Nir Evron writes: “I was hoping to bring my book, The Blossom Which We Are: The Novel and the Transience of Cultural Worlds (just out with State University of New York Press), to the attention of the Wharton Society. In this comparative and multilingual study, I trace the vicissitudes of the trope of cultural extinction from its first appearance in the mid eighteenth century till the late twentieth century, with special emphasis on this theme’s significance for our understanding of the development of literary realism and regionalism. Edith Wharton, whose career makes up my first twentieth-century case study, plays a central role in the book’s argument. My hope is that book will demonstrate what can be gained by placing Wharton in a context that stretches beyond American literature, and which reaches back to literary developments that took place long before she embarked on her writing career.”
The 2020 Edith Wharton Society Undergraduate Essay Prize Winner is
Janae Staltaro, Fairfield University
#FranzenIsCancelled, #WeStanWharton: A Re-Appreciation of Edith Wharton
Maureen Montgomery’s talk on English country homes and The Buccaneers at the Newport Preservation Society is now available here:
From Sarah Whitehead, whose publication of a previously unpublished Edith Wharton story in The Atlantic was noted earlier this week.
Sarah Whitehead in the Times Literary Supplement: “A joy glimpsed”
Introducing an unpublished story by Edith Wharton
Raised as an Episcopalian and later influenced by Calvinist thinking, Edith Wharton was drawn towards Roman Catholicism in the final years of her life. While she never converted, biographers have noted her growing attraction to the Catholic faith at this time; in the 1930s she attended masses on her two visits to Rome, and, at home in France, supported the work of the local curé as well as setting up an appeal in aid of the Abbé Comptour’s work in the Parisian suburb of Lutèce. In her fiction, the Catholic church, and Catholic priests in particular, make regular appearances, but these are often uncomfortable ones.
“The Children’s Hour”, which has remained unpublished until now, charts an afternoon in the life of a Catholic priest. It is a noteworthy exception to these generally negative, or at least suspicious renderings of the Catholic church and its clergy. Indeed, while there is a touch of the customary unrewarded sacrifice and a sense of missed opportunities found in Wharton’s fiction, this story celebrates the comfort found in the faith and a joyous glimpse of the afterlife on offer to the poverty-stricken Catholic immigrants of New York and their Irish priest.
Edith Wharton Society Call for Papers
American Literature Association
May 27-30, 2021 Boston, MA
Reading Edith Wharton at Times of Crisis: Precarity, Vulnerability, and Risk
The COVID-19 pandemic has culminated a global state of crisis, deeply defined by the inability to secure a future in either individual or collective terms. As we are grappling with the anxieties of biological, economic, and political survival, we are called to redefine the grounds—and the possibility—of security, permanence, longevity, and tradition. Throughout her work, Wharton has examined such questions across classes, genders, races, ages, and cultures. What do her works teach us about the current “crisis,” and, conversely, how can we re-examine her works in light of a pandemic and the ensuing circumstances of vulnerability and risk? As Judith Butler has argued in Frames of War, the precariousness of life is shared by all but the “precarity” of survival is unequally distributed among those who are most imperiled or disenfranchised.
This panel invites papers that explore how Wharton represents different forms of precarity, vulnerability, and risk throughout her fiction, poetry, drama, as well as non-fiction (e.g. travel writing, letters, essays). Panelists might consider (but are not limited to) the following topics:
- How does Wharton represent the biopolitics of illness and death?
- How is precarity inflected by race, ethnicity, gender, ability, and age?
- What are the intersections of precarity, class, and capitalist risk?
- Is risk endemic to Wharton’s representation of American culture and how does this contrast with her views on permanence and tradition (especially in an international context)?
- What narrative forms, tropes, and genres does Wharton choose to register motifs of precarity and risk?
- How does Wharton represent the precarity of military conflict and colonial regimes?
All theoretical approaches are welcome, and panelists are encouraged to consider more than one of Wharton’s works, if possible. Please submit titled proposals (approx. 350 words) and a brief CV by January 15, 2021 to Myrto Drizou at email@example.com. Please include any requests for AV needs in your proposal. Scholars whose proposals are accepted must be members in good standing of the Edith Wharton Society by the time of the conference. More details about the format of the conference are to be announced by the American Literature Association in the coming months.
The Atlantic has recently published a story from the Beinecke Library archives, “A Granted Prayer,” previously known primarily to Edith Wharton researchers who have read the many unpublished works available there. It’s a delightful story; thanks and congratulations to Sarah Whitehead for bringing it to a wider public!
From Maureen Montgomery:
I’m doing a webinar for the Newport Preservation Society on 5 November at 5.30 pm ET on The Buccaneers and English country houses. It is for a general audience but perhaps some of our colleagues in the EW Society might like to join the webinar.
Here is the link to the NPS website with the relevant information about the talk and how to register. It is free. I did check with the NPS that I could advertise it to Whartonites.
If you’re free on Wed 28 Oct (5pm UK time), I hope you’ll be able to join us in conversation “at” the Rothermere American Institute, Oxford.
Details and registration below:https://www.rai.ox.ac.uk/event/book-launch-edith-wharton-and-genre
All best- Laura
Dr. Laura RattrayReader in American LiteratureSchool of Critical StudiesUniversity of Glasgow4 University GardensGlasgow G12 8QQ
An unpublished Edith Wharton story, “The Children’s Hour,” recently appeared in The Times Literary Supplement (#6129:18 Sep 2020). The writing employs her humane and bitingly humorous skills equally, and it’s a triumph of a story. A sense of the story’s being incomplete struck me at first, but a rereading reveals it to be all there, and veering toward the postmodern. Another aspect is a vivid Joycean tone in dealing with the Catholic subject matter, and one could argue that the story is derivative of (or inspired by) The Dubliners.
This led me to wonder about whether Wharton, who did read Joyce, had written any diary entries or essays about him, and indeed if she knew Joyce or ever corresponded with him.