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MWCC Faculty to Discuss Sexuality and Gender at Winchendon’s Beals Library

An artistic rendering depicts the protagonist of the novel 1984 with neon lights and advertising in the background. Fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and 1984 will have an opportunity to explore the topics of sexuality and gender raised in those books during a discussion at the Beals Memorial Library in Winchendon on November 27 at 6:30 p.m.

“This is a chance to talk about some of the challenging issues of our time by using two classic novels to frame the discussion. They both saw a vision of the future that was terrifying and dystopian, but many believe we are getting closer to making this vision a reality. That is interesting to talk about,” said MWCC adjunct faculty member Shelley Errington Nicholson who will be co-facilitating the discussion with English Professor Michelle Valois.

The pair will explore the issues raised in these classic novels which have recently been revived in popular culture. The discussion is free and open to the public, although the topics covered are described as PG-13 and will not appropriate for all ages. The talk will begin with general similarities between the two books (totalitarian regimes, surveillance, lack of basic human rights, highly structured and hierarchical societies, and censorship) and then focus on the role of sexuality and gender in shaping these narratives. The discussion will explore relationships in the two books and how the governments used control of personal connections to control their citizens.

While based in the books, the discussion will expand beyond the books into current society. What are the implications of the current culture in the country when seen through the lenses of these novels? Does radical feminism create or cultivate aggressive masculinity?

“Come have a face-to-face conversation about things that have been appearing on your Facebook feed and in the media: men, women, sex, and power,” said Valois.

Sexuality and Gender in The Handmaid’s Tale and 1984 will take place at 6:30 p.m. at Beals Memorial Library in Winchendon. The lecture is part of the MWCC Humanities Project, which is funded by a Challenge Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. This year’s activities (which include lectures, film screenings, and a poetry reading) are built around George Orwell’s book 1984 and what relation the world of that book has to our current way of life. A full list of activities, and more information about the Humanities Project, is available at

The other lectures are:

Fake News: How to Spot It; What to Do About It? :: 6:30 PM at the Leominster Public Library

Lecture: Can the US Constitution Save us From 1984? :: 6:30 PM at the Athol Public Library