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Literary Theory Seminar - Feminism

"The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gillman
by

K M

on 2 March 2012

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Transcript of Literary Theory Seminar - Feminism

The Origin
Questions to
Consider
Two Points of View
Feminism
Questions to Consider
Important
Definitons
(cc) photo by Metro Centric on Flickr
(cc) photo by Franco Folini on Flickr
(cc) photo by jimmyharris on Flickr
(cc) photo by Metro Centric on Flickr
feminism came about due to the unfair treatment and portrayal of women
it is a new form of criticism which allows critics to interpret texts through the way female characters are treated and presented
feminism attempts to overcome patriarchal ideologies to place importance on the woman in the hopes of creating equality
Gloria Steinem
feminist activist
feminist criticism is defined as a form of interpreting and critiquing literature in the way women within a particular text are portrayed.
Feminist
describes a political postion
Female
relates to aspect of biology
Feminine
established through culture and being in a relationship with others
vs.
ANGLO-AMERICAN
focuses on the negative stereotypes given to women within literature
it attempts to create awareness and goes against how women are treated and how they are used as objects
society tends to define a female as "confined" to the home due to motherly responsibilities
FRENCH
this school of thinking attempts to incorporate women's writing into literature
the French are usually concerned with the differences in languages that men and women use to speak
based on this analysis they are able to determine the effects that particular events in people's lives have on their writing (psychoanalysis)
1. How are women represented within the text?
2. What were the social and historical conditions for women in this period that could contribute to understanding their roles and desires in the text?
3. What are the power relationships between men and women in the text?
4. What constitutes masculinity and femininity and how do the characters embody these traits?
5. What does the work reveal about the operations of patriarchy on an economic, social, and psychological level?
How are women represented within the text?
What were the social and historical conditions for women in this period that could contribute to understanding their roles and desires in the text?
What are the power relationships between men and women in the text?
What constitutes masculinity and femininity and how do the characters embody these traits?
What does the work reveal about the operations of patriarchy on an economic, social, and psychological level?
STRENGTHS
WEAKNESSES
attempts to make women equal to men
provides reader with a different perspective on literature
outlines problems within society based on gender inequalities
provides a useful basis for interpreting history, culture, and society through the stories ofthe characters within text
the American point of view focuses only on the female perspective, possibly creating further inequalities
opinions may be biased since they may be based on the readers' and critics' personal experiences
the criticism mainly looks at how women are unfairly treated but may overlook the fact that some literature might portray women this way to reflect a greater message
PSYCHOANALYSIS
"It is fortunate Mary is so good with the baby. Such a dear baby! And yet I cannot be with him, it makes me so nervous."
"Dear John! He loves me very dearly, and hates to have me sick. I tried to have a real earnest reasonable talk with him the other day, and tell him how I wish he would let me go and make a visit to Cousin Henry and Julia."
"So I take phosphates or phosphites--whichever it is, and tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and am absolutely forbidden to "work" until I am well again."
"There comes John, and I must put this away,--he hates to have me write a word."
"But he said I wasn't able to go, nor able to stand it after I got there; and I did not make out a very good case for myself, for I was crying before i had finished."
"I get reasonably angry with John sometimes I'm sure I never used to be so sensitive. I think it is due to this nervous condition."
"John is a physician, and perhaps -- (I would not say it to a living soul, of course, but this is dead paper and a great relief to my mind)-- perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster.
You see he does not believe I am sick!
And what can one do?
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?
John to stay in town over night, and won't be out until this evening.
I am a doctor, dear, and I know. You are gaining flesh and color, your appetite is better, I feel really much easier about you."
"I don't weigh a bit more," said I, "nor as much; and my appetite may be better in the evening when you are here, but it is worse in the morning when you are away!"
“Then, using the remnants of intelligence that remained, and helped by a wise friend, I cast the noted specialist's advice to the winds and went to work again -- work, the normal life of every human being; work, in which is joy and growth and service, without which one is a pauper and a parasite --ultimately recovering some measure of power."
"Being naturally moved to rejoicing by this narrow escape, I wrote The Yellow Wallpaper, with its embellishments and additions, to carry out the ideal (I never had hallucinations or objections to my mural decorations) and sent a copy to the physician who so nearly drove me mad. He never acknowledged it.”
A famous feminist activist, writer, lecturer, and editor
Media spokeswoman on issues that threaten the existence of equality, particularly pertaining to race, gender roles, and child abuse
Solutions/Moral
The main moral of the story is the portrayal of the effect that a person, who is representative of an authority figure, has over the control of a vulnerable individual. This vulnerable individual in this story is the narrator herself, Jane. Her husband forced upon her the notion that she should not do any “work” or carry out any of her motherly duties until she got “better”, however, it is evident that this treatment method did not work, and in fact caused the protagonist’s decline in health and mental stability.
We have come to the conclusion that the solution to improving the protagonist’s mental state would be for her to have been given the opportunity to carry out her responsibilities and do “work” to add routine and normalcy to her life rather than being confined to her room- something that is forever a reminder of her health state.
Symbolism
The yellow wallpaper is the major symbol throughout the story. It is a physical representation of the narrator’s mental state because it portrays what she feels and sees: a woman confined behind bars that is desperately trying to escape. The wallpaper is a symbol of Jane’s confinement in the room and with her act of tearing it down, she triumphed over what others had expected her to do and freed herself from the power that her husband had over her.
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