The Critical Reception of Edith Wharton

The Critical Reception of Edith Wharton

Helen Killoran


Camden House



A fresh look at the plethora of literary criticism on Edith Wharton.
Once considered the 'last Victorian,' Edith Wharton and her fiction were at first greeted with the gentility proper to a lady of New York's social elite. Gradually, however, critics became gadflies incessantly buzzing at a Sphinx who seemed never to comment on her own work. At times, though, her impulses took control and she made remarks in letters and elsewhere that, on the one hand, appear to illuminate the fiction, but on the other, often raise more problems than they solve. Ironically, now that she is becoming recognized as a Modernist by some, and as perhaps the greatest American writer of her generation, criticism often obfuscates more than it reveals.obfuscates more than it reveals. The reasons reside in critics' loyalties to various theoretical approaches, the objectivity of which are often compromised by political hopes. This volume not only traces and analyzes the development of Whartonian literary criticism in its historical and political contexts, but also allows Edith Wharton, herself a literary critic, to respond to various concepts through the author's deductions and extrapolations from Wharton's own words. Professor Killoran's book provides a fresh reading of the best criticism on Wharton and in so doing throws new light on Wharton's works themselves.
HELEN KILLORAN is associate professor of English at the University of Ohio, Lancaster. She is past President of the Edith Wharton Society, and author of a number of articles on Wharton and Henry James, as well as a book, Edith Wharton: Art and Allusion (1996).


September 2001
1 black and white illustrations
200 pages
9x6 in
Literary Criticism in Perspective
ISBN: 9781571131010
Format: Hardback
Camden House
BISAC LIT004290, LIT004020
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Table of Contents

The House of Mirth
Ethan Frome — The Murder of a Masterpiece
The Custom of the Country — Monstrous Undine
Summer — The Law of the Father
The Age of Innocence — A Buried Life
Ghosts — In Broad Daylight
Works by Edith Wharton
Works Cited


Expertly researched and balanced, the volume draws on various schools of criticism .... An invaluable research tool for students and scholars alike. CHOICE

[T]his passionate study deserves a wide readership. It is a major step in the reconsideration of an American author who did not care for the "rose-coloured spectacles" of her predecessors.... AMERIKASTUDIEN

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