An Evening with Margaret Atwood
Literature to Explore Our Genetic Engineering Futures.
A CHASS Lightning Rod Event
Friday, November 15, 2019, 6:00-7:30 PM
State Ballroom, Talley Student Union, NC State
It is impossible to talk about dystopian literature without mentioning Margaret Atwood, who has been described as the most important living author of our time. A true literary legend with over 50 novels, including The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood’s writing has proved as timeless as it is prophetic. She has won numerous awards and honors including the Man Booker Prize, Arthur C. Clarke Award, Governor General’s Award, and the National Book Critics and PEN Center USA Lifetime Achievement Awards.
Atwood has always possessed the uncanny ability to predict the future of technologies and society and nowhere is that more apparent than in her book Oryx and Crake (2003): covering a host of issues including genetic manipulation, corporate domination, and global pandemics. In her talk, Ms. Atwood shared her thoughts on how she uses literature to explore our genetic engineering futures, challenging the audience to think critically and engage with the world around them from different angles.
Members of the NC State community have exclusive access to the videos of the keynote address and student discussion panel. Requires login with Unity ID.
See how Margaret Atwood spent her day at NC State prior to her keynote talk (video)
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Margaret Atwood and the Biotechnology of Tomorrow
November 18, 2019 | Elizabeth Beal, NC State News
On November 15, 2019, NC State hosted world-famous author Margaret Atwood for a daylong visit that included a group discussion with students and faculty, and a keynote speech: “An Evening with Margaret Atwood: Literature to Explore Our Genetic Engineering Futures,” a College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHASS) Lightning Rod event. Her visit was sponsored by the Genetic Engineering and Society Center (GES), in collaboration with the Friends of the Library at NC State and a groundbreaking new art exhibit at the Gregg Museum of Art and Design, Art’s Work in the Age of Biotechnology: Shaping Our Genetic Futures. Read more >
Margaret Atwood discusses her ‘prophetic’ novel, effects of new science developments on society
November 17, 2019 | Rachel Davis, Technician
The evening began at 6 p.m. with an exciting welcome from Jennifer Kuzma, co-director of the Genetic Engineering and Society Center. Kuzma said the mission of the Genetic Engineering and Society Center was to guide biotechnologies in responsible and sustainable ways. She stressed the importance of integrating social sciences, natural sciences, engineering and the humanities to tackle these issues and hold each other accountable for possible misuse of the new technologies. Read more >
From Reviews of Oryx and Crake:
“Atwood herself, from a family of scientists, is far from confused when it comes to biology. The bioengineered apocalypse she imagines is impeccably researched and sickeningly possible: a direct consequence of short-term science outstripping long-term responsibility. And just like the post-nuclear totalitarian vision of The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), this story is set in a society readers will recognise as only a few steps ahead of our own.”
Helen Brown, for The Daily Telegraph, 5/11/2003
“But a dystopian novel is not intended as a literal forecast, or even necessarily as a logical extension of our current world. It is simply, and not so simply, a bad dream of our present time, an exquisitely designed horror show in which things are changed from what we do know to a dream version of what we don’t… Besides, given what is known about fish-gene-enhanced tomatoes—or those genetically modified goats that produce spider silk—the biologically reengineered world of “Oryx and Crake” ceases to seem very far-fetched.”
From Bioperversity, by Lorrie Moore, for The New Yorker, 5/3/2003
Students enrolled in the following courses read Oryx and Crake and participated in an hour-long group discussion with Ms. Atwood on Friday, November 15, prior to the general event later that evening.
WGS 350 — Emerging Issues in Women’s and Gender Studies: Feminist Futures
Instructor: Patsy Sibley, M/W 11:45 AM – 1:00 PM, 3 credits
STS 403 — Capstone Seminar in Science, Technology & Society
Instructors: Matthew Booker and Julie Wesp, 2 sections – Wed 3:00 – 5:45 PM or T/TH 4:30 – 5:45 PM, 3 credits
ENG 588 — Fiction Writing Workshop
Instructor: Belle McQuaide Boggs, Thur 4:30 – 7:15 PM, 3 credits
GES 591 — Special Topics in Genetic Engineering and Society
Instructor: Zachary Brown, Tues 12:00 – 1:00 PM* (sec 002), 1 creditGo to Course Catalog
Hannah Star Rogers
Additional logistical support provided by the staff of:
Gregg Museum of Art and Design
NC State University Police
Talley Student Union
and Greenhouse Picker Sisters
Partners and Sponsors
An Evening with Margaret Atwood and its related events and activities were made possible by the generous support from and collaborative partnerships with the following:
A very special THANK YOU to our Friends of the GES Center donors
Caroline Hickman-Vaughn and Jane Hamborsky