Edith Wharton : matters of mind and spirit


Edith Wharton : matters of mind and spirit

Carol J. Singley

(Cambridge studies in American literature and culture, 92)

Cambridge University Press, 1995

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Bibliography: p. 232-247

Includes index



Edith Wharton: Matters of Mind and Spirit, first published in 1995, makes the case for Wharton as a novelist of morals rather than of manners; a novelist who sought answers to profound spiritual and metaphysical questions. Focusing on Wharton's treatment of Anglicanism, Calvinism, Transcendentalism, and Catholicism, Carol Singley analyzes the short stories and seven novels in the light of religious and philosophical developments in Wharton's life and fiction. Singley situates Wharton in the context of turn-of-the-century science, historicism, and aestheticism, reading her religious and philosophical outlook as an evolving response to the cultural crisis of belief. She invokes the dynamics of class and gender as central to Wharton's quest, describing how the author accepted and yet transformed both the classical and Christian traditions that she inherited. By locating Wharton in the library rather than the drawing room, Matters of Mind and Spirit gives this writer her literary and intellectual due, and offers fresh ways of interpreting her life and fiction.


  • Introduction
  • 1. Priestess
  • 2. Spiritual homelessness
  • 3. Calvinist 'moral tortures'
  • 4. Fragile freedoms
  • 5. Platonic idealism
  • 6. Catholicism: fulfillment or concession
  • Works cited
  • Notes.

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