- Editor’s Note
Anyone who peruses the Modern Language Association International Bibliography to understand the current state of scholarship on Edith Wharton encounters an array of innovative critical approaches to her work. Since 2017, the total number of journal articles, book chapters, and books published on Wharton’s work exceeds thirty. A few examples must suffice to suggest the range of approaches. Emily Orlando’s analysis of Oscar Wilde’s influence on Wharton and Ogden Codman Jr., Naomi Wolf ’s exploration of Wharton as an “Heiress to Gay Male Sexual Radicalism,” and Shannon Brennan’s exploration of “Queer Objects and Orientations” in the author’s fictional haunted houses demonstrate that Wharton, as Brennan argues, “renders queerness an always-available mode of experience during a period that was increasingly invested in understanding sexual orientation to be a matter of identity.” Susan Goodman’s analysis of Wharton’s revisions to the genre of autobiography in A Backward Glance provides a new way to interpret Wharton’s notoriously indirect narrative of her life. The continued interest in Wharton’s writings from the First World War is evident in Ed and Libby Klekowski’s Edith Wharton and Mary Roberts at the Western Front, 1915, and Ágnes Zsófia Kovác’s work on the prose of Wharton’s Fighting France. Notable among significant recent archival finds is the discovery by Mary Chinery and Laura Rattray of Wharton’s The Shadow of a Doubt, which they describe as “her only extant, original full-length play.” The Shadow of a Doubt appeared in this publication in 2017. Looking forward, The New Edith Wharton Studies, edited by Jennifer Haytock and Laura Rattray and published by Cambridge University Press, will appear at the end of 2019.
This issue of the Edith Wharton Review features three articles that, respectively, offer a new mode for interpreting Wharton’s war writing, unearth important documents related to Wharton’s work as a dramatist, and consider [End Page v] threats to female characters within the supposed safety of the domestic sphere in novels by Wharton not typically viewed as containing gothic elements. In “Edith Wharton’s ‘Coming Home’: Spinning a Good Yarn with Homeric Intent” Maureen Montgomery argues for a reconsideration of a story that, like much of Wharton’s war fiction, has until recently been viewed by critics as sentimental and propagandistic. “Coming Home,” appearing in the August 1915 issue of Scribner’s Magazine, was the only war story by Wharton published during the conflict. In an innovative reading, Montgomery details Wharton’s uses of the Odyssey to craft a story whose title, as Montgomery suggests, “alerts readers to the possibility of Wharton alluding to the archetypal story of a soldier returning home from war.” Montgomery presents a detailed discussion of the Homeric allusions in the story and places “Coming Home” in the context of Wharton’s war writings and her excursions to the front in 1915, particularly her trip to Lorraine and the Vosges. The article interprets motifs Wharton draws from classical sources, and it presents an original perspective on the relation of the story to works by other First World War writers.
Next in this issue is Mary Chinery’s archival article “Re-forming Manon: A New History of Edith Wharton’s 1901 Play, Manon Lescaut.” Chinery reveals previously unknown dimensions of the play’s composition and production by drawing upon new documentary evidence, including a five-page holograph manuscript of Wharton’s notes on the play that Chinery discovered in the Paul Kester Papers at the New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division. The article offers a valuable discussion of Wharton’s writing of short and longer dramatic works in the period immediately preceding 1901, thereby adding to our understanding of the first decade of Wharton’s career. Chinery discusses the different typescript copies of the play in the Edith Wharton Collection at Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and the version in The Library of Congress, engaging in comparative readings and, notably, focusing on Wharton’s revisions to Histoire de Manon Lescaut et du Chevalier des Grieux by Antoine-François (L’Abbé) Prévost, which, Chinery notes, appeared on an 1898...