Research Post- Reviewing Three Articles on The Awakening

In “Taking the Waters” Tara Parmiter argues the connection between Edna’s travel to Grand Isle and the mid to late 19th C. medical practice of sending the sick of the upper and middle class to the sea for a ‘change of air’, ‘healing properties’ in the water and  less demanding social and physical life. Parmiter claims that Edna’s time by the sea reveals how unhealthy her town life is, and the oppressive social and cultural air she finds back in New Orleans becomes so sickening to her she returns to Grand Isle at the end of the novel, where “Edna chooses to commit suicide as the ultimate treatment for her depression and physical exhaustion, “taking the waters” to an extreme…. In other words, what Chopin accomplishes in The Awakening is a reconception of the traditional quest for health at the summer place, using Edna’s vacation by the seaside to comment both on the limitations of the domestic sphere and on the assumption that the summer place can offer a cure for a woman’s malaise. ” (2) What’s interesting to me about this article is that touches on a popular issue in mid to late 19th c. women’s literature- madness and it’s treatment by sending the woman “to the sea”- out of their day to day lives, saving some social face and making a big, medicalized deal out of women’s, children, the mentally handicapped and the elderly’s physical and mental health issues in a way that was less likely to happen to men. Examples of this include Charlotte Perkin Gilman’s  The Yellow Wallpaper.
  • Parmiter, Tara K. “Taking The Waters: The Summer Place And Women’s Health In Kate Chopin’s The Awakening.” American Literary Realism 39.1 (2006): 1-19.
In Kathleen Streater’s “Adele Ratignolle: Kate Chopin’s Feminist at Home in ‘The Awakening'” she argues that Adele Ratignolle offers a quieter, more realistic feminist possibility as a foil to Edna Pontellier’s ‘wanting her cake and eating it too’ feminist attitude and desires, which are so powerful and overwhelming for her time and society they eventually lead to her destruction. In contrast, Adele Ratignole subversively exhibits a great deal of choice and autonomy, and is misunderstood by Edna as a caricature, a “mother-woman” or “angel of the house,” itself an antifeminist characterization: “Adele’s position as a feminist is difficult for some readers to discern, and this difficulty betrays the double-bind women often find themselves in: to become a wife and mother is, on some level, to capitulate one’s self to patriarchal systems, but this should not render a woman’s feminism suspect — and yet it so often does.” (406) This article interests me because there are many different ways to be a feminist- feminist mother, feminist artist, feminist leader, etc and this is a fresh and nuanced reading of Chopin’s work which offers a deeper discussion of feminism’s role in women’s lives at the time.
  • Streater, Kathleen M. “Adele Ratignolle: Kate Chopin’s Feminist At Home In “The Awakening..” Midwest Quarterly 48.3 (2007): 406-416
In Sara Tewelde-Negassi’s “The Denotation of Room…”  she examines women’s need for personal spaces that allow emotional and intellectual stimulation, using Virginia Woolf’ “A Room of One’s Own” and Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening” in order to discuss the physical and mental spaces necessary for a women’s development, and the destructive and tragic consequences that come from being denied that space, including mental stagnation and suicide. She claims:”the main aim of this article is to deconstruct the idea of the room both in a physical and metaphorical sense. Woolf’s thesis will be applied to the life of Chopin’s Edna Pontellier to show how exactly the notion of the room is able to influence and to shifta woman’s personality; a personality which was developed within the confines of a patriarchic society.” This article interests me because i am not afraid of Virginia Woolf, and I love the idea of examining spaces and their contexts. For my final project, this article and “Taking the Waters” could both contribute a great deal to the discussion of female and male, wealth and poor, and healthy and unhealthy spaces in the novel.
  • Tewelde-Negassi, Sara. “The Denotation of Room and its Impact on the Construction of Female Identity in Kate Chopin’s the Awakening.” Gender Forum.45 (2013): 1
I think I’m more likely to choose ‘Taking the Waters’ for the upcoming midterm assignment. I’m writing on the medicalized approach to women’s health for another class, Intro to Lit Theory, and this article could be helpful to me for both of my classes final papers.

One thought on “Research Post- Reviewing Three Articles on The Awakening

  1. Yes, Parmiter’s essay sounds great. I’m hearing a lot of good, possible connections for a final project. I wonder what the local history of summering in Maine might offer as a way to connect your archival research, thematic interests, period focus, etc. Wasn’t Victoria Mansion also a summer home?

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