Suggested Readings

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 572

Allen, Polly Wynn. Building Domestic Liberty: Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Architectural Feminism. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1988. An outstanding analysis of Gilman’s interrelated ideas about homes, communities, and the social arrangement of the built environment.

Illustration of PDF document

Download Herland Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Deegan, Mary Jo. Jane Addams and the Men of the Chicago School, 1892-1918. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books, 1988. This monograph is the major study of the Chicago women’s sociological network, centered at Hull House, in which Gilman participated. Deegan’s work is indispensable for untangling many of the relevant intellectual currents that defined Gilman’s era, especially the concept of “cultural feminism.”

Donaldson, Laura E. “The Eve of De-Struction: Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the Feminist Re-Creation of Paradise.” An Interdisciplinary Journal 16 (1989): 373-387.

Gubar, Susan. “She in Herland: Feminism as Fantasy.” In Coordinates: Placing Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by George E. Slusser, Eric S. Rabkin, and Robert Scholes. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1983. Asserts that women’s abusive reality within the patriarchy enables a visionary revolution. Argues that Gilman’s utopic work serves as a rejection of the patriarchy.

Hill, Mary A. Charlotte Perkins Gilman: The Making of a Radical Feminist, 1860-1896. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1980. A major biography of Gilman and the one to which students should turn first. Hill presents an astute, well-documented, and trustworthy account of Gilman’s early life and the origins of her ideas.

Karpinski, Joanne B., ed. Critical Essays on Charlotte Perkins Gilman. New York: G. K. Hall, 1992. An ambitious compendium of wide-ranging contemporary, reprinted, and original literary essays and critical assessments. Although somewhat technical, Lois Magner’s study carefully explores Gilman’s ideas on evolution and social Darwinism.

Keith, Bruce. “Charlotte Perkins Gilman (Stetson).” In Women in Sociology, edited by Mary Jo Deegan. New York: Greenwood Press, 1991. Presents a useful and straightforward overview of Gilman’s work, writings, and stature as a sociologist. Keith includes a bibliography of Gilman’s major works and a list of critical sources.

Keyser, Elizabeth. “Looking Backward: From Herland to Gulliver’s Travels.” In Critical Essays on Charlotte Perkins Gilman, edited by Joanne B. Karpinski. New York: G. K. Hall, 1992. Discusses Gilman’s utopia as a transcendent reinterpretation of Jonathan Swift’s satire on male pride in Gulliver’s Travels.

Lane, Ann J. Introduction to Herland, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. New York: Pantheon Books, 1979. Provides a new introduction to the book, which had long been out of print. Argues that Gilman’s use of humor originates from a personal and political praxis to promote a transformative, socialized world.

Lane, Ann J. To Herland and Beyond: The Life and Work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman. New York: Pantheon, 1990. This popular biography interprets Gilman primarily from a psychological perspective (an orientation that Gilman rejected) and stresses Gilman’s family and interpersonal relationships. Unfortunately, Lane gives short shrift to major social issues and the intellectual milieu in which Gilman labored.

Meyering, Sheryl L., ed. Charlotte Perkins Gilman: The Woman and Her Work. Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press, 1989. This compendium offers fourteen frequently referenced critical essays, three of which focus on Herland.

Peyser, Thomas Galt. “Reproducing Utopia: Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Herland.” Studies in American Fiction 20, no. 1 (1992): 1-16.

Scharnhorst, Gary. Charlotte Perkins Gilman: A Bibliography. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1985. This reference is indispensable for serious students. Scharnhorst lists 2,173 of Gilman’s writings, including many found only in obscure magazines. This useful book also includes a compilation of published criticism, biographical materials, and relevant manuscript collections.

Form and Content

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 590

Herland is the first half of a witty, sociologically astute critique of life in the United States. This story concentrates ostensibly on three men—Van, Jeff, and Terry—who discover a small, uncharted country called Herland which, by force of an unusual accident of nature, has been governed and populated for two thousand years solely by women. Biological reproduction occurs miraculously by parthenogenesis (that is, without insemination). Charlotte Perkins Gilman exploits this contrived situation in order to contrast and compare the social features of a hypothetical woman-centered society to the harsh realities and crushing inequalities of everyday life found pervasively in male-dominated societies. The cohesive theme and primary purpose of Herland is the exposition of Gilman’s interconnected ideas about economics, education, clothing, prisons, parenting, male-female relationships, human evolution, and social organization generally. In With Her in Ourland, the neglected sequel to Herland published in 1916, Gilman presents the second half of the Herland chronicle, dissects the patriarchal and technological madness of World War I, and points constructively to an alternative future based on the pragmatic application of feminist values. Herland is not fundamentally a utopian novel; rather, it is a lucid, persuasive analysis of modern life as Gilman saw it.

