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The Art of Madness


Shocklee, Miceala Marie (2014) The Art of Madness. Senior thesis (Major), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/043M-TF33.


The nineteenth century was not an entirely kind time for the female artist. Coming of age as the 1800’s bridged into its latter half, literary artists Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Kate Chopin were all well aware of their uncharitable culture. Equipped with firm feminist bents and creative visions, each of three women produced a seminal work – The Story of Avis, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and The Awakening, respectively – taking that atmosphere to task. In these stories, each of the three women produces a female protagonist who struggles for having been born simultaneously an artist and a woman. The writers pit their women’s desires against the restrictive latitude of their time and show how such conditions drive women to madness, as a result of which they are forced to either escape into the blind mind of insanity or deal daily with their pain and inescapable societal condemnation. In an age where “hysteria” was a frequent hit in the vernacular, Phelps, Gilman and Chopin use art and literature as mediums to show that, indeed, there is a method behind the madness.

Item Type:Thesis (Senior thesis (Major))
Subject Keywords:Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Yellow Wallpaper, Kate Chopin, Awakening, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Story of Avis, art, women, madness, insanity, nineteenth century, mental health, profession, expectation, social
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Biology and Biological Engineering
Major Option:Biology
Minor Option:English
Awards:Library Friends Senior Thesis Prize Finalist, 2014
Thesis Availability:Restricted to Caltech community only
Research Advisor(s):
  • Weinstein, Cindy A.
Group:Senior Undergraduate Thesis Prize
Thesis Committee:
  • None, None
Defense Date:19 March 2014
Non-Caltech Author Email:mmshocklee (AT)
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:05222014-111111602
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8256
Deposited By: Miceala Shocklee
Deposited On:22 May 2014 18:37
Last Modified:15 Sep 2022 17:06

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