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dc.contributor.authorStack, Allyson Garthwaiteen
dc.date.accessioned2018-03-29T12:20:26Z
dc.date.available2018-03-29T12:20:26Z
dc.date.issued2006
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/1842/29379
dc.description.abstracten
dc.description.abstractThis study is neither exhaustive nor comprehensive. As with any travel itinerary, certain destinations have been omitted, some hurried past, while others will be explored at length. Selection, as Wharton never hesitates to remind us, is necessary. I have chosen to treat those critical writings by Wharton that explicitly address questions of literary criticism (how should a critic approach a text? what did Wharton believe a reviewer's guiding principles ought to be? and so on). I have made these articles my primary focus for several reasons. First, aside from The Writing ofFiction, such articles (for instance, 'The Criticism ofFiction,' 'The Great American Novel' and so on) are the most explicitly theoretical pieces she wrote, and insofar as my project involves gaining insight into Wharton's theories on interpretation, such articles provide crucial insights. Secondly, her critical articles that explicitly address the question of literary interpretation (particularly 'The Criticism of Fiction') are rarely treated as primary subjects in their own right. They are most often subordinated to a supplementary position in scholarly arguments about her fiction. In treating Wharton's articles that explicitly address abstract questions of literary criticism (such as, what is a novel? or what constitutes an 'American' novel?), I aim to allow a portrait of Wharton-the-critic to emerge from her own dogged attempts to wrestle with these vexing questions, as opposed to patching one together out of statements taken from various sources. This is my first aim: to allow a portrait of Wharton-the-critic to emerge from a holistic approach to each critical article in which she explicitly addresses questions of criticism.en
dc.description.abstractThe second aim of this study is to illustrate the degree to which Wharton's ideas about how to interpret shade and color nearly every aspect of her life and work. For this reason, I have chosen a range of material—critical essays, travel writings, a novel, and The Writing of Fiction. Insofar as breadth and scope are crucial to my claim, I have felt it necessary to range widely over as many different forms of her writing as I can, as opposed to focusing solely on fiction or solely on those works that can be discretely classified as 'critical'. It is because I want to demonstrate the wide ranging ways in which Wharton employed the interpretive approach she advocated that I do not treat all the material contained in The Uncollected Critical Writings, that I only discuss one of her novels, and that I have attempts to trace her interpretive efforts through a diverse range of subjects and contexts. That is to say, insofar as my claim is that this interpretive procedure is not limited to those texts that are explicitly critical, my own selection of material had to range beyond that which is explicitly critical as well.en
dc.description.abstractAn unfortunate effect of this choice is that her novels receive much less attention than I would have liked. However, I also felt that this thesis would do greater service to Wharton studies by turning my attention to those pieces which have received scant treatment over the years. As a result, I have foregrounded works such as her 1914 article 'The Criticism of Fiction,' her 1934 article on Proust, and The Writing ofFiction, while allowing her fiction a slightly lesser role. As a tremendous lover of her novels, such a course of action was not my first choice, but, in the end, my own preferences are secondary to the demands of my subject, which, in this instance, required scope and breadth of treatment.en
dc.description.abstractAdditionally, in the nine years since Wharton's critical articles first appeared together in a single volume, a detailed, book-length study devoted solely to Wharton-the-critic has yet to emerge. That is not to say her criticism has been ignored. Rather, it has most often been quoted piecemeal by scholars making arguments about other aspects of her work, as in Nancy Bentley's 'Wharton, Travel, and Modernity' (2003) and Frederick Wegener's "Form "Selection," and Ideology in Edith Wharton's Antimodernist Aesthetic' (1999), both of which put Wharton's 'The Great American Novel' to interesting, and very different, uses. But despite such occasional treatment in articles, scholars have been largely silent on the subject of Wharton-the-critic. The only book-length survey of Wharton's critical prose remains Penelope Vita-Finzi's Edith Wharton and the Art of Fiction (1990), even though the subsequent publication of Wharton's critical writings in a single volume calls some of Vita-Finzi's conclusions into question.en
dc.description.abstractIn his 1996 introduction to The Uncollected Critical Writings, Frederick Wegener remarks that what emerges from her critical writings viewed together is 'an Edith Wharton even more complex and mercurial than the figure with whom we have become so familiar in the past generation of scholarship' (45). That is, indeed, what I have found, although the ways this complexity manifests itself proved quite surprising. Wharton, even in her later years, was far more quixotic in her reactions, less consistently reactionary and narrow, than we have come to assume. Thus, in a sense, this study picks up where Wegener's overview leaves off, as I attempt to add shade and light to this 'complex and mercurial' figure, providing precise details about how these complexities manifest themselves by tracing the various paths her mercurial tendencies followed.en
dc.description.abstractFinally, despite the incisive and plentiful scholarship that has emerged on Wharton over the past two decades, no one has yet addressed the sophisticated and insightful theorist that I found hard at work in the pages of The Writing of Fiction} Over the years, scholars have sought Wharton in the drawing room and in the library (Singley); they have followed her motor-flights across France and Italy (Schriber, Wright); they have documented and analyzed her war-time activities and sympathies (Price, Olin-Ammentorp); they have drawn connections between her ideas about interior design and her fiction (Vita-Finzi); they have debated her attitude towards race, class, politics, and gender (Ammons, Bauer, Wegener, Sensibar). But nowhere has the idea been put forth that Edith Wharton was a prescient theorist, one grappling with many ofthe same vexed questions those of us involved in literary studies wrangle over today. It is this Edith Wharton, the one who took me so utterly by surprise when reading The Writing of Fiction, whom I wish to introduce to my readers. And because Wharton-thetheorist is inseparable from Wharton-the-gardener, the interior designer, the author, the critic, the friend, the 'life-wonderer' and even the lover—one glance at the Fullerton letters shows how doggedly she mustered all her interpretive powers in order to try and comprehend his infuriatingly enigmatic behavior—this study could be three, four, five times its present length.en
dc.description.abstractIndeed, wherever Wharton encountered an enigma, she responded by trying to interpret it as best she could. At their finest, these interpretations took the form of novels. But Wharton's responses to life's mysteries also took the form of letters to her friends, ruminations on works of art she encountered in her travels, instructive books on gardening and a rereading of her own life through memoir. And, correspondingly, when her friends were at their finest, in Wharton's own eyes, they became interpretations: an 'expansion' of her own self—not quite separate, yet still, like that other self that dwells within the breast, at the core, other.en
dc.publisherThe University of Edinburghen
dc.relation.ispartofAnnexe Thesis Digitisation Project 2018 Block 17en
dc.relation.isreferencedbyAlready catalogueden
dc.titleEdith Wharton and the question of criticismen
dc.typeThesis or Dissertationen
dc.type.qualificationlevelDoctoralen
dc.type.qualificationnamePhD Doctor of Philosophyen


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