Gilman frames Herland as a series of narrative reminiscences told by Van, one of three male explorers who trek to Herland. Van recounts his easy capture, humane imprisonment, and gentle indoctrination to the language, culture, and history of Herland’s all-female society. Van’s detailed memoir includes recitations of the lessons taught to him and his male colleagues by three middle-aged female tutors, his firsthand observations and personal reflections, and the results of his supplemental readings form Herland’s libraries. The effect is sometimes didactic. Readers learn many gazetteer-type facts: For example, Herland is ten to twelve thousand square miles in area, has a population of three million women, and supports a highly efficient, scientifically balanced agricultural economy based on tree culture. Van describes Herland as a pacific, highly evolved, and rationally ordered society molded by women who, beyond all else, value the happiness and welfare of their parthenogenically created children.

Gilman enlivens Herland’s didactic formula by having Van report verbatim several of his conversations (and those of his male companions) with Ellador and other Herland women. These frequently amusing and sometimes painfully ironic dialogues provide a point of direct contact where the men of Ourland and the women of Herland discover one another, argue, fall in love, and—in Terry’s case—temporarily shatter the equality and powerful maternal calm of Herland. Unlike Terry, who never comprehends his chauvinism and its inherent destructiveness, Van finds his social consciousness raised through his discussions with Ellador. He is increasingly embarrassed by the massive shortcomings of the male-dominated culture that he represents.

The arrangement and style of Herland result in part from its publishing history. Gilman, unable to interest established publishing houses in her work, originally self-published the twelve brief chapters that comprise Herland as monthly installments in her feminist magazine, The Forerunner. The frequent restatement of central themes from chapter to chapter reflects Gilman’s practical need to remind her readers of key elements in the story left unattended during the month-long intervals between issues of The Forerunner. Herland sparkles most brightly from within the pages of The Forerunner where, in many well-stocked libraries, Herland can still be read serially in context and in concert with Gilman’s essays, poetry, and other major serialized fiction and nonfiction projects published during the brief but extraordinary life of The Forerunner from 1910 to 1916.

Places Discussed

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 644

Herland

Herland. Imaginary subtropical country ringed by heavily forested mountains as high as the Himalayas that is about the size of Holland. Its location is kept secret by the few outsiders who have visited it. Herland’s Aryan inhabitants, now limited to three million women, once were in contact with the best Old World civilizations. Two thousand years before the events of Gilman’s novel, the country extended beyond its mountain perimeter, reaching the coast of the “Great Sea.” Because of wars with external enemies, the ancient Herlanders contracted their settlements to within the protective mountains, defended the mountain pass, and built fortresses. When the men were fighting in the mountains, a volcanic eruption killed all of them and isolated Herland from the rest of the world. At the time of the novel, the country stands like a “basalt column,” accessible only by airplane, with thick forests at the base of the mountains.

Bordered by a belt of forest, the interior of Herland ranges from mountain valleys with winter snow to a large valley in southeastern Herland with a climate similar to that of California. The valley contains broad plains and well-tended forests, almost all of whose trees are either hardwood or food-bearing varieties. The three male adventurers compare the entire land to a garden, a park, and a truck farm. They comment that the forests are better tended than Germany’s, with no dead limbs and even with trained vines. Interspersed throughout the well-cultivated land are small glades with shaded stone furniture placed near fountains with birdbaths.

The dust-free roads crisscrossing Herland are constructed of a durable manufactured material. Sloped, graded, curved, and guttered as well as the best European highways, they lead to towns containing both white and pink houses, situated “among the green groves and gardens like a broken rosary of pink coral.” The white buildings are for public use, whereas the pink ones, especially those near the town center, resemble palaces or college buildings in parklike settings. All of Herland’s towns and cities are clean, orderly, and lovely, without the urban blight common in American and European population centers. The entire country of Herland underscores the virtues of its all-female inhabitants.

Herland castle

Herland castle. Massive fortress more than one thousand years old in which the three Americans are detailed after they enter Herland. In contrast to the town’s pink and white buildings, the castle is built of gray stone with thick walls and is isolated in the hills. Its high, smooth walls, built of huge stones interlocked like puzzle pieces, are reminiscent of Peru’s massive pre-Columbian architecture. Perched on a lofty rock, the castle’s high walls line the edge of a sheer cliff, with a river at its base. Its location in northern Herland gives it a clear view of the open plains in the southeast of the country.

