Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

William H. Shurr

Committee Members

Allison Ensor, Mary Papke, Susan Becker


Charlotte Perkins Gilman reached within her own gothic world for the inspiration for "The Yellow Wallpaper," and in doing so, she created a gothic heroine to whom women of her own and succeeding generations could relate. This study examines the elements in Gilman's life that helped her to create this story; but unlike many other studies, it treats "The Yellow Wallpaper" as a work of art apart from its author as much as possible. This study interprets the story as an example of the female gothic and examines Gilman's philosophy of literature and her skill in employing the narrative voice to depict her heroine as a grotesque within the context of nineteenth-century Victorian more and medical practices. It also analyzes her unique treatment of the female doppelganger by comparing and contrasting her use of this device with that of Dostoevsky's in The Double. A different type of doubling, that of the beloved Other, is also discussed in an effort to understand the sexual relationship between Gilman's narrator and her physician husband John. The early history of the story then precedes an annotated bibliography of Gilman criticism in chronological order beginning with Carl Degler's 1956 article and including dissertations and published criticism through 1989.

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