Analyzing the Relationship between Spatial Representations and Gender in Charlotte Gilman’s Novel, HERLAND




Gender and space, architecture and literature, utopian fiction, Charlotte P. Gilman, Herland


The aim of this paper is to explore the connections between architecture, interior spaces, urban environment, and social issues through the medium of literary fiction. In particular, it is to analyze the spatial representations through cues and interpretations as well as their impact on social inequalities, specifically gender discrimination, which is the governing theme that shapes the plot, within Charlotte P. Gilman’s utopian fiction Herland. Space within literature can be seen as an essential part of storytelling because it allows the reader to fully comprehend the surroundings that the author hopes to portray throughout the literature. In relevance to the novel, the portrayed environment emphasizes the gender inequalities that were evident through Gilman’s lifetime. In addition, gender governs the overall space within Herland, therefore, the space holds the same characteristics as women; the country existed as it is for the sole purpose of benefitting the user profile – the inhabitants of Herland. Gilman also criticizes architecture and interior spatial norms of her time throughout the novel by suggesting a completely different layout and function. To address the questions and issues mentioned, an in-depth study of the novel, the author, the authors’ time, and related publications were employed to further understand the relationship between space, gender and literature. The conducted analysis revealed this relationship by the elimination of gender roles and the alteration of conventional spaces; thus depicting a more utopian country, as a form of literary criticism to her dystopian era. 

Author Biographies

Layal Al Sahli, MSc student in Interior Architecture Master Program

Layal Al Sahli obtained her undergraduate from the Department of Visual Communications at Gulf University for Science and Technology in 2013 and is currently undergoing her master’s degree from the department of interior architecture and environmental design at Yaşar University. Also, she has been working in design and event agencies since 2013-present.

Zeynep Tuna Ultav, Associate Professor in Yaşar University

She received bachelor and master degrees in architecture from Middle East Technical University, Department of Architecture in 1999 and 2002 respectively; and PhD degree from Gazi University, Department of Architecture in 2008. She is currently the Department Head at Yaşar University, Department of Interior Architecture and Environmental Design. Her research interests include Architecture and Fiction, Criticism of Modern Architecture, Architecture and Ideology-Utopia.

Müge Sever, Research Assistant in Yaşar University

She has received her B.Sc. from Architecture in Uludağ University in 2010 and M.Sc. from Izmir Institute of Technology in 2015. She is a PhD candidate in Architecture in Middle East Technical University and a research assistant in Yaşar University, Department of Interior Architecture and Environmental Design. Her research interests include Cinema and Space, Public Space and  Play Notion, and Actors in Everyday Life.



How to Cite

Al Sahli, L., Tuna Ultav, Z., & Sever, M. (2021). Analyzing the Relationship between Spatial Representations and Gender in Charlotte Gilman’s Novel, HERLAND. Kadın/Woman 2000, Journal for Women’s Studies, 22(1), 67–82.