Monthly Archives: August 2020

New Translation of “Les Marocaines chez elles” part 1, by Edith Wharton

Screen Shot 2020-08-21 at 9.54.41 AMFrom “Les Marocaines chez elles,” by Edith Wharton, translated by Nandan Kulkarni

I try, while exchanging compliments through our interpreter, to note down the details of their dresses. But how shall I describe the complex jumble of the gauze thrown on the heavy brocades? The lovely movements made with thick silk ribbons in large gold loops which are slipped under their underarms and lift their heavy sleeves? The fullness of the beautiful fabric, with folds like those in a Veronese painting, high above the large rigid belts? And, above all, the incredible complexity of their hair? Their black hair, curled and shaved at the bulge of the forehead, makes only a black line below the gold diadem or cloth band that a jewel holds just above their arched brows… Braids fall over every other part of their face; over their ears, which are laden with heavy earrings, coral pendants, big gold rings with emeralds or pearls, “bijoux de juifs” (jewels of the Jews) made in the blue Mellahs (Jewish quarters) of white cities. The countless necklaces fall on the gleaming of rich caftans, above the little pink, blue, or white gauze frills in the style of Watteau. On a narrow neck of black velvet: necklaces of gold, amber, coral, eccentric combinations of amulets and rough stones crafted in the same goldsmithery in the Mellah. All this forms an ensemble of extraordinary radiance, where the pink gauze blends with the blue and gold brocade, the white gauze with old rose gauze and violet or green-apple belts. Through the group weaves in and out a little négrillon (negro boy) with the sweet little face of Zamor, whose violet silver-spangled caftan is encircled by a beautiful raspberry-pink silk scarf.


In the fall of 1917, at the invitation of the French government, Edith Wharton spent three weeks touring Morocco by car. “Like a burst of sunlight between storm-clouds,” this excursion in the middle of the First World War gave Wharton, with unique privileges of access granted by her hosts, the opportunity to observe and then write about what was then, to Westerners, “a country still completely untouched by foreign travel” (A Backward Glance, 358). The tour resulted in a series of articles in Scribner’s and the Yale Review, which were then, reorganized and illustrated with photographs, published in 1920 by Scribner’s as the book In Morocco. While the brevity of her trip prevented her from writing the full-scale tour guide she felt was needed, Wharton did give her book a historical preface using scarce French sources, thus bringing more information about North Africa to a popular Anglophone readership than was previously available. Wharton was also fully aware, it seems, that as much as her book would provide “vivid and picturesque” glimpses of a “curious…beautiful” country “rich in landscape and architecture,” it would also encourage and enable a “deluge” of tourism that would destroy much of what she recorded (In Morocco, ix-xi, passim).

There was one other article in which Wharton documented her trip, an account in French that appeared in La Revue des Deux Mondes in the spring of 1918: “Les Marocaines chez elles,” which includes some observations not duplicated, it appears, in any of her Anglophone publications about Morocco. The partial translation excerpted above, and fully available here, was undertaken by Johns Hopkins University rising junior Nandan Kulkarni as a final project this spring for “Scribbling Women,” an undergraduate course I teach that is cross-listed in English and the Museums & Society program. In this class, we examine the speeches, private writings, and published poetry, fiction, and journalism by a selection of North American women who draw attention in their works to race-, gender-, and class-based inequities. Students especially consider the creation, publication, reception, and legacy of our texts, which date from the 1820s through the 1930s, using rare books, archival materials, and other primary sources. The class culminates in public projects designed to provide broad and accurate access for other potential readers of these texts. With the pandemic-related transition to remote learning, we moved, like so much else this year, from hands-on examinations of materials to digital resources and digital final projects.

We read several short works of fiction by Edith Wharton, looking at their first publication in books and magazines, as well as their current availability in e-books and digital archives. Nandan was intrigued by Wharton’s writing, her long residence in Paris, and her travels, and asked to undertake a translation of one of her French language works for his final project. Wanting to give students as much latitude as possible during a difficult semester, I allowed him to do so although it was not one of our established assignment options—my own French is certainly not at the level of Wharton’s—setting the condition, however, that he would have to find a short text by Wharton originally written in French for which a translation was not already readily available. I was thinking he might translate a few of her letters to Léon Bélugou, from the collection at the Beinecke Library; but, learning that many are already translated in Edith Wharton in France, he found instead, to my surprise, “Les Marocaines chez elles” in a digitized volume of La Revue des Deux Mondes in HathiTrust. We decided that he would translate the first half of it for our class blog, with my editorial supervision. As he explains in his headnote, parts of it are similar to sections of In Morocco but some of it does not seem to have been carried over. We were not able to make a detailed comparison to the English-language essay in the Yale Review (the print collection in our library was unavailable throughout the spring due to pandemic-related closures) but it seems to differ from that version, as well. We look forward to the full translation that is forthcoming in the Travel Writings volume of The Complete Works of Edith Wharton.

—Gabrielle Dean, PhD, William Kurrelmeyer Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, Johns Hopkins University

(See for the entire translation.)

