Narrative techniques and subversion in the novels of Edith Wharton.
AdvisorHogle, Jerrold C.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThere are two branches of scholarship on Edith Wharton. One branch tends to focus upon a comparison of her novels with her life, and tends to document her work as that of a social historian and custodian of manners of old New York. The other branch, represented by feminist critics, uses a Marxist approach to read the thematics of Wharton's novels, and argues that her heroines are perched between the cusp of the "old" and the "new" woman. This study of Wharton extends and intertwines both these lines of scholarship to argue that Wharton's novels must be read against her life, and that the critical focus must be kept on her "new" woman, who, as the gendered speaking subject, speaks from the margins of cultural edifices. This study will focus on the idea of the splintered self, particularly the quandaries of the gendered self, an issue that shapes and determines the form of her narratives. This analysis shows that in the intersection of her fiction, her letters, and her autobiography, Wharton's gendered speaking subject enunciates a radical critique of the culture in which she lived.