Rhetoric of Literature About Gender
Length: 1500-1800 words, typed, double-spaced, and presented in MLA format.
A minimum of two (2) secondary sources, not including the primary text being analyzed, must be used to develop the essay. A works cited page with source annotations will be required as part of the final draft.
Thesis statement should include an arguable claim. You should choose specific rhetorical strategies and/or genre conventions to connect to specific aspects of the novel’s rhetorical situation–particularly audience and/or context.
Each body paragraph should start with a specific claim and then provide evidences from texts to support it. Then analyze the relationship between rhetor, writers, and audiences based on your evidences and claim.
Questions you may need to consider:
At the beginning of The Yellow Wallpaper, it is not actually clear whether or not the protagonist is insane. Like many symptoms (classified as illness) thought to be specific to women of the era, the symptom she is said to experience — “hysterical tendencies,” is something of a restatement of a perceived, undesirable quality. The yellow wallpaper serves as a catalyst for her descent, but the reader can’t be sure if her feelings toward it are a symptom of her mental state, or the cause of it.
What messages about mental illness and marriage does the story convey? Take a closer look at the language of illness of this era: how does the story engage with this rhetoric? What does the plot suggest about the way the writer has responded to the “rest cures” commonly prescribed by psychiatrists of the era? How does Gilman linguistically model the protagonist’s descent into madness? What does the protagonist know about her state, and what does she believe will help her? What messages does the text have for each of Gilman’s audiences?
Specific emotions that readers experience at specific moments in the story (how is a word, an image, a plot twist intended to make us feel?)
Reader’s identification with a character or situation (how is the reader invited to imagine themselves in the story and to what purpose?)
Reader’s agreement/disagreement with specific values, principles, or other ideas (how is the reader invited to judge the characters and their actions?)
You may need secondary sources as well, like texts from other novels or literary work related to topics of feminism or gender inequality. For example, Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, A Room of One’s Own.
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