Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex (1949)
Edition used: Vintage
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wall-Paper” (1892)
Available online at City University of New York
Faculty: Derek Gladwin
Lecture date: February 11, 2015
Themes: Repetition Compulsion
Derek Gladwin begins this lecture by talking about the various “waves” of feminism in the West, then discusses how woman has become the “other,” according to Beauvoir. He then gives some background on S. Weir Mitchell, the doctor who treated Gilman (and whom she mentions in “The Yellow Wall-Paper”), and his approach to treating neurasthenia. Gladwin also discusses various styles of narration and how we might think about the narrator in Gilman’s story, as well as the “feminist gothic” and how we can see elements of that in “the Yellow Wall-paper” as well.
The video with slides is on UBC’s Mediasite system
The video without slides is on YouTube:
- The visual presentation can be found on the Prezi website.
- How might Beauvoir interpret “The Yellow Wall-Paper”? (E.g., you could consider what she might say about the female character, the role of the “other,” freedom, or anything else you think is relevant).
- What is the significance of the narrative structure in “The Yellow Wall-Paper,” particularly in relation to its content? Why, for example, is there a first-person narrator?
- Based on her arguments in The Second Sex, what might Beauvoir say about Freud’s arguments or interpretations in Civilization and its Discontents?
- Given that Beauvoir does not regard biology as destiny, why does she spend so much time talking about biology in The Second Sex?
- How might Beauvoir’s discussion of the “other” in The Second Sex help you read another text on the Arts One syllabus so far?
- What do Beauvoir and/or Gilman say about the relationship between culture (or civilization) and female selfhood? You may refer to Freud or Hacking as well if you wish.
- “[Man] regards the body of woman as a hindrance, a prison, weighed down by everything peculiar to it” (Beauvoir xliv). How is the female body represented in “The Yellow Wall-Paper”?
- A number of works we have considered this year have discussed parallels between personal and societal illness. How does Beauvoir and/or Gilman intervene in this conversation?
- Explore elements of the gothic in Northanger Abbey and “The Yellow Wall-Paper.”
- How do space and movement function in “The Yellow Wall-Paper” and/or Northanger Abbey?