Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s novels and short stories are notably didactic, but they are not merely socioeconomic treatises in disguise. Her unabashedly mundane and pedantic literary style embodies a self-consciously modern aesthetics of didacticism that pervaded US literature in its years of transition between realism, naturalism, and modernism and that characterized the subgenre of sociological fiction. Gilman’s 1910 novel What Diantha Did models the social rigor that sociological novelists considered essential to the art of fiction. What Diantha Did tracks the creation of a system of kitchenless homes in California and the subsequent emancipation of women from forced domesticity. Gilman’s prose reflects on, and even formally replicates, the drudgery and repetition she associates with household labor. Gilman proposes an analogy between novels and kitchens as genres of modern social life: both must be collectivized and liberated from the archaic, the personal, and the masculine.

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