Much — perhaps too much — has been written about Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1892 story, ‘The Yellow Wall-paper’. Since it resurfaced as a feminist text in the feminist context of a single volume edition published by the Feminist Press of New York in 1973, it has become a paradigmatic text of feminist criticism and for feminist theory. There are many reasons for its importance. Its republication in 1973 exemplified the feminist scholarship, the recuperation and rereading of a female literary tradition, that Elaine Showalter had described in her 1979 essay, Towards a Feminist Poetics’, when she suggested that ‘the manuscript and archival sources’ for a gynocritical tradition were ‘both abundant and untouched’ (in Showalter 1986, 132), and that it was the task of feminist criticism to uncover them. It has attracted feminist critics because it draws on the autobiographical experiences of the author, because those experiences speak to our stereotyped ideas of Victorian femininity and because it has an easily recovered historicist basis. It has therefore been a ‘useful’ text for historical and contextual literary studies of the material conditions of women’s lives.
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