The castle has no bars, though initially the three men are not allowed to leave. In contrast to the European princesses imprisoned in castles in traditional medieval tales of Europe, these men are interned only until they learn the language and customs of Herland. Instead of trying to possess the men, the women of Herland want to liberate them and learn from them.

Herland’s forests

Herland’s forests. Important because the women whom the three adventurers court and eventually marry all work in Herland’s well-fertilized forests, as do the three men after they wed. The forests seem almost magical to the intruders; they are also practical, since their many food-producing trees require little upkeep and yield more produce in a smaller area of land than do traditional farming methods. Herland’s women have enriched their soil and nurtured their trees until they have created an Eden-like country, a standard against which the three male American intruders and their civilization are judged and found lacking.

Context

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 486

The initial influence of Herland was restricted primarily to regular readers of The Forerunner, in which Herland was serialized in 1915. By extending reduced-price subscriptions of The Forerunner to participants, Gilman tried to encourage the formation of “Gilman Circles” in which the contents of her magazines, including Herland, were to be discussed by women in small, face-to-face groups. Poor sales, however, caused the demise of The Forerunner and the collapse of Gilman Circles. Overall, The Forerunner reached few readers, and thus Herland had minor social or literary force. From 1916 to 1979, the novel remained buried in the pages of Gilman’s defunct magazine.

The impact of Herland increased dramatically when its chapters were collated and republished together in book form by Pantheon Books in 1979. Herland, forty-four years after Gilman’s death and sixty-four years after the serialized first publication, reached a new feminist audience. The republication of Herland was promoted as the recovery of “a lost feminist utopian novel,” and the work quickly attracted attention from feminists in the growing women’s studies movement.

Yet, radically abstracted from the serial context of The Forerunner and divorced from Herland’s concluding sequel, the 1979 edition of Herland had a perplexing impact on the women’s movement. Gilman was championed in some quarters as advocating the establishment and superiority of women-only communities of the type outlined in Herland, and the book version became a popular rallying point for radical separatists within the women’s movement. That result, paradoxically, is opposite to Gilman’s clearly expressed view that the future of the world depends crucially on the enlightened cooperation of men and women, mothers and fathers, laboring together side by side.

Other feminists, criticizing the 1979 book-length edition of Herland, find it sometimes naïve, ethnocentric, masculinist, and even racist. Superficial readings of Gilman’s enthusiastic embrace of evolutionary principles and her complex ideas relating to race improvement brand Gilman in some quarters as politically incorrect. Such criticisms, however, often neglect the intellectual context in which Herland was originally published and ignore the precise ways in which Gilman defined her terms and offered cooperative solutions to many social problems. Gilman never intended the satirical, fictional romps that comprise Herland and With Her in Ourland to be definitive or comprehensive statements on the complicated moral and philosophical issues that she discussed at length in The Forerunner and elsewhere.

The potential impact of Herland on women’s issues today remains largely unfulfilled. Whereas the work has become justifiably a recognized classic in women’s literature, separatist politics and postmodern critiques deflect serious discussion of Gilman’s insightful analyses of oppressive patriarchal social systems, as well as her dedication to constructive human advancement. When Herland is conjoined to With Her in Ourland and carefully studied in the context of The Forerunner and Gilman’s nonfiction books, the progressive feminist ideas reflected in Herland may someday have the cooperative, forward-looking social impact that Gilman so ardently intended.

Literary Techniques

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 369

Because of its function as a social document, a Utopian novel often lacks some of the aesthetic merits of fiction. The story, in short, often becomes secondary to the political message contained in the narration. One of Gilman's greatest assets as a writer is her competence as both a pragmatic, reasonable producer of political tracts and imaginative, innovative spinner of yarns. Having produced both short stories and nonfiction polemics, Gilman combined her talents to produce a book that is at once highly readable and dense with carefully constructed criticisms of and solutions to the status quo. Aside from its political import, Herland contains real drama that might appeal to the casual reader.

The first few chapters read as any story of high adventure. The opening pages are rich with detailed descriptions of the exotic lands of South America where Herland is hidden. As the three explorers carry out their plan to penetrate the country's mountain walls, Gilman gives careful attention to their means; describing every detail of their plan and the machinery they use to carry it out. She is aware that to make her story plausible, she must account for mankind's failure to discover the secluded society until the twentieth century. To do so, she invokes the recently perfected technology of flight; Herland is accessible by plane but not by any other means. Thus, it seems totally reasonable that no explorer would discover the land until planes became available. While other writers of Utopian fiction often expect their readers to take the implausibility of their created worlds on faith, Gilman distinguishes herself by carefully expelling the most apparent doubts.

