Category Archives: New Books

New Books: Bitter Tastes: Literary Naturalism and Early Cinema in American Women’s Writing by Donna M. Campbell

bittertastesBitter Tastes: Literary Naturalism and Early Cinema in American Women’s Writing
Donna M. Campbell

University of Georgia Press, September 2016.

A fresh look at naturalism and the women who helped to define it


No work that I know of explores in such detail and within the context of a shared literary/aesthetic tradition the incredible number of women writers Campbell’s study covers and, at times, uncovers, resurrecting writers once considered important but then shunted aside by ideologically prescribed recanonizations. The book is important, then, not only for uncovering an extended line of women writers who constitute a tradition but for modeling the type of cultural study, grounded in an appreciation of all forms of American artistic expression, that is inclusive and therefore representative of American literary production.”
—Mary E. Papke, editor of Twisted from the Ordinary: Essays on American Literary Naturalism


Challenging the conventional understandings of literary naturalism defined primarily through its male writers, Donna M. Campbell examines the ways in which American women writers wrote naturalistic fiction and redefined its principles for their own purposes. Bitter Tastes looks at examples from Edith Wharton, Kate Chopin, Willa Cather, Ellen Glasgow, and others and positions their work within the naturalistic canon that arose near the turn of the twentieth century.

Campbell further places these women writers in a broader context by tracing their relationship to early film, which, like naturalism, claimed the ability to represent elemental social truths through a documentary method. Women had a significant presence in early film and constituted 40 percent of scenario writers—in many cases they also served as directors and producers. Campbell explores the features of naturalism that assumed special prominence in women’s writing and early film and how the work of these early naturalists diverged from that of their male counterparts in important ways.

New Books: Emotional Reinventions: Realist-Era Representations Beyond Sympathy by Melanie Dawson

emotionalEmotional Reinventions: Realist-Era Representations Beyond Sympathy.
Dawson, Melanie.  University of Michigan Press, June 2015.

Focusing on representational approaches to emotion during the years of American literary realism’s dominance and in the works of such authors as Edith Wharton, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, W. D. Howells, Charles Chesnutt, and others, Emotional Reinventions: Realist-Era Representations Beyond Sympathy contends that emotional representations were central to the self-conscious construction of high realism (in the mid-1880s) and to the interrogation of its boundaries. Based on realist-era authors’ rejection of “sentimentalism” and its reduction of emotional diversity (a tendency to stress what Karen Sanchez-Eppler has described as sentimental fiction’s investment in “overcoming difference”), Melanie Dawson argues that realist-era investments in emotional detail were designed to confront differences of class, gender, race, and circumstance directly. She explores the ways in which representational practices that approximate scientific methods often led away from scientific theories and rejected rigid attempts at creating emotional taxonomies. She argues that ultimately realist-era authors demonstrated a new investment in individuated emotional histories and experiences that sought to honor all affective experiences on their own terms.


“This is a nuanced and elegant analysis of how affect is portrayed in what Dawson refers to as ‘realist-era’ fiction. Against a critical tradition that downplays emotion’s centrality to this era, Dawson maintains that writers from this period reappropriated emotions crucial to the antebellum era but did so primarily to interrogate conventional expressions and established meanings.”
—Cynthia Davis, University of South Carolina


New Books and Articles: Sharon Kim, “The Dark Flash: Epiphany and Heredity in The House of Mirth.”

Kim, Sharon. “The Dark Flash: Epiphany and Heredity in The House of Mirth.”
Literary Epiphany in the Novel, 1850-1950: Constellations of the Soul. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

The book chapter is a revised and updated version of the article,
“Lamarckism and the Construction of Transcendence in The House of Mirth.” Studies in the Novel 38 (2006): 187-210.

New Books: Edith Wharton’s Summer, ed. and introd. Laura Rattray, in Oxford World Classics

Summer cover

Wharton’s 1917 novel, Summer, is now available as an Oxford World Classics from Oxford University Press, edited and with an extensive introduction by Laura Rattray (University of Glasgow). The only edition to reprint Wharton’s preferred text, the first UK edition, it also features an extensive chronology, up-to-date bibliography and notes informed by the latest scholarship.

“The ending is harsh, indeed shocking on account of a theme of incest which haunts the narrative, yet  the psychology of the novel is far ahead of its time, beautifully expressed, and still instructive as to the  fate of women in societies where they have no agency or power. Wharton fans will not be             disappointed.” –             Oxford Today, Richard Lofthouse            “So, there’s lots here to ponder, and lots to enjoy. This edition has an excellent and informative   introduction by Laura Rattray, plus all the textual and explanatory notes, chronologies, and   bibliographies any curious person could possibly want.” – Harriet Devine, Shiny New Books

Further details available here: