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Title: Edith Wharton and the question of criticism
Author: Stack, Allyson G.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2006
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In 1925, Edith Wharton’s The Writing of Fiction appeared in print. It was a project that she’d found ‘more terrifying than any novel’ and which had taken her five years to complete. Wharton’s first biographer, R. W. B. Lewis, describes it as ‘a modest little book’, while other scholars have judged it ‘confused and repetitious’ or simply a pale copy of James’s The Art of Fiction. This thesis suggests otherwise. Adopting Jean Laplanche’s theory of the subject as a framework through which to examine Wharton’s critical writings, Edith Wharton and the Question of Criticism argues that not only was Wharton a subtle and incisive critical thinker, but that The Writing of Fiction advocates and employs an alternative interpretive procedure that yields fresh insights into the practice of fiction and the act of criticism—endeavours which, for Wharton, are inextricably linked. This thesis also undertakes an in-depth exploration of Wharton’s shorter critical writings, such as her 1914 essay, ‘The Criticism of Fiction’, in order to paint a comprehensive and accurate portrait of Wharton-the-critic to supplement the one-sided image of Wharton as a shrill, anti-modernist, which has emerged from scholarly treatments of her work over the past thirty years. Towards this end, ‘Edith Wharton and the Question of Criticism’ also examines Wharton-the-critic at work in extra-literary settings, tracing the patterns of her critical thinking through A Motor Flight Through France and Italian Gardens and their Villas. Finally, this thesis studies how Wharton’s notions of the extricably entwined processes of literary creation and critical interpretation are dramatized in her novel, Hudson River Bracketed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available