In addition to creating meticulously detailed physical descriptions of her characters, Gilman develops them as recognizable types with dynamic personalities. As noted above, the three men who discover Herland are radically different people. Each represents a type of man distinguished by his attitude toward women. Nevertheless, by including a good deal of dialogue and allowing each character to change slightly in the face of his experiences, Gilman's men do not devolve into caricatures or stereotypes. Furthermore, the women they love seem to step out from the uniform mass of Herland residents and make the force of their personalities felt.

Ideas for Group Discussions

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 543

Reading Herland gives the twenty-first century reader a sense of how long the struggle for equality between the sexes has raged; at the same time, it makes plain the enormous obstacles that prevent any society from adopting a more equitable social code. If we accept Gilman's thesis, then we must accept that the greatest barrier between ours and a perfect civilization is the inadequacy of our educational system. A great society, Gilman argues, is built on properly trained citizens. This training, Gilman argues, should result in the erasure of ambition and selfishness as individuals dedicate themselves to the good of the community.

The individual does not, however, become a faceless cog in a machine in Gilman's ideal world. The women of the country she imagines still have a single ambition, to become mothers. Motherhood is the central concern of the whole population of Herland, a fact at once relevant to Gilman's social concern about education and her thematic interest in the nature of the relationships between mothers and their offspring. Though working toward a common goal, the women we meet reading Herland are vivid characters, as are the men who come to discover their isolated homeland. Gilman's novella is extremely valuable as a social document. The drama and adventure it provides also makes it an excellent read.

1. Keeping in mind that Gilman wrote this novella in 1915, does it seem at all possible that an utterly segregated society might be "discovered"? How does technology play a role in both the discovery and understanding of Herland?

2. Do a character sketch of each of the three men who discover Herland. Who is the most likable? Why? Least? How might the privilege of narration affect your perception of Van?

3. What are your impressions of Herland's system of government? Could a civilization not isolated geographically maintain the political system Gilman describes?

4. Residents of Herland choose their own vocation as part of their education; their decision is not complicated, however, by material considerations such as potential salary or prestige. Whatever sacrifices you might have to make to live in an egalitarian society like that depicted by Gilman, would this freedom to choose your purpose in life make life there bearable? If you have already decided what you want to do for a living, ask yourself if you would have chosen the same profession if you had decided with the latitude enjoyed by the girls of Gilman's fictional world.

5. Why does Gilman spend so much time detailing the educational system of Herland?

6. Does the fact that three Herlanders eventually marry undermine the argument of Gilman's book? Do the women "sellout" by re-introducing the male sex into their civilization? Do you think the society will continue to flourish in the decades after men and marriage again become common?

7. Read some of Gilman's short fiction. Are the literary techniques she employs for her more explicitly political fiction much different than that she uses to write stories?

8. How does Gilman associate potentially harmful social forces like nationalism and patriotism with masculinity? What are the counterbalancing feminine traits Gilman believes could, if women were given full citizenship, create a perfect world?

9. In what ways is Herland a feminist book? In what ways is it an environmentalist book? Is there a relationship between the two?

Social Concerns

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 987

Those familiar with Gilman's other works— from fiction such as "The Yellow Wallpaper" to nonfiction like Women and Economics— are aware that her principal interest as a writer involves exposing the crushing gender inequities condoned by law and culture in her time. Herland is no exception. In this novella, Gilman performs a kind of thought experiment, imagining what a world might be like if women were its only occupants and governors. Put simply, the world is nearly perfect; the three men who discover it wait and search in vain for a full year to discover some flaw in the system. Thus, Gilman addresses concerns about the society in which she lives by pointing out how an ideal civilization would cure those social ills.

