Archive for April, 2016

Jamie Lee Bullen, Blog:Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Literary History

gilman

In ‘Women and Literary History’, Dale Spender notes how generally speaking, Jane Austen is often believed to be the originator of ‘female literary traditions’. This, according to Spender, is a misconception. She states that women did in fact write prior to Jane Austen – in fact, the art of writing fiction was actually considered to be a practice dominated by women prior to the eighteenth century. However, these once acclaimed novelists were no longer held in high-esteem by the end of the eighteenth century because ‘literature became increasingly institutionalised’ and ‘the decision-making powers were concentrated in the hands of the men’.

Because much of the literature being published was written by male authors, literary representations of women were extremely bias. Women were depicted as either one of two things; Angel in the House or monster. According to Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar in The Madwomen in the Attic, because women were ‘locked into male texts’, much of the writing produced by women writers in the nineteenth century is marked by ‘obsessive imagery of confinement that reveals the ways in which female artists feel trapped and sickened both by the suffocating alternative and by the culture that created them’.

Reflecting on the texts we’ve studied on this module, one text in particular stands out for its ‘obsessive imagery of confinement’; Charlotte Perkin Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper. In The Yellow Wallpaper the narrator is literally confined to a large garret room by her husband, who forbids her from writing. As if to comment on the dangers of restricting female creativity, Gilman’s narrator quickly descends into madness and becomes obsessed with the ‘repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow’ wallpaper that line the walls of her patriarchal prison. The narrator pleads with her husband to take down the wallpaper, or to at least allow her to leave the room, but he refuses her requests.

As her obsession with the wallpaper intensifies, the narrator identifies a ‘formless sort of figure that seems to sulk about behind that silly and conspicuous front pattern’. Like the narrator, the woman in the wallpaper is also trapped; she’s trapped behind the front pattern of the wallpaper that, by moonlight ‘becomes bars’. The narrator then has to physically tear of the wallpaper to free the women, she writes: ‘I pulled and I shook, I shook and she pulled, and before morning we has peeled of yards of that paper’.

The story ends with the narrator freeing the women in the wallpaper and identifying herself as that women. The reader learns this when the narrator writes: ‘I don’t dare look out of the windows even — there are so many of those creeping women, and they creep so fast. I wonder if they all come out of that wall-paper as I did?’ In re-reading Perkin’s short story in light of Gilbert and Gubar’s argument, it becomes apparent that like many women writers in the nineteenth century, Perkin’s too felt trapped. The imagery she uses speaks for itself in terms of way it depicts creative women in the nineteenth century; restricted and destined for “madness”.yellowwallpaper

 

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Chloe Metzger, Blog – Embracing Feminism in Modern Society

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Throughout our last few lectures on the course, we have considered what it means to be a feminist, and indeed what that means to ourselves. With an outpouring of feminists texts and media being published in the last few years, one must consider what feminism means to our generation. Authors such as Caitlin Moran (pictured), Polly Vernon, Laurie Penny, Natasha Walter and Laura Bates have all sought to bring feminist issues into our everyday lives.

 

One may argue that these writers needed to bring feminism into today’s society to remind us of its purpose and relevance. When considering the fight that our mothers and grandmothers had in their time one can see stark differences between the two periods, in relation to what women are up against. While they fought for contraceptives and the right to have a career rather than stay at home, today’s young women are working against the implications of explicit porn and how to include women of all ethnicities in feminist thinking.

 

Feminism is alive and kicking in society thanks to these women and the women before them, however, as times change so does the definition of a feminist. With that in mind, however, it is not the ways in which you relate to feminism that is important, instead it is that you can call yourself a feminist. As Moran states in How To Be A Woman, saying out loud that you are a feminist is  ‘probably one of the most important things a woman will ever say.’