Monthly Archives: February 2019

“The Yellow Wallpaper”

How would you compare the voice and the situation of the narrator in “The Yellow Wallpaper” to the voice and situation of the obsessed narrators in the Poe stories we read?  How, if at all, does the introduction of medical professionals affect your reading when compared to other stories we’ve read?

Poe, Hawthorne, and Monomania

Among the Poe and Hawthorne stories we read this week, which one did you find disturbing and why? If you found none of them at all disturbing, why didn’t you, since to unsettle seems to be at least part of their intent? All of them call upon the 19th-century concept of monomania, but how is Hawthorne’s “Wakefield” different from Poe’s “Berenice” or “Ligeia” in its portrayal of it? You don’t, of course, need to address all of these questions in your brief post.


What, if anything, do Hawthorne’s protagonists have in common when it comes to their seemingly strange behavior and beliefs? How is their vision of the world determined by their beliefs and how do others in the world see them?


Would you say the narrator is sympathetic to Bartleby? Does he think of himself as sympathetic, or in some other way? What is a particular moment in the story that drives your thinking about his reaction to the scrivener?

Course Description

What constitutes a pathological response to the pressures of modernity? How do pathological protagonists drive readers toward the precariousness of their own physical and mental health? The readings for this class center on the provisional nature of sanity and the challenges to bodily health in a world of modern commerce, media, and medical diagnoses. We will begin with 19th century texts and their engagement with seemingly “diseased” responses to urbanization, new forms of work, and new structures of the family and end with contemporary fictional psychopaths engaged in attacks on the world of images we inhabit in the present. Nineteenth century texts will likely include stories by Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Later 20th-century works will likely include Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs, Susanna Kaysen, Girl, Interrupted, and Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho.