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The Handmaid's Tale as Dystopian Diagnostics: Reading Global Politics Through Popular Culture

Bachelor’s level
7.5 credits (ECTS)
Study pace
Mixed time
Location independent
Study form
Application period
Application code
Full education cost: 11 500 SEK
First payment: 11 500 SEK

No fees are charged for EU and EEA citizens, Swedish residence permit holders and exchange students.

More information about tuition fees

Application closed, late application opens 15 July 2024.


Are you interested in how dystopian fiction can be a fruitful prism through which to reflect on some of the most pressing issues that we face today? Have you watched or read the Handmaid’s Tale and longed for a forum in which to discuss how the story and its many lessons speak to and or about present-day political developments, such as changing gender relations, the rise of religious fundamentalism and totalitarianism, climate change, persistent racism and coloniality, the politics of immigration, political violence, and popular resistance?


Taking its point of departure in Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale (1986), its sequel, The Testaments (2019), as well as the TV series based on these books (Hulu), this course critically address key aspects of contemporary global politics. Can we see Atwood’s dystopian future as a harbinger of the future or even a reflection of the contemporary political landscape? 

Designed as distance (online) course in English running over 15 weeks, this course is aimed at attracting a wide range of students. Perhaps you are looking for an elective to round out your degree; perhaps you are a mature student who is interested in discussing their ideas in a structured forum; perhaps you want to practice your English. If you are looking for a fun course in which you can discuss pressing issues in a creative and engaging manner and are interested in critically reading/watching popular fiction/culture to reflect on contemporary politics and developments, then this course is for you!

The course is organized around short lectures which address one theme, such as those noted above. These lectures will offer you a brief overview of the key understandings, conceptual tools, and range of debates in the scholarly community regarding the theme in question. You will also participate in seminars as a complement to these lectures.

The course is examined through three activities:

1) participation in seminars,

2) active participation in a student-led seminar,

3) a final exam in which you will be expected to apply the scholarly literature to an analysis of how the course material speaks to a contemporary issue covered in the course.

You can choose to record a mini-lecture video as your final project, or, if you prefer, to write a take home essay. At the end of the course, you will have gained a range of applicable skills, stretched your brains, and – we hope—had a lot of fun!


The course will include both synchronous and asynchronous modules. Lectures will be on-line or hybrid. Some optional seminars will be offered IRL. Forms of teaching vary and include: Self-study; Lectures; Seminars at which the students will engage in ’flipped classroom’ activities.

Prerequisites and selection

Entry requirements

General entrance requirements


Selection is based upon average grade from upper secondary school (34 %), the number of credits from previous university studies, maximum 165 credits (33 %) and Högskoleprovet - Swedish Scholastic Aptitude Test (33 %).

After graduation

This course helps you hone your analytical skills and provides you with basic knowledge about key contemporary political and societal issues—skills that are valuable for both further study and in any work environment.