- Wharton and Cather
Two works this year recalibrate Edith Wharton's position within American literary studies—an essay collection offering wide-ranging discussions of cosmopolitanism and a study by Donna Campbell expanding definitions of naturalism by examining the contributions of Wharton and other women writers. Scholarly interest spans Wharton's early, middle, and late work, with attention not just to the major novels but to less frequently discussed titles such as The Glimpses of the Moon, The Mother's Recompense, and Twilight Sleep, and to a range of short stories and essays. Themes include the profession of authorship, sexuality and gender roles, scientific discourse, consumer culture, and Gothicism. In publishing news, the Edith Wharton Review has acquired a new home at Johns Hopkins University Press.
With no monographs or essay collections this year, Willa Cather scholarship nonetheless coheres around four major themes, in order of quantity: the arts; globalization and imperialism; authorship and the literary marketplace; and environmentalism and the antipastoral. Music predominates in arts-related criticism, with comparisons made to both Johannes Brahms and the blues, and "Coming, Aphrodite!" is freshly approached in two innovative visual studies. Cather scholars exploring globalization and imperialism focus on ancient Rome, the Middle East, the American Southwest, cartography, and more. Studies of authorship and the literary marketplace, especially rich this year, bring to life Cather's career at McClure's as well as her edgy relationships with Sarah Orne Jewett and Dorothy Canfield. Under the theme [End Page 101] of environmentalism and the antipastoral, Cather scholars have been working on the railroad. Attention is distributed across Cather's oeuvre, with O Pioneers!, A Lost Lady, The Professor's House, and Death Comes for the Archbishop especially prominent.
The Wharton section of this chapter is contributed by Mary Carney and the Cather section by Joseph C. Murphy
i Edith Wharton
a. Wharton and Cosmopolitanism
Meredith L. Goldsmith and Emily J. Orlando's edited collection Edith Wharton and Cosmopolitanism (Florida) provides scholars, teachers, and general readers insights into a range of the author's texts, her life, and the intersections with evolving notions of cosmopolitanism. In their introduction (pp. 1–16), the editors define cosmopolitanism, ground the essays in this collection in its current discourse, and illustrate how such work aligns with the move in Americanist literary studies from "the vocabulary of race and nation to that of hemispheric and global" inquiries. This collection establishes Wharton as a figure central to this turn in American scholarship.
The three essays in Part 1 are grouped under the rubric "Cosmopolitan Ideas and Ideals." Clare Virginia Eby's "The Glimpses of the Moon and the Transatlantic Debate over Marital Reform" (pp. 19–37) lucidly sketches the international conversation that was foundational to this major social change and its influence on Wharton's work, particularly her 1922 novel. Eby illustrates that the Lansing marriage "tracks very closely with the progressive reformers' ideals," moving from an economic arrangement to one of genuine emotional commitment. In "Motifs of Anarchism in Edith Wharton's The Children" (pp. 38–61) Ferdâ Asya fulfills the intriguing promise of her title. The novel and the lives of the titular characters provide a microcosm of anarchy as understood by her contemporaries. Nurtured by the freedom and intellectual trends of the expatriate community in Paris, Wharton's works reflect "persistent motifs of the regressive individualist and progressive collectivist ideologies of the anarchist tradition." Though the final chapter of The Children diminishes the dream of this community, the novel as a whole builds the association between anarchism and utopianism. In "'The Very Beginning of Things': Reading Wharton Through Charles Eliot Norton's Life and Writings on Italy" (pp. 62–86) William Blazek engagingly details Norton's influence on Wharton's view of the arts and artists as sources [End Page 102] of influence in social and moral contexts. Blazek illustrates how Norton's Italian writing and its focus on medieval Italy shape Wharton's appreciation and writings on the Italian Renaissance in such works as False Dawn, The Valley of Decision, and selected short stories.
Part 2 of the collection, "Cosmopolitan Places: From Italy to New York and Back," begins with Rita...