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Date

4-30-2020

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The term "hysteria" has long been used within Western patriarchy to shut women up. In this paper, I trace a legacy of feminist literature which inverts this term, reclaiming "hysteria" as liberatory. Informed by Julia Kristeva's theory of the "subject in process/on trial," I connect "The Yellow Wall-Paper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, an early English feminist, with "Troubling Love" and "The Days of Abandonment" by the contemporary Italian feminist Elena Ferrante. Using comparative analysis, I juxtapose these disparate texts to uncover a central pattern: a feminine subject slips into psychosis only to reinvent herself outside the boundaries of patriarchal rationalism. I outline this process in three parts. First, the feminist subject explores patriarchy as encoded in space, gaining insight through the "hysterical" act of spatializing her psyche. Second, she reclaims space by encoding a hallucination of oppressed femininity within it, infiltrating the space's masculinity through splitting herself. Finally, she embraces this new consciousness, gaining power by blending her physical self with her hallucination. In reclaiming psychosis, these texts accomplish a two-pronged subversion. They subtly undermine rationalist assumptions, namely that of a coherent, separate self. In so doing, they outline an alternative feminist subjectivity which overflows these previous limits. Through juxtaposing these authors across boundaries of language and time period, I suggest that an important part of feminist literature involves not only rethinking the feminine subject, but in so doing reimagining the subject itself as a fluid entity. This legacy thus fundamentally questions subject-object divides, reimagining realism and reality itself.

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Apr 30th, 12:00 AM

Reclaiming Space: Tracing a Legacy of Feminist Psychosis from Gilman to Ferrante

The term "hysteria" has long been used within Western patriarchy to shut women up. In this paper, I trace a legacy of feminist literature which inverts this term, reclaiming "hysteria" as liberatory. Informed by Julia Kristeva's theory of the "subject in process/on trial," I connect "The Yellow Wall-Paper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, an early English feminist, with "Troubling Love" and "The Days of Abandonment" by the contemporary Italian feminist Elena Ferrante. Using comparative analysis, I juxtapose these disparate texts to uncover a central pattern: a feminine subject slips into psychosis only to reinvent herself outside the boundaries of patriarchal rationalism. I outline this process in three parts. First, the feminist subject explores patriarchy as encoded in space, gaining insight through the "hysterical" act of spatializing her psyche. Second, she reclaims space by encoding a hallucination of oppressed femininity within it, infiltrating the space's masculinity through splitting herself. Finally, she embraces this new consciousness, gaining power by blending her physical self with her hallucination. In reclaiming psychosis, these texts accomplish a two-pronged subversion. They subtly undermine rationalist assumptions, namely that of a coherent, separate self. In so doing, they outline an alternative feminist subjectivity which overflows these previous limits. Through juxtaposing these authors across boundaries of language and time period, I suggest that an important part of feminist literature involves not only rethinking the feminine subject, but in so doing reimagining the subject itself as a fluid entity. This legacy thus fundamentally questions subject-object divides, reimagining realism and reality itself.