'The truth is we're watching each other': Voiceover narration as 'split-self' presentation in The Handmaid's Tale TV series

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Cognitive stylistics offers a renewed focus on readerly or audience interpretation, but while cognitive stylistic tools have been applied in the investigation of literary texts, their application to TV, film and screen has been more limited. This article examines the cognitive stylistic features of the voiceover narration in the first TV series adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale to explore the representation of June/Offred’s ‘split selves’ and how these are mediated through a prominent ‘filmic composition device’. Through analysis of voiceovers and corresponding production choices in series 1, this study explores, first, how the different modes of communication – both choices of visual production (such as shallow-focus shots) and linguistic features (such as ‘you’ address and container metaphors) – combine to show Offred’s split perspective; and second, how these stylistic elements work to foreground the key themes of the series, such as imprisonment, objectification and surveillance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-38
Number of pages17
JournalLanguage and Literature
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).


  • The Handmaid’s Tale
  • cognitive stylistics
  • container metaphors
  • split selves
  • telecinematic stylistics
  • voiceover narration


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