At the time Gilman wrote Herland, the gap between rich and poor in the United States was even more pronounced than it is today. The myth of the American dream remained popular; only a few years before Herland's publication, 1910, the number of Horatio Alger novels sold annually surpassed one million. Alger's books asserted that anyone could attain financial security and middle-class respectability. This myth, however, only legitimated the laissez-faire attitude that kept government from lending a hand to the needy and helpless. Aware that the desire for self-improvement, the driving force of capitalism, only turns the individual away from his or her less fortunate countrymen, Gilman made Herland a socialist society that depends on a universal commitment to the purpose of constant improvement. Van, the novella's narrator, comes to discover that "they thought in terms of the community. As such, their time-sense was not linked to the hopes and ambitions of an individual life." There is not competition among the women of Herland; some are privileged above others only in the number of children they are allowed to bear. In the absence of wage slavery or ranks of idle rich, the country manages to become not only self-sufficient but almost universally free of crime, aimlessness, or unemployment.

Gilman asserts that education is the key to building a just and reasonable society in which all citizens work only for the common good. She points out that "with these women the most salient quality in all their institutions was reasonableness." Having worked as a teacher and governess, Gilman was keenly aware that only after being given a reasonable education could anyone be expected to function as a reasonable and productive citizen. In Herland, therefore, women arrive at their life's work via a nurturing form of education that is free and available to all. Education becomes the most essential institution in Herland because the society operates on the assumption that "however the children differed at birth, the real growth lay later— through education." Since all the inhabitants of this isolated community are literally sisters (descended from a single mother who conceived without the help of a man) the debate of whether nature or nurture plays a larger role in human development becomes irrelevant. All citizens have the capacity to make great contributions; the extent and nature of their effect on the country's pursuit of perfection is determined in the years of their education where their vocation is chosen not for but by them. Herland's "education for citizenship" is, it seems, responsible for nearly all the benefits that follow. Gilman suggests, then, that the greatest shortcoming of her own society lay in the quality of its education. True, it might teach students the three R's, but training for citizenship, it seems, was grossly inadequate to her mind.

Another of Gilman's social concerns involves the way sex comes to enslave women. In other non-fiction works, Gilman argues that in the modern world sex, useful in nature's eyes only for purposes of the species' perpetuation, has become inordinately important. Men view women as sexual objects and thus dehumanize them primarily because they place too high a value on the act of sex itself. The most explicit instance of Gilman's concern about the dehumanizing nature of sexual desire occurs after the three explorers are married to the three girls they first encounter. Van and Jeff are happy with their brides, even though Van occasionally complains about Ellador's deferment of his desire. Jeff, on the other hand, is enraged by Alima's refusal to have sex with him. Gilman never says so in so many words, but the implication is obvious. Eventually, Jeff loses all patience and tries to take Alima by force. The attempted rape is thwarted and Jeff is exiled from Herland. That his act precipitates the end of the narrative underscores the importance of eliminating such unchecked desire in an ideal society.

Gilman also suggests that human societies must check their more material desires to create a perfect civilization. The nation of Herland is cut off from the outside world; therefore, the natural resources available to the women are necessarily limited. Fairly quickly after they begin to flourish, it becomes obvious to the women of Herland that they must both check the growth of the population and use the natural resources only in ways that allow them to renew themselves. Making these commitments involve great sacrifices for the individuals in any given generation; not all women could have children and they had to remove wasteful foods such as meat from their diets. The residents of Herland made theses sacrifices because they placed the good of the civilization far above their own desires. The analogy to the large world is obvious. We may not be isolated within a small portion of the Earth, but we are limited by the extent of our planet. Just as Herland would perish if its residents did not check their population and intake of resources, Gilman suggests that human society will disappear if improvements are not made in our allocation of resources. In advocating vegetarianism and natural cultivation (as opposed to harmful fertilization), Herland becomes recognizable as a environmentalist work as well as a feminist one.

Literary Precedents

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 363

The ultimate precedent for Gilman's, as well as sundry other fictions that take the rubric "Utopia," is Thomas More's Utopia (1516). Originally published in Latin, More's speculative creation of an ideal world coined the term "Utopia" which means "no place." The ideal world his narrator describes is a communist one where both men and women have access to education and all religions enjoy equal acceptance.

A more influential precedent for Gilman personally was Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward: 2000-1887 (1888). Gilman cited Bellamy's work as an influence on both her literary output and her general worldview. The novel tells the story of a young man from Boston named Julian West who falls into a deep sleep a la Rip Van Winkle. He remains in his stupor from 1887 until 2000 when he wakes up to find society greatly changed. Poverty has disappeared along with capitalism. Instead of struggling to improve their own state, members of the state all work for the common good. The socialist system Bellamy's book presents in a glowing light is everywhere mirrored in Gilman's all-female civilization. It is not surprising that Bellamy's vision affected Gilman; he was widely read and highly influential. A political party, the Nationalist Party, was founded shortly after Bellamy published his Utopia; the party took advocating Bellamy's ideals as one of its principal aims.

