2. 3. Charlotte P. Gilman. 'The Yellow Wallpaper' (I) (2014)Apunte Inglés
Classe de dimarts 4/11.
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2. 3. CHARLOTTE P. GILMAN. THE YELLOW WALLPAPER (I)
Charlotte P. Gilman was a journalist, writer, feminist intellectual, very concerned of the limitations in
patriarchal society, the institution of marriage, etc. Her own life was interesting in that sense. She got
married, had a daughter. After that, she had something that is relevant in the story. She got into a postpartum depression.
She went to a very famous doctor, Dr. Mitchell, who, following the attitudes of his time, gave her a famous cure, the rest cure: staying away from everything, don't do anything creative, don't talk too much.
She tried to follow that but she suffered very much. In a way, her story is basically Charlotte's response, answer, and literary revenge on Dr. Mitchell. She actually sent the story to him many years after, and he acknowledged the story and informed to her that she had stopped her depression in that way.
In the end, it became a new clinical practice. It made an impact even in a very wise doctor.
She actually split her marriage and she left the child with the husband, who married Gilman’s best friend. It was against the habits, she went on her own. She remarried again with a distant cousin. Her life was really happy until her death, she was very productive, wrote books about Economics in women. She wrote a book called Herstory, hundreds of articles, etc. She had a strong personality. She became ill with breast cancer. She was writing and living against the convention of her time, which were the conventions of a patriarchal society. It was very difficult for her to publish the story that we're going to discuss. The publishers thought that no one had to write things like that.
“The Yellow Wallpaper” strands as a very special piece of work. This was a story that was published and forgotten, but only in the last decade some people reread the story and it was given a new perspective, only since the 1970s or 1980 has become an icon of the feminist movement. It's published constantly.
Women and Fiction Eward Hopper (painter) used to put women in his paintings, sometimes his own wife, who was actually a painter herself. There is a strange atmosphere in Hopper's paintings. They look like literary paintings.
It seems to be not a lot of action, but the atmosphere is very intimate. It seems a hotel room, there is luggage on the floor, and there is not special decoration. What is a woman doing on her own in a hotel room those years? Why is she there? What is about to happen? In the next picture, we see his wife, just a woman sitting on a bed. There are only rooms, closed spaces. It suggests the idea of certain isolation. In the other painting we see the book as an easy way out of the room, there we see the window. There paintings are also very American.
- Gail Levin gives a lot of research and comments about the relationship between Hopper and his wife.
Josephine left her own career to let Edward have a name. Levin dedicates her Becoming Judy Chicago...
All of that is very significant for “The Yellow Wallpaper”.
This tension in the role of women in marriage has always been there. The story in the time of publication was very strange, and it was not that long ago. What is new is not the tension of marriage, but the fact that women began writing and publishing themselves. They were not “written about”, they were writing themselves and it became a very big struggle. One of the most revolutionary things that happened in the last 150 years was when Virginia Woolf published that “every woman had independence in her room” (about one lifetime ago). A lot of people said she was crazy. There are things that are part of the contemporary world.
How did this tradition begin? Let’s see some names from the British tradition.
Jane Austen was the first substantial voice. Her main works were published on the first decade of 19th century. She was not a feminist, but she was absolutely aware, sensitive, about the politics of marriage, even though she wasn’t married and she never went too far from her room. Either you found a husband with a lot of economic means or you were nothing.
What was her great weapon or capacity to make us aware of this situation in marriage? What literary technique did she use? She used a lot of irony, i. e. “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man of good fortune must be in want of a wife”. She is a very clever insideful writer that explores and explains the workings of marriage like no one else. She wrote during romanticism, but we wouldn't call her a romantic.
Other important writers are the Bronte sisters. Emily Bronte wrote Wuthering Heights. Her sister wrote Jane Eyre, very romantic and very difficult in relationships. The gothic is the kind of things that Poe also wrote. “The Yellow Wallpaper” could be also described as a gothic story. He turned the story from the gothic hardware into the gothic software: the terror isn't the house; the terror is in your own head. It’s the realization of your own changes, madness, and your fragility. The Bronte sisters wrote romantic novels in an intensity that is really close to Poe's gothic tradition.
George Elliot. She wrote another different kind of literature. In fact, she was Mary Jane Evans, but put another name to get their works published easily. 'Middlemarch' is an invented town, a study of provincial life.
Influence of ideology and real-life roles: women could write but it was established that some subjects were inappropriate for them. They could write about romance, etc., but not much more. They were expected to have limitations of behavior, not to overreach themselves. There was lack of money (until V.
Woolf: A room of one's own, 1929. The real artists (first class artists) were supposed to be men, who wrote about the ‘important’ subjects and carried on with extraordinary lives.
We can find Harriet Beecher Stowe as the first big success in American feminine literature. First bestseller by a woman: Uncle Tom's Cabin, a book on slavery. It presented a black person that behaved like a noble human being. In the context of a country like that, the end of slavery and apartheid in the part of the most advanced civilization of the world only ceased to exist in 1960-1970s. In the heart of material progress, in the heart of the greatest democracy, Nobel prices here and there, there was morally the middle ages with black people still being separated.
Here is a woman that did a great favor writing a sentimental novel, presenting a black man as a noble person. She said that black people weren’t animals; they weren’t the best of all. The declaration of independence said “all men are created equal” (BUT not women, and men of property and white men). It was okay because it was very sentimental and the writer didn't call for big changes.
Louisa May Alcott. Another register written by women was village life, nostalgia, family, etc. She wrote Little Women, which was ok for a woman to write about.
Fiction by women - Focus: domestic personal - Tone: sentimental lachrymose - Plot: predictable formulaic, like it happens with some TV shows and sitcoms.
- Language: florid melodramatic (lots of adjectives).
Inventing new modes of fiction Rebecca Harding. They appropriated the good things about fiction in their won writing. She wrote about Life in the iron mills, and that was not a topic for women to write. She introduced the concept of social exclusion: it was not just a matter of being black or slave. She actually started producing something that was an invasion into male territory: business, manufacture, money, economic competition, the conditions of workers, etc. Harding would write in the traditional male writing, like Charles Dickens.
That seemed to claim social reforms.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman. She wrote a book about social activism. She also wrote about women’s rights. Gilman’s subject was very much marriage as an institution, about what this patriarchal marriage did to BOTH women and men. She studied women’s role of dependency and passivity/madness.
The mad woman in the attic is a really powerful image.
Photo: 20 years after “The Yellow Wallpaper” in a Scotland village. The lady is wearing pants, yet she dresses in a very feminine way. The first suffragists, women who were conscious about the situation, were educated, belonged to upper classes. The way she dresses suggests this high class style. There is a lady shouting at the left side of the photo. She seems very angry.
Appropriating literature Sarah Orne Jewett was a critic. She presented women as crucial in keeping communities together.
They made possible community life of people living in certain areas, like the country.
Willa Cather wrote chronicles of frontier life: they were expanding America going to the west. The last scene in western movies is usually the main character going towards the sunset (the sun sets in the west).
“Go west, young man, and grow with the country”.
Another important female writer is Edith Wharton.