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Gender roles, creativity, & madness: Cultural context of “The Yellow Wall-Paper”

Posted on January 26, 2017 at 6:00 am

Courtesy National Library of Medicine

What if you were excluded from political and intellectual life based on your gender?

In the late 19th century, at a time when women were challenging traditional ideas about gender that excluded them from political and intellectual life, medical and scientific experts drew on notions of female weakness to justify inequality between the sexes.

Artist and writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman was discouraged from pursuing a career to preserve her health. She rejected these ideas in a terrifying short story, titled “The Yellow Wall-Paper.” This now famous tale served as an indictment of the medical profession and the social conventions restricting women’s professional and creative opportunities.

You’re invited to a discussion of the cultural context of “The Yellow Wall-Paper” with Dr. Ann Ciasullo, Associate Professor of English and Chair of Women’s and Gender Studies at Gonzaga University. During the discussion, Dr. Ciasullo invites participants to think about both the literary and historical importance of Gilman’s most famous written work. What makes it such an enduring story? What does it say about creativity, madness, social class, gender roles, marriage, and motherhood?

When “The Yellow Wall-Paper” was published in 1892, Gilman likely had no idea that the story would become one of the most widely read texts in the canon of American women writers. She also likely had no idea that a hundred years after its publication, it would be taught in classes on literature, gender, and psychology.

The Cultural Context of “The Yellow Wall-Paper”
MORAN PRAIRIE LIBRARY
Wednesday, Feb 8, 6:30–7:30pm

EXHIBITION

The Literature of Prescription: Charlotte Perkins Gilman and “The Yellow Wall-Paper”

MORAN PRAIRIE LIBRARY
February 6–March 15, 2017

The exhibition Literature of Prescription: Charlotte Perkins Gilman and “The Yellow Wall-Paper” explores the story behind Gilman’s indictment of the medical profession and the social conventions restricting women’s professional and creative opportunities. During a time when women were challenging traditional ideas about gender that excluded them from political and intellectual life, artist and writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who was discouraged from pursuing a career to preserve her health, rejected these ideas in a terrifying short story, titled “The Yellow Wall-Paper.”

This exhibition is brought to you by the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

You can read a copy of “The Yellow Wall-Paper” on OverDrive or download a PDF from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

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