CCTE: Gender and Literature- Yellow Wallpaper

Mina S. L. Thompson, at Tarrant County College
“’Re-viewing Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s: ‘The Yellow Paper’ Beyond Feminism”

grad student and full-time teacher
BA Penn State, MA , working on PhD

This is a live blogging of the session.

Presented her PowerPoint with yellow wallpaper background ☺

artist in the 19th C
domestic arts movements in the late 1800s
sensationalism or “yellow” journalism
eugenics studies

Her place as an artist. A woman who is not allowed to write.
11 entries as diaries
“methodically examines and critiques the paper’s design and quality”
broad statements about women’s limitations

Husband demands narrative avoid writing.
Doesn’t get that artistic people need “constructive creative expression”

“But I must say what I feel and think in some way—it is such a relief!” (399)

yellow = sickness
racist concern over immigrants = Yellow Peril (Heilmann par. 4).
racist and anti-homosexual attitudes (para. 5).
Heilmann, Ann. “Overwriting Decadence: Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Oscar Wilde, and the Feminization of Art in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper.’” The Mixed Legacy of Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Newark: University of Delaware Press (2000) Short Story Criticism. Ed. Janet Witalec Vol. 62 Detroit: Gale, 2003. Literature Resource Center. Web.

domestic arts:
Narrator shows design awareness.
Despised the “smouldering unclean” wallpaper…
Also shows knowledge of design principles:
repetition (repeated by breadth, but no other way)

Gilman’s “Wallpaper” similar to Morris’s designs patterns:
with “chimeral effects” or primary and secondary patterns,
“repellent” and “revolting” color, a “smoldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight” (Gilman 395; Thomas 7).

Thomas, Heather Kirk. “[A] Kind of Debased Romanesque with Delirium Tremens’: Late-Victorian Wall Coverings and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper.’” The Mixed Legacy of Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Newark: University of Delaware Press (2000) Short Story Criticism. Ed. Janet Witalec. Vol. 62. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Literature Resource Center. Web.

protest of yellow journalism and implications:
Hated Ambrose Bierce. He wrote “personal attacks on women journalists.”
Problems with William Randolph Hearst dynasty because reporters “exploited her as an object of scandal in the gossip columns” (Edelstein 73).
Edelstein, Sari. “Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the Yellow Newspaper.” Legacy 24.1: 72-92. The Project Muse. Web.

“Wallpaper, regardless of its poor design, isn’t usually considered ‘sinful,'”
Newspapers at the time (and now) “revel in sex scandals, divorces, “excessive illustration” and overblown headlines (Edelstein 74).”
Sensational novels were called yellow because used yellowed paper which was cheap to produce. (Edelstein again)

“vocabulary of composing” to describe patterns:
“constantly irritate and provoke study” (Gilman 395)
“destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions” (395)
“follow that pointless pattern to some sort of a conclusion” (398).

rhetorical parallels: “looks to me as if it knew what a vicious influence it had!” (397)


femininity as eugenics:
Gilman was asuffragist.
white feminist progressive thinker
believed that women should make right choices (marriage, sex, birth) from (Seitler 67).
Also a blatant racist. Believed blacks needed to evolve to reach the same plane as whites (Seitler 68).
Seitler, Dana. “Unnatural Selection: Mothers, Eugenic Feminism, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Regeneration Narratives. American Quarterly 55.1 (2003): 61-88. The American Studies Association. The Project Muse. Web.

a narrative construct of white, middle-class motherhood modeling ideal social progress.

Audience response:
strict rationalism and his fear of imagination
Jane’s child imagination and her indulgence of it

We learn that she is significantly more ill than her husband ever understand. Husband disregards the illness is that he is not home.

covering up mental illness still too

Sharon Klander– The house is an old asylum, which is why it hasn’t been rented. Maybe… beautiful rooms where families would look but the upstairs rooms where they were kept.

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