De waarheid achter het patroon | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 19, Issue 4
  • ISSN: 1388-3186
  • E-ISSN: 2352-2437



Like the author, the main character of (1890) suffers from mental illness and – even more so – from the treatment thereof. Both Charlotte Gilman and her heroine react against their unfair treatments by telling their own story. This article elucidates the truth those illness narratives contain. I approach the short story, its narrator, and its author from a gender-deconstructionist angle, focussing on the concept of performativity as theorised in Judith Butler’s (1993) and (2005). In that context, performances of identity, like storytelling, are coded by an enabling matrix. Matching up these insights against theories of Elaine Showalter, sociologist Arthur Frank, and queer theorist Jack/Judith Halberstam, I establish a link between performance, storytelling, and gender. The analysis shows that illness narratives are potentially, yet not necessarily, subversive. Indeed, while Gilman offers an alternative for suppressive Victorian discourse, her narrator fails to disjoint the system that terms her ‘ill’.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): American literature; Charlotte Gilman; gender; identity; illness; performativity; storytelling
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