Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” is traditionally read from a feminist perspective, but I argue it can be read from a postcolonial lens as well. Ultimately, it tells the story of an Other without access to hegemonic power systems, as Spivak suggests in her essay “Can the Subaltern Speak?”. When read from this lens, John, the narrator’s husband, can come to symbolize the imperial structure rather than the patriarchy, while the Yellow Wallpaper may represent the imprisonment of the subaltern within the rules set up by the colonizer, which the subaltern will be unable to access and understand, just as the narrator cannot make sense of the wallpaper: “You think you have mastered it, but just as you get well underway in following, it turns a back-somersault and there you are. It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you. It is like a bad dream”(Gilman 9). I think this type of analysis of “The Yellow Wallpaper” is an interesting departure from the traditional reading, and calls attention to the intersectionality between feminism and postcolonial studies, as well as other discourses like disability studies and queer theory.
The digital humanities, and topic modeling in particular, can be a very useful in post-colonial studies. I used a program called MALLET for my particular project, and this link was hugely helpful. MALLET is run from the command line of the computer and so there was definitely a learning curve, but I think MALLET is a useful tool for any humanist interested in studying literature or history from a nontraditional lens.
After attending Re:Humanities, the keynote speaker, Adeline Koh, asked me to write a blog post for her blog. This is the link to the post.
Adeline’s blog is a very interesting source for those interested in the digital humanities.
In this video, Said discusses the main points expressed in his seminal text Orientalism. This is a great link for anyone looking to be ushered into the discourse before reading his work.
“We are fascinated by Rameses as Renaissance Christians were by the American Indians: those (human?) beings who had never known the word of Christ. Thus, at the beginning of colonisation, there was a moment of stupor and amazement before the very possibility of escaping the universal law of the Gospel. There were two possibile responses: either to admit that this law was not universal, or to exterminate the Indians so as to remove the evidence. In gneral, it was enough to convert them, or even simply to discover them, to ensure their slow extermination.”
— The Precession of Simulacra by Jean Baudrillard
I was recently accepted to present at Re:Humanities – An undergraduate symposium on digital media on April 3rd and 4th at Haverford College. I will be presenting my research. Here is the press release.
“My idea in Orientalism is to use humanistic critique to open up the fields of struggle, to introduce a longer sequence of thought and analysis to replace the short bursts of polemical, thought-stopping fury that so imprison us in labels and antagonistic debate whose goal is a belligerent collective identity rather than understanding and intellectual exchange.”
–from Orientalism by Edward Said
This is a link from one of my favorite blogs regarding postcolonial studies. I think Amardeep Singh does a great job outlining the most important points in Edward Said’s work, which is useful for anyone entering the discourse. I firmly believe that one of the most challenging aspects of studying literary theory is actually accessing the information, and blogs like Singh’s are a great way to get started.
I read Orientalism during the summer of 2013 and found Said’s work fascinating. I especially appreciate that he writes for academics as well as for a more general public. I think scholars who possess this mindset are necessary––academic coded language is useless if no one can understand it. While Said’s work does not necessarily need a translation in the way Bhabha and Spivak do, I still find Singh’s post useful.
Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, in The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination (1979), argue against Harold Bloom’s “anxiety of influence,” with what they refer to as the “anxiety of authorship.” The gist of this argument is that while the male poet feels he must overcome his literary precursor, the female poet is searching for the precursor so that she can find evidence that she is capable of expressing herself. For this reason, she feels an even greater anxiety than the male poet because she has no representation in the literary canon.
While this argument is interesting and continues to be relevant, I wonder what this experience is like for the postcolonial female author. While I have no answer to this question, I think it is necessary to note the intersectionality of this discourse. What is it like for an English-speaking American woman of color to write, let alone a woman with English as her second languag?. Even male writers of color feel this anxiety in some way, though potentially on a different level than women. The “anxiety of authorship” exists for many different authors, and we must note that it is not only a feminist question but a postcolonial one as well.
Whenever I read Bhabha I find myself confused, and imagine that other undergraduates must be as well. This time around, I decided to write out my analysis of this essay in language other students will hopefully understand.
In “Of Mimicry and Man” Homi Bhabha lays out his concept of mimicry. Bhabha’s essential argument is that mimicry can become unintentionally subversive, though the colonized, in the process of mimicry, rarely realizes he is undermining the powerful systems enacted by the colonizer. Essentially, by copying them, he evidences how hollow they are.