Voting open for EWS positions (please check your email for the link)

Voting is now open for the positions of Secretary and Members-at-Large for the 2021-23 term. Voting will be open until Tuesday, August 18, 2020. Society members, please use the link sent to your email to affirm or not affirm the nominated candidate for the position of Secretary and to vote for three out of five nominated candidates for Members-at-Large:

Here are the bios of each candidate:


Margaret Jay Jessee (Jay):

I am Associate Professor of English at the University of Alabama at Birmingham where I also direct the English Honors Program. I had the honor of co-directing the Edith Wharton’s New York Conference, sponsored by the Edith Wharton Society, and scheduled for June 2020. We were so disappointed to have to cancel the conference due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but I take away from the experience a far greater understanding of the key role officers play in the Edith Wharton Society. Working closely with all of the current society officers, I came to appreciate the significance of our society’s role in promoting and encouraging continued excellence in scholarship on Edith Wharton and continued growth of interest in Wharton among junior scholars and current students. I would enjoy nothing more than to continue my service to the society in the role of secretary. The challenge, as I see it, for the new secretary of the society will be to maintain our connections to each other and to continue to grow the society in the face of cancelled conferences and events. Remote gatherings, digital presentations of scholarship, and virtual events to reach up-and-coming Wharton scholars is vital to the health of our society, and I would be delighted to help facilitate these activities in order to navigate this current “new normal.” In these truly bizarre times, maintaining connections with each other as a society is all the more important, and I see the role of Secretary of the society as integral to communication among our current members and to potential new members. I would be honored to serve, and I appreciate your consideration of my nomination.


Nir Evron: 

Nir Evron is a senior lecturer (assistant professor) and chair of the Department of English and American Studies at Tel Aviv University. He specializes in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century contexts, and has published articles on a host of themes, including American realism and regionalism, American pragmatism, liberalism, the crisis of the humanities, literature and philosophy and more. His forthcoming book, The Blossom Which We Are: The Novel and the Transience of Cultural Worlds (State University of New York Press, 2020) is a comparative, historicist project that examines the trope of cultural extinction from the late eighteenth to the late twentieth centuries. Its test cases include Maria Edgeworth, Walter Scott, Edith Wharton, Joseph Roth, Yaakov Shabtai and others.

 Alice Kelly:

Alice Kelly is a literary and cultural critic based at the Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford. Her research focuses on early twentieth-century literary and cultural history in Britain and America. She is the author of Commemorative Modernisms: Women Writers, Death and the First World War (2020), which includes a chapter on Edith Wharton. She has previously published a critical edition of Edith Wharton’s First World War reportage, Fighting France: From Dunkerque to Belfort (2015), and various essays on modernist and First World War literature, including a previously unknown First World War story by Edith Wharton in the Times Literary Supplement. She has held Fellowships at Yale University, New York University, and the Huntington Library, Pasadena. In 2017-18 she was the recipient of a British Academy Rising Stars Award for her interdisciplinary series Cultures and Commemorations of War.

Laura Rattray:

Laura Rattray is Reader in American Literature at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. Her work on Wharton includes, as editor, Edith Wharton in Context (2012), The Unpublished Writings of Edith Wharton (2009), Summer (2015) and, with Jennifer Haytock, The New Edith Wharton Studies (2019). Laura’s new book, Edith Wharton and Genre: Beyond Fiction is out this summer She is on the editorial board of the Edith Wharton Review and is currently working with Susan Barile on an edition of letters from Wharton to the Berensons.

Virginia Ricard:

Virginia Ricard is Assistant Professor of English at Bordeaux Montaigne University. Her recent work on Wharton includes “Edith Wharton’s French Engagement” in The New Edith Wharton Studies (2019), “The Uses of Boundaries: Edith Wharton and Place” in E-rea (16.2 | 2019), “‘Isn’t That French?’’” in Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence (2020), “Edith Wharton au tournant” in L’Amérique au tournant – La place des États-Unis dans la littérature française
(forthcoming Classiques Garnier September 2020) and “Edith Wharton, Translator” forthcoming in Transatlantica (2021). She is on the editorial board of the Edith Wharton Review and is currently working on an edition of Wharton’s correspondence with Charles Du Bos. She is co-editor of volume 29 of the Complete Works (OUP).

Meg Toth:

Meg Toth is Professor of English and the director of the film studies minor at Manhattan College. Her research interests include late nineteenth and early twentieth century U.S. literature, film, and adaptation studies. Her scholarship on Edith Wharton has been published in such journals as Modern Fiction Studies and the Journal of Narrative Theory and in the collections Edith Wharton in Context (ed. Laura Rattray) and Edith Wharton and Cosmopolitanism (ed. Meredith Goldsmith and Emily Orlando). Her current book project, After Innocence: Edith Wharton and Post-War Writings on Art and Faith, is an intertextual study that focuses on the figure of the artist and forms of spirituality in Wharton’s late works. She recently co-directed, with Margaret (Jay) Jessee, the conference Edith Wharton’s New York (2020).

With many thanks to all the candidates for running and to the society members for voting,


Myrto Drizou

Assistant Professor of English

Department of Western Languages and Literatures

Boğaziçi University