February 4, 2007

The Yellow Wallpaper: Once Again

"John is a physician...If a physician of high standing, and one's own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression -- a slight hysterical tendency -- what is one to do?" (Keesey 531).

Yes, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, what is one to do? If one were to look at this as a criticism looking at Authorial Intent, then how does John maintain complete control over his wife, and why does Gilman allow him to do that? What was her motive behind having this woman completely trapped in, not only her room, but in her own life behind her husband? One would have to look at a few things to focus on this type of criticism, including Gilman's biography, any sort of letters, conversations, interviews, etc..., and other information on the society, and their views on marriage, gender, and anything else related to the topic. The Yellow Wallpaper was published in a Literary Journal in 1892, and if there were any other interviews, commentary, or anything relating to her views on the society and marriage. Overall, this is the fourth time that I have read "The Yellow Wallpaper" and every time I have found something different to look for, which always provides a different perspective toward the same story. Literary Criticism has really had an impact on my perspective of literature, and this is only the 2nd/3rd week.

Posted by The Gentle Giant at February 4, 2007 4:58 PM

Remember reading this in American Lit? We had a supplemental text from Perkins herself explaining the story and why she wrote it. And although it was great for us at the time because, well, we didn't have to think about it much, it also sort of took away from the story. How much do we want things spelled out for us? As a reader, it is our responsibility to use different forms of criticisms to make our own inferences about the text. The author can validate it later, but let's try and find it out for ourselves first.

Posted by: Nessa at February 6, 2007 1:36 PM

You mention that one would have to delve into letters and other sources of info to accurately interpret "The Yellow Wallpaper, I submit just looking here: http://www.library.csi.cuny.edu/dept/history/lavender/whyyw.html

Posted by: Dave Moio at February 6, 2007 11:01 PM

Vanessa I see your point, I do think sometimes it is better, and much more fun to try to see things for yourself before reading supplemental materials, especially when the author actually wrote an article as explicit as "Why I wrote thus and such." But, I did go back and read Gilman's article on her story, and I realized that she still leaves things ambiguous and that there is even more to interpret and think about after reading her article. So, as Jay says, looking back at these sorts of materials can be beneficial and help you find something new, especially when you've read the story 4 times as he has.

Posted by: Lorin at February 8, 2007 8:45 AM

Come on Vanessa. We both know that our opinion comes second rate to what the author's original intention was when writing. How are we to change history? She was depressed and committed suicide. Are we to interpret that her character was actually happy in the literature? Come on....

And Lorin, it doesn't matter if it's more fun. What matters is the legitimacy. If we were only reading this for fun, then I would agree. But we are trying to make a valid assumption on the text, and what's behind it. We are so worried about what we think, that we take away what's really right in front of our faces.

Posted by: Jason Pugh at February 8, 2007 12:05 PM

Wait Jay, so you are saying what we think doesn't matter? Hmmm, that really doesn't make sense. Not to turn the tables and go all reader-response on you, but what we think does matter. What is apparently "right in front of our faces" means very little if no one THINKS that it is there in front of our faces. A text gains legitimacy because of what the reader's THINK it might mean...and I think they can base what they think on any sort of evidence they like...whether it is from the text itself, from the author's background, from history etc. So, basically it is all about what we think, regardless of how we draw the conclusions about what we think. And if what we think is not what the author wanted us to think, then they weren't very effective in getting their point across. (I hope all of those thinks didn't confuse anyone reading this!)

Posted by: Lorin at February 22, 2007 2:50 AM
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