The critical reception of Edith Wharton


The critical reception of Edith Wharton

Helen Killoran

(Studies in American literature and culture, . Literary criticism in perspective)

Camden House, 2001

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Includes bibliographical references (p. [143]-168) and index



Once considered the 'last Victorian,' Edith Wharton and her fiction were at first greeted with the gentility proper to a lady of New York's social elite. Gradually, however, critics became gadflies incessantly buzzing at a Sphinx who seemed never to comment on her own work. At times, though, her impulses took control and she made remarks in letters and elsewhere that, on the one hand, appear to illuminate the fiction, but on the other, often raise more problems than they solve. Ironically, now that she is becoming recognized as a Modernist by some, and as perhaps the greatest American writer of her generation, criticism often obfuscates more than it reveals.obfuscates more than it reveals. The reasons reside in critics' loyalties to various theoretical approaches, the objectivity of which are often compromised by political hopes. This volume not only traces and analyzes the development of Whartonian literary criticism in its historical and political contexts, but also allows Edith Wharton, herself a literary critic, to respond to various concepts through the author's deductions and extrapolations from Wharton's own words. Professor Killoran's book provides a fresh reading of the best criticism on Wharton and in so doing throws new light on Wharton's works themselves.HELEN KILLORAN is associate professor of English at the University of Ohio, Lancaster. She is past President of the Edith Wharton Society, and author of a number of articles on Wharton and Henry James, as well as a book, Edith Wharton: Art and Allusion (1996).


Preface xi Acknowledgments xiii Abbreviations for Citations xv 1: Preview - The Feminine, the Lull, the Feminist 1 2: The House of Mirth - Morality to Taxidermy 25 3: Ethan Frome - The Murder of a Masterpiece 50 4: The Custom of the Country - Monstrous Undine 65 5: Summer - The Law of the Father 78 6: The Age of Innocence - A Buried Life 94 7: Ghosts - In Broad Daylight 109 8: Review - Further Sources 127 Bibliography 143 Works by Edith Wharton 143 Chronological List of Works Cited 147 Index 169

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