CFP (new deadline: February 19, 2021): EWS Panels at SSAWW

The Edith Wharton Society invites proposals for a SSAWW roundtable (Baltimore, Nov 4-7, 2021) focused on the conference theme of “Ecologies, Survival, Change.” Proposals may cover any aspect of Wharton’s work, gardening, or environmental, political, or interpersonal contexts. “Ecologies” may also encompass systems and networks beyond the natural world. Please send 150-word proposals and short narrative cv’s to by February 19, 2021. 

Edith Wharton Online Event: February Tea with TLW: Dr Emily Orlando on The Decoration of Houses

February Tea with the Transatlantic Literary Women
Dr Emily Orlando on The Decoration of Houses
Wednesday 3 February 2021, 5pm UK time

“Sheltering in Place with Edith Wharton: Re-Reading The Decoration of Houses in a Time of Global Crisis”

Please join us for our February #TeawithTLW when we’re delighted to be joined by renowned Edith Wharton scholar, Dr Emily Orlando.
This month, we’re discussing Edith Wharton – the prominent design writer! Emily will be talking about Wharton’s first book, the hugely influential The Decoration of Houses, which was co-written with the American architect Ogden Codman Jr.
In her talk, Emily will be asking the question: how does Wharton’s design work speak to us anew in a global pandemic?  She will discuss the many ways that the 1897 book resonates with 21st-century readers, providing a new look at one of Wharton’s texts from a contemporary perspective. So, pop the kettle on and make sure you have a snack, to settle in for a wonderful discussion of one of TLW’s favourite authors!

All welcome!

If you’d like to join us, please email: and we’ll send you a secure Zoom link in the week of the event.
We hope to see you there!
Team TLW: Laura, Chiara, Lindsay

EWS Business: Vote on Amendments to the EWS Constitution by February 7

Dear EWS Members,
I’d like to ask you to vote on two amendments to the EWS Constitution. The first is from the Executive Board proposing that the annual Board meeting, in the past held in person at the MLA convention, in the future be held in a virtual format such as Zoom. Please see the attached proposal for further details.

The second amendment is from Melanie and me, originally drafted in 2019, to create the position of Society Archivist. Due to an error or oversight no longer in anyone’s memory, this was not voted on in 2019. I would appreciate your vote now, particularly since we have already filled the position and Carole Shaffer-Koros has already located items of interest related to EWS history. This full proposal is also attached.

Please use this link to vote by Sunday, February 7, end of the day (wherever you are):

Please let me know if you have any questions. Best wishes to all. Hopefully we see some light at the end of COVID, but I know hard times are still here for many.


Dr. Jennifer Haytock

President, Edith Wharton Society

Edith Wharton in the News: Claire Messud on The Custom of the Country

How Can We Read Edith Wharton Today?

Published in 1913, “The Custom of the Country” follows the social rise of Undine Spragg, a fictional character who, in many ways, feels very modern.

By Claire Messud

  • Jan. 20, 2021

This essay is part of T’s Book Club, a series of articles and events dedicated to classic works of American literature. Click here to R.S.V.P. to a virtual conversation, led by Claire Messud, about “The Custom of the Country,” to be held on Jan. 28.

The Custom of the Country”(1913),like much that Edith Wharton wrote, can be described as a novel of manners. That’s to say, a social fiction in which the carefully observed customs of a particular society shape the characters’ actions and the plot. The designation somehow implies frivolity, or at least, traditionally, the feminine or domestic sphere (Jane Austen could be considered the first author of such works); and in this period of profound crisis in American society, it might seem easy to dismiss the relevance of such diverting works.

In this case, Wharton follows the social rise (and rise) of beautiful young Undine Spragg (named after her grandfather’s patented hair-crimper), who arrives in New York City from the fictional town of Apex City, Iowa, in the company of her newly moneyed, wide-eyed parents, Abner and Leota. She initially takes instruction on New York society’s hierarchies from gossip columns and her manicurist, but Undine’s looks soon gain her entrée into conversation with a fashionable portraitist named Popple, and then an invitation to dine at the home of the elegant Fairfords, where Mrs. Fairford’s brother, Ralph Marvell, pays her particular attention. On their eventual honeymoon, he’ll introduce her to European and in particular Parisian society, thereby widening the horizons of Undine’s social ambition: New York comes to feel provincial and dull next to Paris.

