In Jim’s discussion about the video scape for the show, there was another mention of “the wallpaper.” Which reminds me of other mentions made over the past couple of weeks of The Yellow Wallpaper (1892) a short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

Gilman, circal 1900.

The story is told as a series of journal entries in which an unamed female protagonist narrates her encroaching madness embodied by women who she comes to see “living” in the wallpaper of the upper bedroom of the summer home her husband, a doctor, has rented. The narrator is urged to stay in the room by her husband so she can recuperate from depression and “slight hysterical tendencies” (a detail that connect this piece with our trip next week to see In the Next Room). By the end of the story, the narrator has decided that she too is a part of the world of women in the wallpaper and locks herself inside the room (in a complete reversal of Nora’s exit of the house at the end of A Doll’s House) crawling around and around the periphery, pulling off strips of wallpaper almost pushing herself into the walls becoming “one” with her space. When her husband retrieves the key and bursts into the room, he’s so shocked by her state that he faints. Undeterred, she continues making her circuit around the room crawling over his limp body as she goes.

This idea of confinement, an environment coming alive, and madness has been reflected in various illustrations that invoke Gilman’s protagonist and her mental and physical world.

An early illustration (circa 1899) from a publication of the story.

An image from an 1989 installation, "The Yellow Wallpaper" by artist Marlene Angeja.



  • em86@duke.edu says:

    I read this story so long ago (sometime in high school), and thinking about the story still gives me goosebumps. The story is so chilling. Here is a link to the text of the story, who haven’t read it:


  • Jules Odendahl-James says:

    Thanks for the link, Jenny. I did embed it in the first sentence of the post, but one thing I don’t like about this WordPress theme is that it makes embedded links hard to see (they show up as light red text within the body). If you all are posting and want to embed your links, just highlight the text itself and then look for the chain-link icon. Click on that and you should get a box with a URL feed and an option to “open link in new window” (which I always choose so it’s easier for the reader to keep this page open while still navigating away from the site). Input the URL there and then you should see the text highlighted to reflect the embedded link.