I get all kinds of things to my mailbox, some of which I share here when relevant. I’m not sure how relevant this is – this being a Wadadli Pen, Antiguan-Barbudan-Caribbean literary-arts site, but I’m going to lean in to the more broadly literary arts aspect of the site for a minute (won’t be the first time).
The Lit Hub mailer recently included this header image
and seeing that woman perched above the crowd in what seemed to be a late 19th/early 20th century image had me wondering, who is that?
The caption read: “In 1860, feminist, sociologist, novelist, and a lecturer for social reform, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, author of the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” is born.”
So it didn’t identify this particular moment but given that Gilman is said to be an advocate, perhaps she was frozen in such a moment. Without further digging that I don’t have time for, who knows? But I thought to share it anyway because I remember reading The Yellow Wallpaper when I did the University of Iowa’s online open writing course (which is open for registration now by the way). Sidebar: one of the beauties of doing writing courses is the new writing you get to dive in to – I try to give some aspect of this experience in my own Jhohadli Writing Project Creative Writing Workshop Series.
Anyway, The Yellow Wallpaper was perhaps the most immersive experience of descent in to madness I’d read since reading Guadeloupean writer Miriam Warner-Vieyra’s Juletane (a more modern work) – and in both cases the burdens of existing as a woman within a patriarchal society was to blame. It (meaning The Yellow Wallpaper by Gilman, who is American) is an interesting read for both men and women, I think. I would categorize it as psychological/gothic horror with feminist overtones (like, say, Rosemary’s Baby) – I may be off but – it doesn’t matter how you categorize it, it’s an example of art’s power to draw you in to another’s experience and to draw attention to issues relatable across individually lived lives – among the reasons I share stories and other art in the Reading Room series here on the blog. In this particular case, it’s a woman locked in a room for her own good, who is told what is not-wrong with her by men who presume to know better than her, underpinning that knowledge apart from being men of authority in her life – e.g. husband – is being men of authority in society – e.g. doctor. it’s also about how a woman’s life is compartmentalized by society. The ironic thing is that these issues – being heard as a patient if you’re female, being assigned a particular role in society if you’re a woman – are still very much with us, though there have been considerable strides. The story apparently stems from Gilman’s own experience as a woman seeking help for depression and being prescribed “rest cure” – which allowed her very very little mental stimulation and no interaction with the pen/writing (which for a writer can feel like a kind of death). Writing The Yellow Wallpaper after months of this ‘therapy’ and near mental breakdown as a result was Gilman’s act of rebellion.
As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Antiguan and Barbudan writer Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure; also a freelance writer, editor, writing coach and workshop facilitator). Excerpting, reblogging, linking etc. is fine, but PLEASE do not lift ANY content (images or text) wholesale from this site without asking first and crediting the creator of that work and/or copyright holder. All Rights Reserved. If you like the content here follow or recommend the blog, also, check out my page on WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. Thank you.