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Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Naturalist Playwright

Description: This study explores Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s use of the dramatic form to challenge Herbert Spencer’s social Darwinism by offering feminist adaptations of Darwin’s theories of natural and sexual selection. As she does in her career-defining manifesto, Women & Economics (1898), Gilman in her lesser-known plays deploys her own brand of reform Darwinism to serve the feminist cause. Despite her absence in histories of modern drama, Gilman actively participated in the establishment and development of this literary, historical, and cultural movement. After situating Gilman in the context of nineteenth-century naturalist theater, this thesis examines two short dramatic dialogues she published in 1890, “The Quarrel,” and “Dame Nature Interviewed,” as well as two full-length plays, Interrupted (1909) and the Balsam Fir (1910). These plays demonstrate Gilman’s efforts to use the dramatic form in her early plays to “rehearse” for Women & Economics, and in her later drama, to “stage” the theories she presents in that book.
Date: May 2012
Creator: Tolle, Andrew
Partner: UNT Libraries