Women's History Month - Lecture: Warrior Women vs. Ragpickers - March 1st
Created 02/10/2012 - 1:50pm
Join us in celebrating the first day of Women's History Month
Thursday, March 1st 7:00 pm
Guest Speaker: Mary Caputi
professor of political science at California State University
Warrior Women vs. Ragpickers: Divergent Paths in Contemporary Feminism
Reception to follow.
Sponsored by the Women's Studies Program (soon to be Gender and Women's Studies), the Center for Women's Intercultural Leadership, the Political Science Department, and the Intercultural Studies Program.
PIERRE BONNARD, BACKGROUND
For a brief, informative and helpful overview of the artist and many of the paintings Gordon references in her first chapter, watch this video from an exhibit of some of Bonnard's work at the MET in 2009.
The Bathroom, 1908 (referenced on pp. 3-4)
(referenced on p. 9)
Young Woman in the Garden
(referenced on p. 15)
For some additional commentary go here
- Why do you think Gordon begins her memoir with these references to a painter? Why these paintings? The curator from the video posted above mentions that Bonnard often paints from memory, not from life. How does this help you understand the connection between the paintings and the memoir?
- What legacies are passed down to Gordon by her mother? How does she respond to them?
- What role does religion play for Gordon's mother, Anna? For Gordon?
- What is the effect of beginning at the end, near her mother's last days? In other words, one might expect a memoir to begin at the beginning, but here it's not the case. What else do you notice about how she organizes the memoir?
- What do you make of Gordon's honesty, the admissions she makes to the difficulties she experiences with her mother, especially toward the end of her life?
- Whose memoir is this?
- Why does Gordon write this (an answer perhaps more easily addressed at the end of the memoir)? Why does anyone write a memoir?
Here are a few questions for you to consider as you reflect on the film Girl, Interrupted. You are not required to answer these questions: they are included here simply as a guide. [For directions on viewing the film online, see Blackboard "Announcements"].
- What does it mean to be a "girl, interrupted"? Why not an interrupted girl? Why a "girl" and not a young woman or a teenager?
- Why is “ambivalent” the perfect word for Susanna?
- One of the women says that it’s a good thing the place (the mental institution) works on a sliding scale so that the “locking picking trash” is also admitted. What other class tensions did you notice? Why might these be significant?
- What did you make of Susanna’s final definition of crazy: “you or me amplified”?
- How does the film affect your reading of "The Yellow Wallpaper" or vice versa
Also, you might find it interesting to note that Claymore is modeled after Harvard's McLean Hospital, a mental health facility largely known by fame of some of its patients including writers and musicians.
Note: A transcript of the script is online if you decide you'd like to write a paper on the film.
Published in 1892, Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" speaks directly to the themes of this course, but it also opens up a number of broader questions about the history of mental illness, the social "place" of women in nineteenth-century America, and the many expectations and social pressures women writers faced. We will also use this story as a way to explore the intricate ways that literary texts are bound up in their historical, national and cultural conditions. In other words, we're going to try to better understand the broader context that Gilman was living and writing in. To help you explore answers to some of these questions, I've posted a few resources and guiding questions below.
What's going on in art? For a sense of how women are being represented in late 19th-century American art, check out The University of Virginia's American Culture pages on this very topic. You'll have to scroll down to the bottom to get to links to other related topics like women & domesticity, women in literature, etc.
What is a "nervous disorder" anyway?
At the turn of the 20th century, a condition called neurasthenia was determined to be the root cause to many cases of anxiety and depression, especially in the U.S. and especially for women. The actual medical validity behind such cases, however, was often suspect, creating instead what some have called a "culture of neurasthenia" in which women were often portrayed in nervous, weakened states. Women said to suffer from such conditions were many times prescribed rest cures or periods of severely restricted activity: no reading, no exercise, no sewing, reduced diet, strict bed rest, etc. The American Journal of Psychiatry has a helpful article, "The Rest Cure Revisited," explaining the history behind the supposed "cure" and the physician responsible for its use, S. Weir Mitchell (the same doctor Gilman references in her story, one she was herself treated by).
Where was the story originally published and what did it look like?
For links to images of the original pages from The New England Magazine, see Cornell's Making of America website. The image you see above was included in the initial publication.
More Reading Questions:
- Some have called the narrator of this story "unreliable". Why do you think that is? How does it affect your reading of the story?
- What do you notice about the way the narrator describes the wallpaper? What changes do you detect in her attitude? How does her language reflect this?
- How would you characterize the relationship between the narrator (never named) and her husband, John?
- Who is the woman in the wallpaper??
Please note that the readings for Feb. 9, Feb. 14 and Feb. 16 have moved around a bit. The correct reading order is reflected in the online schedule
. Please make note on your syllabus.
Describe a place that is significant to you. Consider a range of spaces: a favorite vacation spot, a particular room, an athletic field, a trail or road, a building, a porch, etc. Feel free to get creative.
- Begin by situating your reader, offering relevant details and context.
- Then, in about a paragraph, explore why that place matters: how does it reflect or shape who you are? Is it something in the physical environment or a something in the spirit of the place/space?
Angelou, Maya. I Know
Why the Caged Bird Sings. ISBN 0345514408
Friel, Brian. Translations.
Gordon, Mary. Circling
My Mother. ISBN 978-0-307-27761-9
Hogan, Linda. Power. ISBN 0393319687
Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis (ISBN
978-0-375-71457-3) & Persepolis 2 (ISBN 978-0-375-71466-5)
or The Complete Persepolis (ISBN 0375714839)
Woolf, Virginia. A Room
of One's Own. ISBN 0156787334
Barrett, Andrea. "Servants
of the Map."
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins.
"The Yellow Wallpaper."