CFP: Edith Wharton and Work at MLA 2022 (Deadline: March 15, 2021)

Edith Wharton Society Call for Papers 

Modern Language Association 
Washington, DC January 6-9, 2022 

Edith Wharton and Work 

The EWS invites proposals for roundtable presentations (7-8 minutes) on work in relation to Wharton’s writing and life. Presenters might consider issues of class and labor; disability; domestic work; art and the literary market; “works” of art; the value/currencies of work; Wharton as worker; and more. Any theoretical or contextual approaches welcome. 

Please submit titled proposals (approx. 350 words) and a brief CV by March 15, 2021 to Jennifer Haytock at 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. 

CFP: Edith Wharton roundtable at SSAWW (deadline January 27, 2021)

The Edith Wharton Society invites proposals for a SSAWW roundtable (Baltimore, Nov 4-7, 2021) focused on the conference theme of “Ecologies, Survival, Change.” Proposals may cover any aspect of Wharton’s work, gardening, or environmental, political, or interpersonal contexts. “Ecologies” may also encompass systems and networks beyond the natural world. Please send 150-word proposals and short narrative cv’s to by 1/27. 

Updated CFP (New Deadline: February 15, 2021): Edith Wharton panels at ALA in Boston (July 2021)

Edith Wharton Society Call for Papers

American Literature Association

July 7-11, 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 February 15, 2021 to Myrto Drizou at 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.

Queries Update: Reply to “Did Edith Wharton Read James Joyce?”

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. 

This entry was posted in Queries on October 21, 2020 by Donna Campbell

Wharton read James Joyce’s work and called Ulysses ‘schoolboy pornography’, famously comparing the prose to the raw ingredients of a pudding. In her 1923 letter to Berenson she wrote ‘I shall never believe that the raw material of sensation and thought can make a work of art without the cook’s intervening’. 

However RWB Lewis notes that she responded more positively towards his earlier work, and acknowledged that it had considerable merit (Lewis,1975: 520). 

The final section of ‘The Children’s Hour’* is quite arresting in its shift in style and subject matter,  and this type of poetic incongruity, which offers more questions than answers, is also present, I believe, in the endings of some of her other short stories, which have an almost modernist quality in their conclusions, or rather, lack of a single clear conclusion. I would recommend (re)reading Wharton’s ‘A Journey’(1899) and ‘After Holbein’ (1928) and looking at the final sentences. I certainly found their open-endedness intriguing, and their effect felt rather like the protomodernist ‘note of interrogation’ Adrian Hunter argues Woolf found in Chekov’s short stories. 

*Interestingly, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a popular poem entitled ‘The Children’s Hour’ which was first published in 1860. It refers to the time at the end of the day when children spent some time with their parents before going to bed. I wonder if Wharton had the work in mind when she wrote this story. 

Sarah Whitehead 

New Books: Rosedale in Love by Lev Raphael

Rosedale in Love has been reissued with a new Foreword and Afterword by the author, and is available at Amazon and B&N for Kindle and Nook.  Watch the book trailer.

In the glittering world of money-mad 1905 New York City, Jewish financier Simon Rosedale plans to force his way into high society through marriage and has his eye on Lily Bart. One of the most beautiful women in the city, Lily is a down-at-heels aristocrat plagued by gossip and might be vulnerable to his proposal. With his money and her style and connections, he can rise to the top—but will she lower herself to marry a Jew? Could such a marriage heal Rosedale’s secret shame, and will Florence Goodhart, the cousin who adores Rosedale, help or hinder his plans? Written in a period voice, Rosedale in Love audaciously revisions Edith Wharton’s beloved classic The House of Mirth, offering readers a timeless American story of greed, envy, scandal, love and revenge.

Lev Raphael is a prize-winning author, reviewer, and blogger who has published 26 books in a wide range of genres and seen his work translated into over a dozen languages. A former student of Wharton biographer Cynthia Griffin Wolff, Raphael has been reading and teaching Wharton for decades. He’s written a highly regarded biography/critical study of Wharton as well as an acclaimed comic mystery, The Edith Wharton Murders, that delves into the politics around her reputation. Special Archives at Michigan State University’s Library has purchased his literary papers in recognition of his contributions to American Literature.

“Richly textured and darkly witty, Rosedale in Love explores the inner life of outsiders, to whom the hidden give-and-take of high society is a language to be struggled with, for whom external wealth and inner impoverishment go hand in hand. Lev Raphael catches the subtlety of Wharton’s original, and enriches her exploration of a story in which love pulls against ambition, and shame is a daily taste in the mouth.”—Laurie R. King, author of Pirate King