Abstract

This essay places the representation of vision in Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth within an evolutionary framework. Arguing against theorizations of the male gaze in realist and naturalist texts, Saltz rethinks the relationship between gender and vision in the novel. Turning to the works of Herbert Spencer, Henri Bergson, and late nineteenth-century naturalist and photographer P. H. Emerson, Saltz situates The House of Mirth in a turn-of-the-century dialogue about the subjective and idiosyncratic nature of human vision. Saltz argues that The House of Mirth makes a case for the visual education, and therefore evolution, of women like Lily Bart.

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