids Tale. Retrieved 09, 2017, from

"Michel Foucaults Influence on the Handmaids Tale" 09 2017. 2017. 09 2017 <>.

"Michel Foucaults Influence on the Handmaids Tale.", 09 2017. Web. 09 2017. <>.

"Michel Foucaults Influence on the Handmaids Tale." 09, 2017. Accessed 09, 2017.