Mary Jacobus An Unnecessary Maze of Sign-Reading
DOI link for Mary Jacobus An Unnecessary Maze of Sign-Reading
Mary Jacobus An Unnecessary Maze of Sign-Reading book
During the 1980s, Charlotte Perkins Gilman's extraordinary story 'The Yellow Wallpaper' (1892), became something of a test case for feminist criticism and feminist accounts of reading. Mary Jacobus's essay positions itself in opposition to 'rationalist' feminist readings of the story and, as such, acts as a contrast to Schweickart's account of feminist reading in the previous chapter. Always alert to the figurative force of the language of both Gilman's story and her own text, Jacobus explores the unconscious of 'The Yellow Wallpaper' in a psychoanalytic reading which plots the text's uncanny figures. In particular, Jacobus suggests ways in which a reading of 'The Yellow Wallpaper' produces a disturbing repetition of the narrator's reading of the yellow wallpaper in her room - and the inescapable sense that, like the narrator's reading, ours must literalize the figure of the text. 'Learning to read', suggests Jacobus, 'might be called a hysterical process, since it involves substituting a bodily figure for the self-reproducing repetitions of textuality.' By contrast with Schweickart, then, who understands feminist reading in terms of an affirmation of female identity, in this chapter and in her book ReadingWoman: Essays in Feminist Criticism (1986) more generally, Jacobus suggests that any such identity is itself constituted in and through acts of reading.