October 9, 2018

The New York Public Library brings iconic feminist stories to Instagram


The New York Public Library is putting the “story” back in Instagram Stories. As of this summer, they have collaborated with independent advertising and creative agency Mother New York to present their “Insta Novels” – works of classic literature presented through Instagram’s Story feature. It’s rather snazzy and we covered it last month on MobyLives. The digital novels seek to both play with and re-imagine the traditional novel as well as to honor it, paying homage to the traditional book by using typeface and visual art reminiscent of the original text while also incorporating animation and even music (so don’t forget your headphones!).

But now, the digital novel is taking another stride with a classic and iconic feminist title, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The book-meets-social media hybrid is illustrated by Buck. (Heads up: next on the line-up is The Metamorphosis, a novella by Franz Kafka illustrated by César Pelizer.)

While Instagram was launched as a photo-sharing application, it is also used as a space for sharing text and information. And given our political hellscape, er, landscape, we need to spread literature now more than ever. We’re inclined to say that other people share our perspective: The New York Times reported that The Yellow Wallpaper was viewed by 33,441 people in the first 24 hours. That’s serious.

Carrie Welch, the NYPL’s chief of external relations expressed the urgency and rationale behind their latest Insta Story pick: “It’s also a renowned piece of short fiction that touches on timely topics and is perhaps under the radar for many people, so it was an opportunity for the library to share a little-known but acclaimed work.” Putting The Yellow Wallpaper on the NYPL’s platform is timely, but absolutely necessary.

Julie Goldberg is an intern at Melville House.