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Edith Wharton and the Politics of Race (Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture) Hardcover – October 11, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0521830898 ISBN-10: 0521830893

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Editorial Reviews


"Kassanoff not only offers a penetrating look at cultural influences on Wharton and her novels, but also writes with eloquence and conviction. This relevant and unique book has much to offer. Essential." D.D. Knight, SUNY College at Cortland, CHOICE

"This relevant and unique book has much to offer. Essential." Choice

Book Description

Edith Wharton feared that the 'ill-bred', foreign and poor would overwhelm an American native elite. Drawing on a range of turn-of-the-century social documents, unpublished archival material and all of Wharton's novels, Jennie A. Kassanoff argues that a fuller appreciation of American culture and democracy becomes available through a sustained engagement with these controversial views. She pursues her theme via Wharton's spirited participation in a variety of turn-of-the-century discourses--from euthanasia and tourism to pragmatism and Native Americans--to produce a truly interdisciplinary study of this major American writer.

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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture (Book 143)
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (October 11, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521830893
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521830898
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,936,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Henry Berry on December 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Edith Wharton is not ordinarily associated with racial issues. But using ideas from feminist literary criticism, Kassanoff finds in Wharton's characters, circumstances, and story lines racial concerns of the comfortable white urban society of the early 1900s. Mixed in with Wharton's wry, sometimes jaundiced, picture of the self-satisfied upper-level white society are "a host of early twentieth-century white patrician anxieties [about race]." This anxiety was not aroused by blacks only. It was broader than garden-variety racial prejudice; and vague and protean, as an anxiety would be. Wharton's characters are uneasy about all foreigners, or immigrants, and the growth in the population of the lower classes. They uneasily sensed their own "race suicide" if they could not come up with a means to preserve their own position. Kassanoff explores the various artful ways explicit, subtle, and ambiguous that Wharton recurringly expresses such anxieties in her works. While concentrating on Wharton's writings, the author occasionally makes references to politicians, social scientists, and the like of the period to illuminate Wharton's sources and motives. Kassanoff sees that in the end Wharton was not despairing nor contemptuous of democratic society, whatever changes it might bring; but became convinced in her long artistic jousting with the racial anxieties of her peers "that in democracy's inclusiveness lay the promise of America's future." The author of this enlightening critique of Wharton that has aspects of a cultural study while being mainly a literary critique is an associate professor of English at Barnard College.
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Edith Wharton and the Politics of Race (Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture)
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