Cristina Di Maio

“Something maternal. "Powers of the grotesque body in “The Yellow Wallpaper"

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This article focuses on the representation of the grotesque body and the potential unleashed by it in “The Yellow Wallpaperµ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1892). I look at the depiction of the narrator’s and the woman in the wallpaper’s bodies in this novella, and I investigate the interaction between them, analyzing the quality of the power the protagonist gains as she gradually embraces abnormality and fuses with the woman she detects in the decorative pattern. My central argument is that the grotesque depictions of both the wallpaper and the woman who ‘inhabits’ it possess an inherent subversive quality, by virtue of their belonging to the realm of the Carnival, and that such subversiveness constitutes a compelling message to the reader, rather than a purely satiric one. My reading is informed by Louis Althusser’s theory of ideology, which I see as entrapping the narrator in suffocating and disempowering life conditions, as well as by Julia Kristeva’s and Mikhail Bakhtin’s studies on the carnivalesque, which I connect to the excessive aspect of the woman in the wallpaper and the revolutionary potential it generates


  • body
  • The Yellow Wallpaper
  • grotesque
  • Bakhtin
  • Kristeva


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