A Jury of Her Peers by Susan Glaspell

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Critical Overview

(Short Stories for Students)

Little criticism of ''A Jury of Her Peers'' dates from the time of its initial publication or from 1927 when it was collected with Glaspell's other stories in the collection A Jury of Her Peers. Only after the story gained acclaim during the 1970s did critical interest in it grow. However, theater reviews of Trifles, performed in 1916, one year before the publication of "'A Jury of Her Peers," relate that critics found the performance to be the Provincetown Players" finest to date.

In Susan Glaspell: A Research and Production Sourcebook, Mary Papke lists six reviews of the play, only one of which did not enthusiastically recommend it. Early critiques from the New York Dramatic Mirror gave it high praise as a drama of mystery and suspense and Theatre Magazine found the female actors in their interpretation of women's intuition ingenious. On the other hand, the New York Times critic found both its acting and dialogue unsatisfactory. Later reviews of European productions agreed that the play's appeal was for an exclusively American audience because it addressed a historical milieu specific to early twentieth-century America No reviewers noted the story's strong feminist statement; that reading was formulated by feminists involved in the women's movement of the 1970s.

Over fifty years after the first performance of Trifles, feminist critics appropriated the short story version as a critique of male-dominated society. It is now considered a feminist classic. In her essay "Small Things Reconsidered. Susan Glaspell's 'A Jury of Her Peers','' Elaine Hedges notes that Mary Anne Ferguson's 1973 anthology entitled Images of Women in Literature reintroduced Trifles to readers as the forgotten text of an extraordinary writer. The recognition of women's artistic ability and intellect challenged the stereotype of women as concerned with the "trifles" of Me. Thereafter, a number or critics, including Annette Kolodony, began to consider "A Jury of Her Peers" and include it in their work in hopes that the story would become popular in classrooms and anthologies of women's literature.

In her 1986 essay ''Reading About Reading,'' Judith Fetterly's criticism of "A Jury of Her Peers" exposes what she feels is a contradiction in reading it as a feminist short story. She states, ''Minnie is denied her story and hence her reality ... and the men are allowed to continue to assume that they are the only ones with stories. So haven't the men...

(The entire section is 604 words.)