May 14 2013

Draft of Introduction to My Web Page, “Synesthesia and ‘The Yellow Wallpaper'”

Published by at 11:03 pm under Uncategorized

For more than a century, readers have interpreted Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” as a story about hysteria and women’s struggle to achieve freedom. Critics debate whether the narrator’s madness creates or is brought on by the reality she lives in. But there are other ways we can pick at the narrator’s brain. The narrator evidently has a condition known as synesthesia, a phenomenon where the brain perceives a stimulus in a sensory modality (or in modalities) that in most people it does not. This explains why she describes the yellow color of her bedroom wallpaper in terms of smell.

In the following web pages we will learn about the difference between literal and literary synesthesia, explore evidence for literal synesthesia as a real phenomenon, examine evidence for the narrator’s synesthesia in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” analyze the author’s use of literary synesthesia, and draw connections between literary synesthesia, the narrator’s literal synesthesia, and Gilman’s critique of patriarchy.


Artwork by Corey R. Tabor, formatted from original to fit page.

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2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Draft of Introduction to My Web Page, “Synesthesia and ‘The Yellow Wallpaper'””

  1.   Jason Tougawon 16 May 2013 at 1:14 pm

    This is nice and clear. I wonder, though: Do you want to take one more step and explain HOW your focus on synesthesia will help us understand the stories themes and questions in new ways?

    Here’s a thought: I think the answer is related to your ideas about consciousness–which are similar to Freud’s concept of “overdetermination.” Basically, there is no single cause and no single effect for any conscious state. I think your essay implies that Gilman’s representation of consciousness shows this, as a way of talking back to Victorian science, medicine, and patriarchy–all of which are aggressive in the ways they “reduce” her protagonist to an over-simplified and inaccurate one-dimensional experience or diagnosis.

    What do you think?

  2.   Danielle Burkeon 20 May 2013 at 4:15 am

    Im really eager to read your web page when you are all finished, because I am a big fan of The Yellow Wallpaper and just in your intro you have got me very interested.

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