The Cambridge Companion to Edith Wharton (Cambridge Companions to Literature)

The Cambridge Companion to Edith Wharton (Cambridge Companions to Literature)

Language: English

Pages: 251


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The Cambridge Companion to Edith Wharton offers a series of fresh examinations of Edith Wharton's fiction written both to meet the interest of the student or general reader who encounters this major American writer for the first time and to be valuable to advanced scholars looking for new insights into her creative achievement. The essays cover Wharton's most important novels as well as some of her shorter fiction, and utilise both traditional and innovative critical techniques, applying the perspectives of literary history, feminist theory, psychology or biography, sociology or anthropology, or social history. The Introduction supplies a valuable review of the history of Wharton criticism which shows how her writing has provoked varying responses from its first publication, and how current interests have emerged from earlier ones. A detailed chronology of Wharton's life and publications and a useful bibliography are also provided.














by the fact that his attraction to them owes much to Fulvia’s being their advocate; whenever she disappears, his liberalism wanes. Fulvia is introduced as the daughter of the philosopher Vivaldi, who is at the center of the secret liberal club in Turin to which Alfieri takes Odo. At first Fulvia seems directly parallel to Eliot’s Romola, the dutiful motherless daughter of a scholarly father. But, unlike Romola, when her father dies she does not become the passive instrument of her husband and

publication by Scribner’s Magazine, Harper’s Monthly, Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine. 1891–2 Buys house on Fourth Avenue (later Park Avenue) in New York City. First published short story, “Mrs. Manstey’s View,” in Scribner’s. 1893–4 Buys Newport house, “Land’s End.” Visited by French novelist Paul Bourget. Publishes three more stories in Scribner’s. Travels in Italy and meets English writer Vernon Lee. 1895–7 Experiences prolonged periods of depression and writes only sporadically. Begins

America,” Feminist Studies 15 (1989), 415–41. 28  I argue this at length in Edith Wharton’s Argument with America, chapter 5. I also discuss Summer in “The New Woman as Cultural Symbol and Social Reality: Six Women Writers’ Perspectives,” 1915: The Cultural Moment, ed. Adele Heller and Lois Rudnick (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1991), pp. 82–97; and I talk about Wharton’s colonial outlook and racism in my introduction to the Penguin paperback edition of Summer (1993). 29  See

were a few dissents. In England, the rival novelist Katherine Mansfield found Wharton’s art too orderly and of the surface and asked for “a little wildness, a dark place or two in the soul” (292). In America, only the leftist critic Vernon L. Parrington, though he praised her “immaculate art,” insisted that she had wasted it on trivial material and said that there was “more hope for literature in the crudities of the young naturalists. . . . She is too well bred to be a snob, but she escapes it

feared to probe” (347). It might be said that Selden is left behind in the novel of manners which Wharton abandoned, more a victim of his literary heritage than Lily Bart. Wharton was critical of James in his late novels for copping out on his characters’ backgrounds. Whence their money? What place have his travelers left? The novelist who had come alive in Wharton understood that the family histories of Lily and Selden, both orphans, would sit heavily in the first chapter as rationale. She is

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