Innumerable authors came between More and Bellamy, creating various fictional worlds that govern themselves by what their authors consider ideal laws. Modern students, however, are probably more familiar with the inverse of More's form, the Dystopia, the best examples of which are George Orwell's 1984 (1949) and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932). Both of these works show not a perfect world hidden somewhere within our own but a frightening vision of what our own world might become. Dystopias are almost invariably set in recognizable geographical locations in the semi-distant future. Orwell's work is typical in the way it exaggerates the government's intrusion into private life present in his own day and transforms it into the awful specter of "Big Brother." Just as Utopias like Herland provide hope by depicting a goal toward which humanity should work, Dystopias provide chilling warnings that, hopefully, change a course pointed toward ruin.

Bibliography

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 574

Suggested Readings

Allen, Polly Wynn. Building Domestic Liberty: Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Architectural Feminism. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1988. An outstanding analysis of Gilman’s interrelated ideas about homes, communities, and the social arrangement of the built environment.

Deegan, Mary Jo. Jane Addams and the Men of the Chicago School, 1892-1918. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books, 1988. This monograph is the major study of the Chicago women’s sociological network, centered at Hull House, in which Gilman participated. Deegan’s work is indispensable for untangling many of the relevant intellectual currents that defined Gilman’s era, especially the concept of “cultural feminism.”

Donaldson, Laura E. “The Eve of De-Struction: Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the Feminist Re-Creation of Paradise.” An Interdisciplinary Journal 16 (1989): 373-387.

Gubar, Susan. “She in Herland: Feminism as Fantasy.” In Coordinates: Placing Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by George E. Slusser, Eric S. Rabkin, and Robert Scholes. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1983. Asserts that women’s abusive reality within the patriarchy enables a visionary revolution. Argues that Gilman’s utopic work serves as a rejection of the patriarchy.

Hill, Mary A. Charlotte Perkins Gilman: The Making of a Radical Feminist, 1860-1896. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1980. A major biography of Gilman and the one to which students should turn first. Hill presents an astute, well-documented, and trustworthy account of Gilman’s early life and the origins of her ideas.

Karpinski, Joanne B., ed. Critical Essays on Charlotte Perkins Gilman. New York: G. K. Hall, 1992. An ambitious compendium of wide-ranging contemporary, reprinted, and original literary essays and critical assessments. Although somewhat technical, Lois Magner’s study carefully explores Gilman’s ideas on evolution and social Darwinism.

Keith, Bruce. “Charlotte Perkins Gilman (Stetson).” In Women in Sociology, edited by Mary Jo Deegan. New York: Greenwood Press, 1991. Presents a useful and straightforward overview of Gilman’s work, writings, and stature as a sociologist. Keith includes a bibliography of Gilman’s major works and a list of critical sources.

Keyser, Elizabeth. “Looking Backward: From Herland to Gulliver’s Travels.” In Critical Essays on Charlotte Perkins Gilman, edited by Joanne B. Karpinski. New York: G. K. Hall, 1992. Discusses Gilman’s utopia as a transcendent reinterpretation of Jonathan Swift’s satire on male pride in Gulliver’s Travels.

Lane, Ann J. Introduction to Herland, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. New York: Pantheon Books, 1979. Provides a new introduction to the book, which had long been out of print. Argues that Gilman’s use of humor originates from a personal and political praxis to promote a transformative, socialized world.

Lane, Ann J. To Herland and Beyond: The Life and Work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman. New York: Pantheon, 1990. This popular biography interprets Gilman primarily from a psychological perspective (an orientation that Gilman rejected) and stresses Gilman’s family and interpersonal relationships. Unfortunately, Lane gives short shrift to major social issues and the intellectual milieu in which Gilman labored.

Meyering, Sheryl L., ed. Charlotte Perkins Gilman: The Woman and Her Work. Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press, 1989. This compendium offers fourteen frequently referenced critical essays, three of which focus on Herland.

Peyser, Thomas Galt. “Reproducing Utopia: Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Herland.” Studies in American Fiction 20, no. 1 (1992): 1-16.

Scharnhorst, Gary. Charlotte Perkins Gilman: A Bibliography. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1985. This reference is indispensable for serious students. Scharnhorst lists 2,173 of Gilman’s writings, including many found only in obscure magazines. This useful book also includes a compilation of published criticism, biographical materials, and relevant manuscript collections.

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-hour free trial
Previous

Critical Essays