Category Archives: Announcements

iBerkshires: Unpublished Edith Wharton Play Discovered by Scholars

Unpublished Edith Wharton Play Discovered by Scholars

LENOX, Mass. — Two scholars have made a new archival discovery: a previously unknown, original, full-length play by Edith Wharton called “The Shadow of a Doubt.”

The location of the discovery at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin was unexpected. Wharton scholars have been traveling to the Ransom Center for more than three decades to research Wharton’s papers. The source of their interest, however, was the author’s correspondence to her lover, Morton Fullerton. What scholars missed was hidden, in plain sight, in the center’s Playscripts and Promptbooks Collection (Performing Arts): two typescript copies of “The Shadow of a Doubt” by Edith Wharton.

The Edith Wharton Review, published by Penn State University Press, have published this finding, by Laura Rattray, a reader in American literature at the University of Glasgow, and Mary Chinery, a professor of English at Georgian Court University in New Jersey, in a journal article titled “The Shadow of a Doubt: A Play in Three Acts by Edith Wharton.” The article includes the play in its entirety.

The play, set in England, includes Wharton’s signature social realism and use of dramatic irony and wit to satirize social privilege and affluence. The play does take a decidedly dark and controversial turn into a world of extortion, mistrust, deception, and the revelation of an act claimed alternately as euthanasia and as murder.

Rattray and Chinery have been able to establish that “The Shadow of a Doubt” was not only completed, but in production by early 1901 with theatrical impresario Charles Frohman, and with Elsie de Wolfe in the leading role. For reasons not yet known, the production was abandoned.

More at http://www.iberkshires.com/story/54690/Unpublished-Edith-Wharton-Play-Discovered-by-Scholars.html

NY Times: Unknown Edith Wharton Play Surfaces

Unknown Edith Wharton Play Surfaces

In 2009, a cache of letters from the young Edith Wharton to her governess caused a stir when they turned up at auction. Now, an archive in Texas has yielded another startling Wharton discovery: an entirely unknown play.

“The Shadow of a Doubt,” Wharton’s only known finished play and the first full work by her to surface in 25 years, was set to be staged in New York in early 1901, before the production was abandoned for unknown reasons and forgotten. It survived in two typescripts held at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, where it was discovered by Laura Rattray of the University of Glasgow and Mary Chinery of Georgian Court University in New Jersey. Ms. Rattray and Ms. Chinery unveiled their discovery in the recent issue of The Edith Wharton Review.

The three-act play, about a nurse who marries a wealthy man, went unmentioned in Wharton’s 1934 memoir, “A Backward Glance,” as well as in the major biographies of her. The two researchers tracked it down after noticing a cryptic reference to its title in a 1901 letter.

“Well before the publication of her first novel, we can now ascertain that Wharton was establishing herself as a playwright, deeply engaged in both the creative and business aspects of the theater,” Ms. Rattray said in a news release.

(Read the rest at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/02/theater/edith-wharton-play-surfaces-the-shadow-of-a-doubt.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share)

New Edith Wharton play discovered by Laura Rattray and Mary Chinery

A LOST EDITH WHARTON PLAY EMERGES FROM SCHOLARLY SLEUTHING

In February of 1901, Walter Berry, a lawyer and member of élite society in New York, expressed a regret in a letter written to his close friend Edith Wharton. “How I do wish I could run on to see the first rehearsal of the Shadow,” he wrote.

At the time, Wharton, who was thirty-nine years old, was not yet a novelist, having only published shorter fiction and poetry, as well as co-authoring, with Ogden Codman, “The Decoration of Houses,” an 1897 book about interior design. But she was a budding playwright, and, as two scholars have just deduced in an important bit of detective work, Berry’s glancing reference was to one of her works: “The Shadow of a Doubt,” a three-act play that was in production in 1901. It was to star Elsie de Wolfe as Wharton’s heroine, Kate Derwent, a former nurse married to John Derwent, a gentleman above her social station. Kate’s role in assisting the suicide of her husband’s former wife, Agnes, whom she tended to after an injury, is revealed in the course of the drama.

The production was cancelled, however, and the work slipped into obscurity. It is not mentioned by any of Wharton’s biographers, nor does Wharton mention it in her own memoir, “A Backward Glance,” in which, perhaps understandably, she skates over her brief and not especially successful career as a writer for the stage. (In the first years of the century, she had written a handful of plays, but “The Shadow of a Doubt” would have been her first professional production, had it materialized. Later, she collaborated on an adaptation of “The House of Mirth,” which proved less successful than hoped.)

http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/a-lost-edith-wharton-play-emerges-from-scholarly-sleuthing

Results of EWS Executive Board Election

Dear Edith Wharton Society members,

 Please join me in welcoming two new Members-at-Large to the Edith Wharton Society Executive Board: Meg Toth and Anna Girling. We look forward to continuing the work of the EWS together.

Welcome, Meg and Anna!

Best wishes,

Jennifer Haytock

Secretary, Edith Wharton Society

 

Dr. Jennifer Haytock

Professor and Chair, English Department

227 Liberal Arts Building

CFP: Edith Wharton panels at SAMLA

FROM TABLEUX VIVANT TO FLASH MOB: CULTURAL CONTINUUMS FROM EDITH WHARTON TO SPENCER TUNICK

 

The Edith Wharton Society invites proposals for a panel at the South Atlantic Modern Language Association Conference (SAMLA 89) to be held in Atlanta, Georgia, November 3-5, 2017.  The conference topic is High Art / Low Art: Borders and Boundaries in Popular Culture. 

Edith Wharton produced a range of cultural products, including canonical novels and short stories, fund-raising anthologies for wartime France, guides to interior design, and travel books. Current popular culture suggests a continuing interest in Wharton, her writings, and those decades that are the focus of her work. Julian Fellows, creator of Downton Abbey, admits that “It is quite true that Edith Wharton has been a tremendous influence on me. . . . I decided, largely because of her work, that it was time I wrote something.” On Wharton’s 150th birthday, Vogue magazine offered an 18-pages to celebrate, including photos by Annie Leibovitz. The Gossip Girl series draws on Whartonian inspiration.  What has driven the renewed attention being paid to the Edwardian and WWI eras in contemporary pop culture?

The Wharton society invites papers that explore a broad range of responses to how Wharton’s art contributes to a continuum of cultural inquiry and commentary that persists to this day in high / low cultural expressions. One might consider such topics as how modern flash mobs reflect or rewrite the tableau vivants of The House of Mirth. How do Wharton’s texts and practices reflect a generational difference (or not) in attitudes toward privacy in (social) media?  How might contemporary short forms or serializations (blog posts, film and music reviews, opinion pieces, etc.) draw on the form and content of her essays, cultural commentaries, letters, or short stories? Does Wharton’s art bear narrative, formal, or thematic similarities to other forms of popular culture, such as soap operas or online TV dramas? Wharton’s travel writing about excursions via automobile might be compared to modern travel blogs, television programming, or websites.  We hope to receive a range of submissions to create lively, even surprising, insights and conversation.

Please submit a 300-500 word abstract, one page CV, and AV requirements via email to Mary Carney, University of North Georgia, at mary.carney@ung.edu by May 12, 2017.