The Rest Cure: Gender in Medicine and Literature

Students will examine both primary and secondary sources, fiction and non-fiction, in order to understand how a writer can use literature as social criticism. In Class 1, students examine a letter protesting the publication of “The Yellow Wall-Paper” as “Perilous Stuff.” They scan in class and reread closely “The Yellow Wall-Paper” to complete reading guide homework. In Class 2, students build on their comprehension of “The Yellow Wall-Paper” with further readings of the online materials, The Literature of Prescription exhibition and four digitized primary source readings. Students are assigned as homework to draft a short essay on a topic they have selected. In Class 3, students engage in a writing workshop where they provide and receive feedback and revise draft essays.

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
CLE 3005.3.1
Write in a variety of modes for different purposes and audiences.
CLE 3005.3.3
Organize ideas into an essay with a thesis statement in the introduction, well-constructed paragraphs, a conclusion, and transition sentences that connect...
CLE 3005.3.4
Revise documents to develop or support ideas more clearly, address potential objections, ensure effective transitions between paragraphs, and correct errors in...
CLE 3005.8.2
Understand the characteristics of various literary genres (e.g., poetry, novel, biography, short story, essay, drama).
CLE 3005.8.3
Recognize the conventions of various literary genres and understand how they articulate the writers vision.
CLE 3005.8.5
Know and use appropriate literary terms to derive meaning and comprehension from various literary genres.
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Learning objectives: 

students will be able to:

  • understand how authors may use their literary works for social criticism.
  • read and comprehend the main ideas in the primary-source writings from the late nineteenth century.
  • synthesize their reading and discussion into a coherent, well-constructed response to a given writing prompt.
  • compose a written essay that demonstrates logical thinking and the development of ideas for academic, creative, and personal purposes, and that conveys the author’s message using an engaging introduction (with a clear thesis as appropriate), well-constructed paragraphs, transition sentences, and powerful conclusion.
  • edit for style, tone, word choice, and sentence variety; then proofread to check sentence structure, mechanics (spelling, punctuation, capitalization), layout, and font; and prepare selected pieces for publication.
  • identify and evaluate the primary focus, logic, style, and structure of a text or speech and the ways in which these elements support or confound meaning or purpose.
  • recognize literary and persuasive strategies as ways in which communication can be influenced through imagery, irony, satire, parody, propaganda, overstatement/understatement, omission, and multiple points of view.

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Extension suggestions: 

Students may choose one topic below and compose additional 4-5 page essay.

  • Read Gilman’s diary pages and her two poems, “To the Young Wife” and “The Mother’s Charge.” Compare/contrast the social criticism in her three literary works.
  • Compare/contrast the portrayal of women in “The Yellow Wall-Paper” and Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour.” How does each writer show one of the elements of the Modern period in the female character(s) in each?
  • Compare/contrast the use of setting or imagery in “The Yellow Wall-Paper” and Willa Cather’s “A Wagner Matinee” as a means for social criticism.

Helpful Hints

other materials and set-ups:

  • Overhead projectors, flip charts with markers, or smart board
  • Copies of dictionary
  • Print-outs of the following online primary source documents (optionally, have computers with an Internet connection with links The Literature of Prescription online exhibition and the four online documents):
    • “Why I Wrote ‘The Yellow Wall-Paper’”
    • American Nervousness: page 334 – first paragraph on page 338
    • Wear and Tear, or Hints for Overworked: second paragraph on page 33, and second paragraph on page 37 – page 40
    • Fat and Blood: And How to Make Them, IV Rest: third paragraph on page 37 – first paragraph on page 41